World Intellectual Property Day
I feel very honoured to be asked to write an article about IP for WEC Global, which is an organisation that I supported since the very early days of its creation.
When I was asked, I was also given a word count that I should stick to. Well, I must admit that normally it is quite a challenge for me to write only a few words about IP, as I always like to expand the subject. Let me start with Bill Gate’s most well-known phrase about IP: "Intellectual property has the shelf life of a banana."
That is true and furthermore, intellectual property if not protected can also be stolen. Accordingly, having the right type of intellectual property protection helps you to stop people stealing or copying the names of your products or brands, your inventions, the design or look of your products and things you write, make or produce.
Let’s understand what intellectual property means and why it has such a short shelf life and vulnerability.
In simple words, intellectual property is something that you create using your mind – for example, a story, an invention, an artistic work or a symbol. It is an area of law that governs the ownership and accessibility of ideas and inventions on tangible and intangible concepts from human creativity, invention, and business endeavour. If we're using legal terms, we would say that it is copyright, patents and trademarks.
In summary, to clarify each of them I will start with copyright, which are laws that are originally designed to encourage people to create. Namely, to create art, music, literature, film, video and all of those things. Patents are about the area of science and technology. Patent Laws are designed to help people invent, i.e., create new inventions – things like laptops and pharmaceuticals.
And finally, trademarks are those things that we are used to every day to the point that for the disappointment of trademark owners they sometimes become part of our language. We might say something like, “we got out of bed, put on our Levi's, used the Colgate and ate some Weetabix” and everyone, well most people speaking English, at least, know what we mean. “As you pulled on your jeans, brushed your teeth, and ate some breakfast cereal.”
The law intends to protect these innovations and provide people exclusive rights to use the products or services for a period of time in order to encourage businesses to work and succeed as well as to encourage invention and creative endeavours. What the law doesn't do is guarantee that anyone who creates anything artistic, like an event, or scientific will get a market, i.e., will be able to sell their work.
Accordingly, entrepreneurs and various organizations try and use intellectual property law as a tool to make their business work, to make money and achieve recognition. But it's not the law of intellectual property that creates business profits; however, businesses can use intellectual property rights to help them create those profits.
Intellectual property law is the helping hand used to help social entrepreneurs succeed in business, giving them the leg up to be innovative and explorative as they work to improve social circumstances that exist in societies everywhere.
Finally organizations can utilize the power of intellectual property law to help creative minds as they develop improvements within society, while also working on sustainable initiatives that will be protected by the law to not only help protect trademarks and copyrights of entrepreneurs and their free market initiatives, but also ensure that entrepreneurs will want to engage in solving some of the society’s problems in the first place, knowing that they will be helping society while profiting from their good works, as well.
The stakes of the developers of technology have become very high, and hence, the need to protect the knowledge from unlawful use has become expedient, at least for a period, that would ensure recovery of the R&D and other associated costs and adequate profits for continuous investments in R&D.
One piece of advice for your younger self.
Be your best at all times, you never know what the future will bring, so always make the best use of the present and always remember to do what is right, not what is easy. Strength of character leads us to do the right thing, even when there are easier ways.
If you had to choose an alternative career, what would you be doing now?
I would be writing fiction. I have one fiction book published but would like to have time to write more as I have so many stories in my head.
At the end of your career, if you were to sit and reflect, what one hope do you have?
A better health systems and infrastructure for the developing countries and access to medicines. Public health systems are always susceptible to fashions, political vagaries, and Health systems and the challenge of communicable diseases due to economic cycles.