A senior government official has called for assistance in the management of intellectual property (IP) for small to medium enterprises (SMS) to enable them drive innovation, collaborate and access global markets.
Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Deputy Minister, Nobert Mazungunye, made the remarks at the start of the national intellectual property week workshop on IP for innovative and competitive small and medium enterprises at the Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) on Monday.
Mazungunye said Zimbabwe has witnessed remarkable growth in entrepreneurial spirit during which SMEs became the backbone of the country, significantly contributing to employment generation, wealth creation, and technological advancements, making it imperative that they be provided with the necessary tools and knowledge to thrive in today’s competitive market.
“By protecting their IP, we not only encourage a culture of innovation, but we also provide a solid framework for our entrepreneurs to compete on the global scale,” he said.
“While IP protection offers immense benefits, SMEs often encourage challenges in navigating the IP landscape. Limited resources, lack of awareness, and the complexity of IP systems can pose obstacles for SMEs seeking to protect and enforce their IP rights. This workshop aims to address these challenges by providing practical guidance, insights and tools to help SMEs understand, manage, and leverage their IP assets effectively.”
In an interview on the sidelines of the workshop, the registrar of Deeds, Companies and Intellectual Property, Willie Mushayi said after realising the speed at which SMEs can transform economies, his office was taking deliberate steps to motivate them by registering their businesses, IP and ensuring products they are trading are branded.
“We are going out as Zimbabwe IP office wherever there is an opportunity to get to them and encourage them to apply for registration and also sometimes to improve on the brands that they are using, sometimes they just use an ordinary brand which we can then help them to develop further and perhaps improve so that it is able to penetrate, not just the local market but even regional market,” said Mushayi.
He said his office was also in the process of revising its fees from US$200 to about US$50 to accommodate those that were being deterred from registering by the high fees, and also working closely with the African Regional IP Organisation (ARIPO) to get local SMEs to register regionally while introducing them to the registration of trademarks.
“So far we have not had much success there, but we are already getting people interested and some of them are making inquiries. But in terms of registering locally, there is a lot of interest,” he said, adding that benefits of registration included ring fencing one’s products, name and business to guard against copy cats that might spoil their products and reputations.
“Once you’ve ring fenced the business itself, you can grow it, you can invest in it and it becomes by itself, collateral in some sense because it has a value of its own. You will find that the value of the business will be improved and it’ll increase, simply because you’ve taken a step to register.” – New Ziana