The Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) launched its latest initiative on the subject of intellectual property (IP): a series of private sector IP clinics which will take place across the region. The first of the sessions took place in Belize from April 29th-30th and three more sessions are scheduled to follow over the next two months in the region. The clinics are the second phase of a developmental project which was initiated through an intensive workshop entitled, “The Use of Intellectual Property as a Tool for Business/Export Enhancement” which the Agency hosted in collaboration with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in 2013 and where participants recommended that engagement take place at the national level to help tease out issues businesses are facing with regards to protecting their intellectual property assets (i.e. trademarks, brands, trade secrets, etc.).
These clinics directly correlate to a critical component of the EU 10th European Development Fund (EDF). The intervention also responds to a specific need in the entertainment industry: the need for knowledge and correct observance of intellectual property rights and procedures. Despite the presence of bodies responsible for the regulation of IP in numerous CARIFORUM territories, there is still a lack of awareness by CARIFORUM businesses of how intellectual property can be leveraged as part of their business strategies; and enforcement at the ground level as it pertains to the observance of the rights which are so critical to artists’ protection remains weak across the region. This is a further disincentive to firms and intellectual property rights owners. This lack of awareness, and in some countries robust regulatory frameworks, has resulted in the sustained exploitation and violation of the rights of both burgeoning and established artists, brands, designs, and trade secrets across the region. Caribbean Export has, therefore taken an active role in addressing the issues of intellectual property rights from the perspective of its use as a tool for enhancing business and trade.
“The knowledge I received helped to avert some serious mistakes I was about to make with regards to marketing my product(s). When it comes to international trade and in particular IP matters, government must play an active role in protecting and assisting all businesses who trade internationally and those who have the potential for international trade. I now appreciate the fact that a proper IP portfolio is a must for successful international trade”, commented Paul Morgan one business owner who attended the workshop in Belize. This sentiment was reflected by the representative from BELTRAIDE, who stated that “the initiative provided the capacity developments necessary for the business support organizations in Belize such as BELIPO, BELTRAIDE, and the Directorate of Foreign Trade to continue to provide support and technical services to enterprises in Belize through the new IP Task Force.”
The clinics seek primarily to illustrate to businesses how IP can be leveraged to enhance their businesses while enhancing their awareness and knowledge of what IP assets they have in place and which needs protecting. The clinics look specifically at trademarks and branding, protection of trade secrets and their licensing, and franchising tools and IP mechanisms which would be relevant to the optimization of business operations and enhancement of export opportunities. The 2 day events encompass case studies from local markets as well as presentations from local experts from tertiary institutions, law firms and IP offices, among others.
Ultimately, the clinics endeavor to first equip firms with the tools to identify better their intellectual property and utilise their intellectual property as tools in enhancing their businesses; and secondly to provide Caribbean Export with relevant information on the types and number of issues businesses are facing in protecting their intellectual property assets. The latter will be used to inform the Agency’s programming to respond to these issues. Additionally, Business Support Organisations (BSOs) have a better understanding of what is required in this area and are subsequently able to design their own programs of support for IP, including providing advice and support to private sector firms in the identification, registration and utilisation of their intellectual property assets.