As every year, April 26th is the World IP Day!
WIPO, which organises the annual World IP Day has announced that this year’s theme is that of “IP and Youth: Innovating for a Better Future”.
Picking this theme aims to validate the important role that young people (read: under 35s) play in the innovation industries of today, the particular interest that this generation has in building a more sustainable future, and the crucial role of IP in encouraging the creation and commercialisation of technologies in the green-tech, waste management and communication technology sectors for example.
In this context, WIPO expressed the desire to ensure that the innovators of today and leaders of tomorrow are fully aware of the relevance of IP rights, and of the ways in which they can use them to achieve their goals and make a positive impact on the world around them. The World IP Day of 2022 has been chosen by WIPO as an opportunity to illustrate that intellectual property rights should be seen as a source of opportunities for young people who decide to launch an entrepreneurial venture in innovative and creative sectors.
While EU companies play an active role in creating a more sustainable future, investigations have found that EU SMEs, including start-ups, fail to make full use of the opportunities granted by IP protection. One factor is the complexity of the international IP protection framework, which many find difficult and too costly to navigate..
The key role of the International IP SME Helpdesks is precisely to fill this knowledge gap, which drives SMEs and start-ups away from making full use of the IP framework. This is achieved through the organisation of training sessions, the publication of materials on the Helpdesks’ website, and answering directly to any questions SMEs may have regarding IP in the context of internationalising to a new market. Recently the Helpdesks launched the IP Diagnostic and IP Cost Tools, which aim to provide users a first understanding of their needs when it comes to protecting their intellectual property, and the costs which they can expect to pay for adequate protection of their intangible assets in markets around the world.
In this spirit, we explain below which tools and advantages are facilitated by the IP frameworks of the countries covered by each International Helpdesk for young entrepreneurs, creators, and their start-ups aiming to make the world of tomorrow a better place.
The Indian IP framework provides certain advantages to SMEs and start-ups at the time of filing their patents, trade marks, or industrial designs (note that utility models are not available in India). Specifically, start-ups and SMEs can benefit from accelerated filing procedures and reduced fees in their applications.
All start-ups can benefit from these advantages, whether they are located in India or not, provided they satisfy the definition of what a start-up is under Indian law:
- They have been incorporated or registered for fewer than seven years, or 10 years for biotechnology start-ups;
- Turnover in any financial year since incorporation or registration has not exceeded INR250 million (€3 million).
In the case of patents, these fee reductions amount to up to 80% of the total official fees normally paid by entities registering a patent in India, and the time saved by applying for an accelerated procedure under the start-up program is very substantial as the patents can be granted as quickly as 1 year after filing (normally this takes several years).
Furthermore, India is a participant to the main international agreements on the registration of trade marks and patents: the Madrid System and the Patent Cooperation Treaty. These systems allow an applicant to file a trade mark or patent application for several countries at once, saving time and money in the process, and are highly recommended for any business with an international outlook and the need to secure its Intellectual Property in several territories quickly.
Furthermore, it is relevant to highlight the fact that India, a country with a massive youth population, has taken active steps to promote the growth of start-ups and SMEs created by them.
- The Scheme for Facilitating Start-Ups Intellectual Property Protection (SIPP), was launched by the Indian IP Office in 2016 and will be running until March 2023 at least. Under this scheme, start-ups can benefit from free-of-charge legal help on IP protection, including a waiver of the agent fees at the time of filing of the application (these are paid by the state under this scheme).
- Startup India is an initiative of the Indian government under which start-ups can benefit from a range of services, going from IPR benefits to assistance on all other administrative and commercial processes.
- Finally, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology provides a wide array of services to start-ups in the sector through its Startup Hub
Are you a young entrepreneur or just a humble content creator, and you would like to succeed in the region of Latin America? This region may be a bit far, but online businesses have no boundaries nowadays, do they? While there is no common legislation or initiative throughout the continent to assist start-ups on questions relating to IP protection, there are a few elements to keep in mind highlighted below:
- Before selling your products in any of the Latin American countries, let us remind you that you can register your trade marks online in: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic (except sound or smell trade marks), Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay.
- If your company is working in the sectors of green technology or circular economy, be aware that Brazil offers a green patent pilot programme to let you make use of a fast-track patent protection in this country.
- Panama (two years), Nicaragua and Guatemala (three years) grant protection to non-registered Designs in a similar way to the European Union.
- In clothing, it is true that Chile and Venezuela exclude clothing from designs protection. However, in Chile you are entitled to register your textile prints.
Finally, it is worth noting that for EU companies in the green technology sector, the EU-funded initiative Low Carbon Business Action has created a platform aimed at developing B2B relations between EU providers of low carbon technologies and companies based in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia or Mexico that are seeking sustainable solutions. Through this platform, EU start-ups in the sector can benefit from assistance on legal (including IP) questions.
SEA population is estimated to be around 655 million people with a median age of 30 years in 2022. The youth population currently represents approximately a third of the combined population of SEA and is projected to reach 220 million people by 2038. Given the importance of the youth in SEA, it is not very surprising to observe that the region has one of the highest rates of mobile and internet penetration in the world (over 400 million internet users in 2022 and many mobile-first consumers).
Accordingly, IP Offices of SEA had to adapt to the new digital era by making all their services fully accessible online (notably filing related procedures for trademark and patents). Lockdowns and other COVID-19 measures helped to accelerate the digitalisation processes and as of today most of the IP Offices of SEA offer a wide range of fully online IP services (except for Laos and Myanmar which are still waiting for the implementation of e-filing services).
