Spot­light on in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty

Lesotho Times - - Business - Retha­bile Pitso

BA­SOTHO have been called upon to ob­tain in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty (IP) rights to pro­tect their cre­ative ideas from be­ing stolen and to foster the de­vel­op­ment of the econ­omy.

IP refers to cre­ations of the mind such as in­ven­tions; lit­er­ary and artis­tic works; de­signs; sym­bols, names and im­ages used in com­merce.

Last Fri­day, the Min­istry of Law Con­sti­tu­tional Af­fairs and Hu­man Rights com­mem­o­rated the World In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty Day to shine the spot­light on the role that in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights (patents, trade­marks, in­dus­trial de­signs, copy­right) play in en­cour­ag­ing in­no­va­tion and cre­ativ­ity.

The event was es­tab­lished by the World In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WIPO) in 2000 to raise aware­ness of how patents, copy­right, trade­marks and de­signs im­pact on daily life. Le­sotho has been a mem­ber of WIPO since 1986.

The 26th of April was cho­sen as the date for World In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty Day be­cause it co­in­cides with the date on which the Con­ven­tion Es­tab­lish­ing the World In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty Or­ga­ni­za­tion en­tered into force in 1970.

Dur­ing the com­mem­o­ra­tions, the min­istry pro­vided free ser­vices to peo­ple who made trade­mark, patent, in­dus­trial de­sign and copy­right ap­pli­ca­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty Coun­sel, ‘Makhukhu­mala Kama, many Ba­sotho have not ob­tained IP rights for their busi- nesses due to fi­nan­cial con­straints among other rea­sons.

“It has come to our no­tice that many mi­cro, small and medium en­ter­prises do not con­sider get­ting IP rights over their busi­ness ideas thus giv­ing room for oth­ers to mis­use or steal them,” she said.

“We have been left to as­sume that fi­nan­cial con­straints are among the ob­sta­cles traders en­counter in ac­cess­ing these rights. Many peo­ple who start busi­nesses do so be­cause they can­not get jobs.

“There­fore, it be­comes dif­fi­cult for them to get funds to ap­ply for the rights. As a re­sult, very few Ba­sotho are ap­ply­ing for IP pro­tec­tion.”

Ms Kama said the cost of an ap­pli­ca­tion for a trade­mark in the case of an in­di­vid­ual pro­pri­etor was M100 while for a com­pany it costs M400.

“In cases where a com­pany has ap­plied for more than one class of IP, each ad­di­tional class is charged M100 ex­tra. There are also charges for an ap­pli­ca­tion that has been suc­cess­fully pub­lished,” she said.

There was a need, said Ms Kama, for Le­sotho to strengthen its IP sec­tor to fa­cil­i­tate eco­nomic growth.

“Stud­ies have shown that coun­tries such as South Korea ex­pe­ri­enced an eco­nomic up­surge af­ter fo­cus­ing on IP which boosted their man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor,” she said.

“In Le­sotho we need to de­velop poli­cies which guide the co­or­di­na­tion of the trade sec­tor with small busi­nesses to as­sist their growth. Our tech­ni­cal ca­pac­ity as a coun­try to of­fer patent ser­vices for ex­am­ple is still very low.”

Ms Kama also noted that the coun­try’s in­no­va­tion ca­pac­ity still left a lot to be de­sired.

“We can­not con­tinue hav­ing flyby-night busi­nesses which are here today and gone tomorrow. Ba­sotho need to ob­tain IP rights which would at­tract in­vestors and other opportunities that come with the recog­ni­tion of their busi­nesses.”

Mean­while, bud­ding en­tre­pre­neur, ‘Makhiba Mokot­lakhiba, who pro­duces the “Shine Mother Shine” range of petroleum prod­ucts echoed the sen­ti­ment, say­ing ob­tain­ing IP rights was important in run­ning a busi­ness.

“Many peo­ple have still not re­alised the ben­e­fits of ob­tain­ing IP rights, but as a trader, I have re­al­ized that ob­tain­ing a trade­mark for my brand has helped to mar­ket it,” she said.

“It has also helped at­tract in­vest­ment opportunities be­yond Le­sotho where I am now ex­port­ing my prod­ucts. A trade­mark also pro­tects one in case of le­gal dis­putes so busi­ness peo­ple have to se­ri­ously con­sider IP im­me­di­ately af­ter they reg­is­ter their busi­nesses.”

Min­istry of Law ip Coun­sel ‘Makhukhu­mala Kama.

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