Often, when I broach the topic of Intellectual Property (IP) with a colleague or friend, it is met with empty stares. My resolve to discuss the topic and its impact on our economy is then met by a visual perplexity that is only rivalled by the lack of response and engagement.
In Trinidad and Tobago, the use of intellectual property is a convoluted system that is not enthusiastically supported by the legal profession, much less the public. Is this due to our public’s lack of awareness about the topic and how it works? Maybe. There are evident gaps in the understanding of intellectual property, how it applies to Trinidad and Tobago and what it can do for our economy.
So, what exactly is Intellectual Property?
Well, it refers to creations of the mind; ideas and concepts brought about through invention, literacy and artistic works or masterpieces, and names images rooted in commerce. Hinged in both industrial property and copyrights, among others, intellectual property is supported and upheld by the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) and Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, thus the importance of the mind to the progress human capacity.
Often the first response to my provoking question is; how does IP work really? As a business owner and startup experimenter who has explored the industry both locally and abroad, it is often a challenge to understand how IP applies to us in our country.
Simply put, IP rights allow creators or owners to benefit from their work or from their investment in their creation. It helps to balance the interests of your own and those of public interest.
Some examples of how IP works for industries and for persons are evident everywhere today.
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter began as an idea but turned into a billion-dollar success since inception and continues to benefit the literary industry and its creator in the form of books, films, merchandise, even theme parks. Imagine that!
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, has become one of the top 10 richest individuals in the world all riding on his idea of connecting individuals through this platform. His net worth is estimated at USD $59.2 Billion as of 2017.
If that isn’t motivation to get IP right, then I don’t know what is?
For us Trinbagonians, the Carnival industry is a playground for creatives to bring in millions of dollars every year IP rights has and can continue to help protect music artists and their work, protect carnival costume creators with their designs and protect publishers and their publishing rights.
The Carnival industry is only a small piece of how intellectual property rights can be exercised to boost our business and economic growth.
Our local makeup is crying out for a structured and enforced intellectual property rights system. As a culture of creatives in the music, film, design and arts industry, the ability to protect our work is more important than any other brick and mortar store concept. Consider it the long-term plan to continually bring in revenue.
IP rights protect the work, product, and confidential business information, such as contact lists or sales tactics, while regulating the dissemination of information, designs, works and concepts. They are the benchmark and the base for creating an economy that prides itself on invention, creativity and progress at all levels of business.
So, what’s the 1st step to improve the intellectual property system in Trinidad and Tobago?
Creating a sustained public awareness campaign to help individuals and communities understand intellectual property and how it can positively impact their lives. This can be in the small business industry, the educational industry and the creative industry to start. Understanding can then lead to advocacy and a common voice for a more structured system in Trinidad and Tobago. WIPO has already laid the foundation. It’s now time to use it as best we can.
It is time to step away from energy dependence and starting placing our trust in the mind.
What are we waiting for?