Small, medium, and micro enterprises (SMMEs) provide 9.7 million jobs to South Africans, which means that roughly one in every six people are dependent on these businesses for their livelihoods.
But if forward-thinking entrepreneurs and small business owners don’t protect their innovative products and services against intellectual property (IP) infringement by other companies or individuals, they risk losing money. In worst-case scenarios, they may even go out of business.
Having witnessed the critical need for greater assistance in securing IP protection, The Innovation Hub, the innovation agency of the Gauteng province, is collaborating with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to launch an online IP Diagnostic tool at The Innovation Hub’s Science and Technology Park in Lynwood, Tshwane.
This self-assessment tool offers a user-friendly method for identifying and learning how to manage IP, as well as generating customised reports on business’ potential IP assets. Likewise, it provides business owners with comprehensive information on common areas of concern such as IP’s influence on maintaining a website; engaging in international trade; dealing with employees, external suppliers, and contractors; and licensing, protecting, and defending IP.
Entrepreneurs are welcome to access the WIPO IP Diagnostic tool on online on at www.wipo.int/ipdiagnostics. There will be workshops and training at The Innovation Hub to equip entrepreneurs with knowledge on how to register their products and services, and dates will be shared soon.
“It’s vital for entrepreneurs to safeguard their IP from the conception stage right the way through to bringing their product or services to the market in order to protect their business’ future profitability and growth potential,” notes Dr Nompumelelo Obokoh, General Manager of the Bioeconomy unit at The Innovation Hub.
“But through our work with innovators and small businesses, we’ve observed a dire lack of public education and awareness in the intellectual property space, which often leaves businesses at significant risk.
“With this in mind, we saw a need to collaborate with WIPO to help us address this gap by developing practical solutions for the local market. Their response has been phenomenal, and we believe that this centre will be pivotal to the future of dozens if not hundreds of businesses over the coming months.
“By creating a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs to enhance their IP awareness and gain the knowledge that will help them benefit from ideas and businesses, we hope to play a key role in strengthening the South African businesses and major employers of the future.”
The IP diagnostic tool will be open to businesses and entrepreneurs affiliated with The Innovation Hub, as well as to members of the public, providing them with in-depth IP training and counselling.
Under the expert guidance of a team of IP professionals, entrepreneurs will further be taught crucial skills for managing their intellectual property. This includes how to identify, classify and register intellectual property assets; how protecting these assets can add value to your business; and the potential risks of failing to protect these assets against IP theft.
The Innovation Hub, in collaboration with WIPO, will also make a wide range of practical, user-friendly tools and materials available online for entrepreneurs on intellectual property management such as patents, trademarks, industrial designs, trade secrets, and copyrights.
Finally, the IP Diagnostic toolkit will provide entrepreneurs with access to the free-to-use WIPO IP Diagnostics . online software. This self-assessment tool offers a user-friendly method for identifying and learning how to manage IP, as well as generating customised reports on business’ potential IP assets.
Likewise, it provides business owners with comprehensive information on common areas of concern such as IP’s influence on maintaining a website; engaging in international trade; dealing with employees, external suppliers and contractors; and licensing, protecting, and defending IP.
“This partnership represents an important step in the right direction for both young and women innovators, encouraging the spirit of entrepreneurship by giving them the support and protection needed to build thriving businesses,” says Guy Pessach, Director of the IP for Business Division at WIPO.