Intellectual property gets attention it requires
SA gears up for ambush marketing ahead of Soccer World Cup
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