In­tel­lec­tual prop­erty gets at­ten­tion it re­quires

SA gears up for am­bush mar­ket­ing ahead of Soc­cer World Cup

Finweek English Edition - - Focus on spoor & fisher -

WORLD IN­TEL­LEC­TUAL prop­erty day will be held on 26 April 2007 to em­pha­sise, among other things, the im­por­tance of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty in the global econ­omy.

Chris Bull, chair­man of Spoor & Fisher’s ex­ec­u­tive, says that while many peo­ple have some aware­ness of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty – patents, trade­marks, reg­is­tered de­signs and copy­right – few un­der­stand the rel­e­vance to their busi­nesses.

Spoor & Fisher, es­tab­lished in 1920, is re­garded as one of the lead­ing African firms in the field of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty. Ini­tially, its ser­vice of­fer­ing was based on help­ing clients with fil­ing pa­tent and trade­mark ap­pli­ca­tions. How­ever, in re­cent decades it’s evolved into pro­vid­ing ad­vice on the full spec­trum of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty.

“Though in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty is gen­er­ally not seen as the most stim­u­lat­ing topic, many busi­ness­men world­wide have recog­nised that bil­lions of rand have been made from great ideas, catchy names, in­no­va­tive de­signs and in­spir­ing images. Many suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies have been built on in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty.”

The gen­eral aims of World In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty Day are to raise aware­ness of how patents, trade­marks, reg­is­tered de­signs and copy­right af­fect daily life and busi­ness and to in­crease the un­der­stand­ing of how pro­tect­ing in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights pro­motes cre­ativ­ity and in­no­va­tion. It will also draw at­ten­tion to the im­por­tance of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty in cre­at­ing share­holder value in busi­nesses. “Our approach has al­ways been to build our in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty prac­tice around in­ter­na­tional ex­per­tise, cur­rent best prac­tice and ac­ces­si­bil­ity.”

Hav­ing said that, Bull says that as far as in­ter­na­tional ex­per­tise is con­cerned, for many years SA was iso­lated from the rest of the world. “That changed af­ter 1994. Any pro­fes­sional ser­vices firm pro­vid­ing ad­vice to cor­po­rate clients must have world-class skills and ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Spoor & Fisher has built a team of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty ad­vis­ers who are lead­ers in their field and we’ve or­gan­ised our firm into groups that spe­cialise in spe­cific ar­eas in the broader field of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty.”

Bull says that far-reach­ing changes and de­vel­op­ments in in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty have made it too broad a field for any one in­di­vid­ual to pro­vide spe­cial­ist ad­vice across the full spec­trum of is­sues. “Con­se­quently, the trend is to struc­ture an in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty prac­tice with spe­cific de­part­ments that fo­cus on patents, trade­marks, copy­right and reg­is­tered de­signs.”

Be­yond that, larger firms gen­er­ally di­vide their pa­tent and tech­nol­ogy team ac­cord­ing to sci­en­tific and en­gi­neer­ing dis­ci­plines, such as biotech­nol­ogy, chem­istry and chem­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing, me­chan­i­cal, civil and min­ing en­gi­neer­ing, elec­tri­cal, elec­tron­ics and soft­ware en­gi­neer­ing and nan­otech­nol­ogy.

Bull says that other trends in­clude en­sur­ing that in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty is treated as a busi­ness as­set as op­posed to a le­gal right. “In­tel­lec­tual prop­erty isn’t just a le­gal right ly­ing idle on a reg­is­ter but rather an as­set that should be man­aged like any other as­set. That’s par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant for larger cor­po­rate clients that re­quire ad­vice in ar­eas like com­mer­cial trans­ac­tions re­lat­ing to in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty,

In­tel­lec­tual prop­erty isn’t just a le­gal right ly­ing idle on a

reg­is­ter but rather an as­set.

the over­all man­age­ment of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty port­fo­lios and the tax and ac­count­ing treat­ment of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty in their broader busi­ness.”

A growth area – and one at­tract­ing in­creas­ing at­ten­tion world­wide – is anti-coun­ter­feit­ing. As Bull says, al­most ev­ery con­sumer has at some stage en­coun­tered coun­ter­feit prod­ucts. It’s im­por­tant for brand own­ers to po­lice the mar­ket ac­tively and deal with “knock-offs” of their prod­ucts. “Our firm does more than pre­pare le­gal pa­pers where coun­ter­feit­ing is drawn to our at­ten­tion; we also play a pro-ac­tive role by polic­ing the mar­ket for coun­ter­feit goods on be­half of clients.”

Anti-coun­ter­feit­ing is be­com­ing an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant is­sue in the lead up to the 2010 Soc­cer World Cup. “An­other im­por­tant is­sue re­lated to the World Cup is am­bush mar­ket­ing. Spoor & Fisher has played a key role in writ­ing much of the leg­is­la­tion de­signed to ad­dress anti-coun­ter­feit­ing and am­bush mar­ket­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in SA.”

Hav­ing a multi­na­tional foot­print is cru­cial for large in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty firms and, as such, 30 years ago Spoor & Fisher ex­panded its prac­tice in Africa by es­tab­lish­ing Spoor & Fisher Jer­sey. “Spoor & Fisher Jer­sey now has lo­cal of­fices and as­so­ci­a­tions in most African coun­tries.”

Many suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies have been

built on in­tel­lec­tual

prop­erty. Chris Bull

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