3 Ways the Pandemic Inspired Innovation and Where IP Fits In

  • A changing world 
    The Coronavirus pandemic has certainly presented a series of challenges in nearly every aspect of our lives. Its impact has spread far and wide, to both the personal and professional facets of our daily activities. Even something that used to seem as simple as a walk in the park, or a meeting with colleagues, can now be perceived or approached in a different way. Although the virus came with many obstacles, it also forced society to adapt to the exceptional circumstances that we were presented with over the past two years.
  • Innovation in a crisis 
    This pandemic was not only a catalyst for change, but also provided a supportive environment for creating and testing new ideas. The cultural and business norms that we used to know and take for granted every day, had to change in line with the conditions that we were faced with. In other words, we as individuals and businesses, were forced to innovate. Challenging situations have been known to spark innovation, causing barriers to be broken, which previously seemed impossible and which took years to overcome.

    Innovation is an essential factor that contributes to a competitive and growing society, and which is a necessary component for any business to stay relevant in today’s market. Without it, we would live in a world with no change and with a stagnating or diminishing economy.
  • A wave of entrepreneurship
    Despite these times of uncertainty, innovation and creativity went viral, and opportunities were discovered in almost every professional sector. From healthcare to education, and from finance to manufacturing, all companies had to innovate in the way they operate and interact. Due to the social restrictions that were implemented, there has been a worldwide surge in the use of digital technology. In order to survive, people and organisations had to change their ways of working and communicating, including the adoption of virtual and cloud- based technology. All of these changes, inevitably brought along a wave of entrepreneurial activity. Start-up companies have boomed globally, responding quickly to new trends and consumer demands.

Where does Intellectual Property fit in?

Intellectual Property (IP) is a category of property that includes the intangible creations of the human intellect. The protection thereof, not only encourages innovation, but provides a mechanism to compensate and protect those who are willing to invest their time therein.
Given the rapid growth of digital innovation, it is becoming increasingly important to make sure that your IP is well protected and owned by the correct entity. Data, brand names, logos, publications and all forms of information, are now much more readily available and accessible to the public. We are all highly connected through a digital landscape, which means that IP rights have become more vulnerable to infringement. The protection of Intellectual Property can be of great value to an individual or company. By understanding how to identify and protect your IP at an early stage, can enable you reap the rewards of your innovative inputs and achieve the goals you have set out for your business.

Types of Intellectual Property to consider 

Intellectual Property comes forth in many forms, broadly including patents, trade marks, copyrights and registered designs. Each form of IP can be used to protect an individual aspect of your business, and are commonly used in conjunction with one another.

Certain types of IP rights can subsist automatically (e.g. copyrights), while other forms need to be registered (i.e. patents, trade marks and registered designs). In some cases, such as with patents, it is of vital importance that you consider the protection of your patent, before that new technology is made known to the public.

When it comes to trade marks, there are great advantages of obtaining trade mark registration. A registered trade mark is an asset which only appreciates in value and which may exist perpetually if the mark is renewed every 10 years. This right can in turn be valued, licenced or even offered as security. Although an unregistered trade mark can acquire common law rights through use, it becomes very burdensome and costly to enforce your rights against a third party later down the line. Trade mark protection is a crucial element in protecting the online presence and brand of any business.

Although intellectual property rights are intangible assets, they can often be of far more value than any physical assets of any business. Some of the largest companies in the world, e.g. Apple Inc. and Amazon, are recognised and built around the reputation and value of their Intellectual Property.

We live in a world where innovation has gone viral. Now more than ever, it has become very important for any start-up company to take some time to consider which IP protection may be of relevance to them, and to have a proper strategy in place to protect those rights from the start.

WRITTEN BY

Rinske du Plessis – Trade mark attorney at Von Seidels

Rinske is a South African attorney and trade mark practitioner. She is focused on the searching and filing of trade marks, as well as trade mark oppositions, trade mark and copyright infringement matters, passing-off, anti-counterfeiting and domain name disputes. She focuses on both prosecution and litigation matters in South Africa and throughout Africa.

Rinske obtained degrees in science and law from the University of Stellenbosch, choosing intellectual property law as a final-year elective. She has gained experience working in teams dealing with complex and contentious matters, both in prosecution and litigation.

Von Seidels is an intellectual property law firm specialising in patents, trade marks, copyright, designs, trade secrets, licensing, and related areas of IP throughout Africa. Based in South Africa, Von Seidels also has offices in ARIPO (Namibia), OAPI (Cameroon) and Nigeria.

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