Intellectual property rights are similar to many other rights; however, the peculiarity of intellectual property rights comes in the fact that they are not naturally engrossed, they have to be acquired. It has become not only advisable but commercially expedient that founders who have exerted their intellects and creative efforts in coming up with inventions to protect their intellectual property rights as these rights reward creativity and human endeavour and this also serves as a commensurable incentive to continue to drive the progress of the humankind.
Intellectual property protection by Start-Ups and SMEs has become important for several compelling reasons as the advancement and good fortune of founders and entrepreneurs in Nigeria rest heavily on their ability to create and invent works in the new areas of technology and business development. Also, by acquiring intellectual property protection, the commitment of further monetary incentives and a continuous chain of value are guaranteed.
Trends in developed economies as obtainable in America, Europe and Asia have shown overwhelmingly that the awareness, promotion and protection of intellectual property rights encourage economic growth, creation of new jobs and viable industries and also enhances the quality and standard of living. Protection of Intellectual property rights can also help founders and indeed other entrepreneurs to realise their potentials in which creativity and invention can flourish.
The commonest form of Intellectual property protection in Nigeria is Copyright. The copyright law in Nigeria grants creators, authors and their rights holder’s legal protection for their literary and artistic creations. By doing this, creatives will not only protect their work but they are also able to commercialise and benefit financially from their intellectual property.
Similarly, patent rights which is an exclusive right granted for an invention which constitutes a product or process that provides a novel or new way of doing something or that provides a technical solution to a problem also provides a viable means of commercialisation of inventions by founders. A founder who patents an invention may permit to, or license other persons to use their inventions on mutually agreed terms.
Founders can also explore Trademarks protection which ensures that owners of marks have exclusive rights to use them to identify their goods or services or to further authorise others to use them in return for monetary or other corresponding valuable things. Trademarks may be one or a combination of words, letters and numerals. Through trademarks protection, founders, entrepreneurs and founders are rewarded with recognition and financial profit. Also, trademark protection protects creatives from unfair competitors such as counterfeiters, from using similar distinctive marks to market inferior products and services.
Beyond protecting Intellectual property rights, founders must commercialise their rights to create maximum viable value from them. Commercialisation activities should be geared towards bringing their Intellectual property to the market given future profits and business growth. Concerning this, founders and entrepreneurs can explore the following in their commercialisation process:
IP assignment: An IP assignment to a transfer of ownership of intellectual property rights such as trademark, industrial design or patent from a person (the assignor) to another (the assignee). IP assignments provide a viable means of commercialisation for IP owners as it provides an immediate cash flow from an IP asset which may be otherwise not exploited.
IP licensing: This involves a contract under which the owner of the Intellectual property (the licensor) grants permission for the use of his intellectual property to another person (the licensee). IP licensing also provides a viable way for Intellectual property owners to commercialise their IP assets and also provides the licensor with an opportunity to reach new markets with their existing products while also retaining the ownership of the IP asset.
Franchising: IP owners can also commercialise their intellectual property through franchising. Franchising is another form of licensing which allows the replication of the IP owner’s (Franchisor) business concept in a different location by providing continuous support to the recipient (Franchisee). IP owners’ profit from this arrangement through the franchise fees paid by the Franchisee before such concession is granted.
Conclusively, it is clear that when a company, SMEs or entrepreneur rely solely on its intellectual property for its survival, the need for a lawyer with a speciality in Intellectual property cannot be overemphasised. Creatives, founders and entrepreneurs should engage the service of well-versed Intellectual property lawyers at the very early stage of developing a novel process or idea pitching with potential investors to avoid possible intellectual property infringement. Also, the various commercialisation processes may present complex tasks, IP owners should leverage the expertise of Intellectual property lawyers as the success of the commercialisation process depends on several internal and external factors.