Tool to prevent business ideas from being stolen – IOL

Saturday, December 3, 2022
Written by
Vusi Adonis
Multimedia Journalist, IOL

Published Nov 9, 2022
Written by
Vusi Adonis
Multimedia Journalist, IOL
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Johannesburg – Small, medium, and micro enterprises (SMMEs) provide 9.7 million much-need jobs to South Africans. This means that one in every six individuals depends on these businesses to earn a living.
South Africa is a hotbed for entrepreneurial development and innovation, with the youth looking to stave off poverty and rampant unemployment.
The youth unemployment rate in South Africa currently sits at to 61.40% in the second quarter of 2022, slightly down from 63.90% in the first quarter of 2022.
But if entrepreneurs who think out of the box don’t protect their innovative products, services, and ideas against intellectual property (IP) infringement by other companies or individuals, they risk losing money. In the worst-case scenario, they may even find their businesses failing.
According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs, symbols, names and images used in commerce.
So often you hear of individuals who are disgruntled because they failed to protect their IP and someone else implements their ideas to greater effect. It’s simple really, if you do not protect your IP you have little to no recourse if someone copies your work or uses it to enrich themselves.
One such instance is that of the highly contested “Please Call Me” case between Nkosana Makate and Vodacom. Makate is claiming R10 billion from Vodacom, as he believes the idea is his intellectual property.
“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 to protect their business’s future profitability and growth potential,” said Dr Nompumelelo Obokoh, general manager of the Bioeconomy unit at The Innovation Hub.
After identifying the critical need for greater assistance in securing IP protection for SMMEs, The Innovation Hub alongside the Innovation Agency of Gauteng is collaborating with WIPO to launch an online IP diagnostic tool at The Innovation Hub’s Science and Technology Park in Lynwood, Tshwane.
“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,” said Obokoh
This self-assessment tool offers a user-friendly method for identifying and learning how to manage IP, as well as generate customised reports on a business’s potential IP assets.
The one-stop shop will enable entrepreneurs to be better aware of their IP and educate themselves, giving them the knowledge to help them benefit from their ideas and thus strengthen their businesses.
The IP diagnostic tool will be open to businesses and entrepreneurs affiliated with The Innovation Hub, as well as members of the public, providing them with in-depth IP training and counselling.
WIPO sees this partnership as vital in empowering entrepreneurs to maximise their potential and the potential of their ideas.
“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,” said Guy Pessach, director of the IP for Business division at WIPO.
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