Pushing digitalisation a step further, in Singapore, it is even possible to access IP services online directly from a mobile application developed by the IP Office of Singapore (i.e. you may file a new trademark application, file request for renewals of trademarks, patents, and designs or even run an IP search among the databases).
If you are considering protecting your IP in SEA, you are right. Imagine being able to take advantage of IP-related international treaties using centralized and global platforms like the Madrid System for trademark protection (available for all countries of SEA except Myanmar), the Patent Cooperation Treaty for patent protection (available for all countries of SEA except Myanmar), the Hague System for design protection (available only for Brunei, Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam) furthermore being able to benefit from automatic protection of copyright via the Berne Convention (effects in all countries of SEA except Myanmar).
Furthermore, without IP registration you would expose yourself (and your business) to some serious risks in SEA (bad faith trademark registration is a common issue for European SMEs and the “first to file” rule applies meaning that whoever files an application first for registering an IP right gets an advantage over third parties, even rightful ones).
Be assured that youth and innovation are definitely receiving full attention from the local authorities of SEA, and you may also notice a long list of incentives supported by organizations / countries:
- the ASEAN SME Academy (an e-learning platform for MSMEs in SEA developed jointly by the US and the ASEAN);
- the ASEAN Strategic Action Plan for SME Development 2016 – 2025 (which envisions to create globally competitive MSMEs integrated into the ASEAN community);
- IPKey SEA (an EU funded programme implemented by the EUIPO aiming at supporting IP rights protection and enforcement across SEA but also ensuring a level playing field for both local enterprises and EU stakeholders);
- the EU-ASEAN Young Leaders Forum;
- the ASEAN Cooperation on Youth.
With close to 1 billion internet users, China is digitally advanced and a vibrant market offering a multitude of opportunities for young innovators. Due to the prevalence of e-commerce and social media marketing, chances are that anyone wishing to do business in China will end up relying on social media and e-commerce platforms to sell and promote their products, but so do the majority of the counterfeiters and other copycats. Fortunately, all major e-commerce platforms such as Alibaba, JD.com and Pinduoduo as well as social media platforms such as WeChat offer IP dispute resolution mechanisms, allowing you to conveniently remove links to infringing content. To take full advantage of the platforms’ IP dispute resolution mechanisms and other IP protection tools, we recommend you to create a user profile and upload relevant IP certificates when starting doing business in China. Furthermore, market surveillance is a must in your IP strategy in China to discover potential infringements.
China operates under the first-to-file system, so be sure to register your IP well before actually starting doing business in China, as bad-faith IP registrations are quite common. Spurred by the impacts of the pandemic, the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) has digitalised most of its services allowing e-filing to register your IP rights. To encourage e-filing, reduced fees apply. Furthermore, China recently joined TMview, making it easier for European SMEs to carry out pre-filing trade mark searches.
To inspire innovation from SMEs, various financing schemes based on IP are available to SMEs. In 2020, more than 20,000 SMEs benefited from the IP trusteeship services and nearly 8,000 SMEs obtained loans totaling RMB 60 billion by pledging their IPs as collateral .
If you wish to protect your newest designs in China (which you totally should), pay attention, unlike some other regions, China requires absolute novelty to register design patents. This year, China joined the Hague System further facilitating design registration.
The internet courts in Hangzhou, Beijing, and Guangzhou have become a fast and cost-effective enforcement avenue for cases connected to internet copyright ownership and infringement disputes. Furthermore, Chinese courts are beginning to accept blockchain as a way of validating evidence and providing proof of authorship, reducing the costs of IP enforcement for SMEs and start-ups as well as young innovators.
In March 2021, the EU-China Agreement on Geographical Indications came to force, covering over 100 (more to be added) GIs on both sides. Improved GI protection is expected to increase trade in GI products on both sides.
Africa is one of the fastest-growing consumer markets in the world, with more than 400 million young people aged between the ages of 15 to 35 years. Such a youthful population calls for an increase in investment in the economic and social sectors, in order to improve the global development index of African nations.
Most economies in Africa can boast a great tradition of innovation and creativity. However, with this extraordinary creative potential, these countries have often struggled to achieve sustainable growth. With young people at the center of global production, a better understanding of intellectual property offers the opportunity to benefit from the added value that comes with innovation. The use of IP has the potential to help reduce poverty, create employment and accelerate economic growth in Africa.
Currently, there are two regional organizations promoting Intellectual Property Rights in Africa. Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle (OAPI), which has its headquarters in Yaoundé, Cameroon, and the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) which is based in Harare, Zimbabwe. Here, all registrations can be done online or in person.
- Africa Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI), is the industrial property office common to 17 member states who implement and apply a uniform law: the Bangui Agreement. The Organization centralizes all the procedures for the issuance of industrial property titles such as patents, registration certificates of trademarks or service marks, titles that are valid in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.
- African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO), is an intergovernmental organization that grants and administers IP titles on behalf of its Member States and provides IP information to its clientele in the form of search services, publications, and awareness creation. The 21 members of the Organization are Botswana, Eswatini, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Sao Tome, and Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Furthermore, the African Union has moved ahead to operationalize the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement which brings together 55 African states, to form the world’s largest free trade area. The AfCFTA establishes a continental market to effectively expand intra-African trade, bringing some of the traditional barriers which have inhibited youth entrepreneurship. This will enhance competitiveness and support the economic transformation of Africa and give rise to the need for tools to boost innovation and facilitate development while protecting IP and fostering the growth of IP in Africa.
If you have any queries on the content of this post, or are simply a young entrepreneur from Europe who is interested in innovation and disruption, we invite you to contact the International IP SME Helpdesks. Our teams will be pleased to advise you regarding any IP matters in South East Asia, India, Latin America, Africa, or China for FREE.
- Publication date
- 26 April 2022