US Ambassador highlights importance of IPRs to Nigeria’s SME growth

Mary Beth Leonard

The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, on Monday urged Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) to take advantage of the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) available to them.

Leonard gave the advice on a panel discussion in celebration of the 2021 World Intellectual Property Day.

The virtual event, hosted by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) office in Nigeria had the theme: “Innovation, IP & SMEs: Opportunities and Challenges for SMEs in Driving Nigeria’s Economic Recovery.”

The protection of their intellectual knowledge, she said, could result in a sizable commercial advantage in the market place.

She said that SMEs had prospects in foreign markets and understanding IPRs could be a link to their launch into the foreign climate.

Leonard said that SMEs were the primary source of new jobs and income for the bulk of the population.

According to her, they are also acknowledged as the critical breeding ground for domestic entrepreneurial capacities, technical skills, technological innovation and managerial competences for private sector development.

“Similarly, American SMEs are the backbone of the U.S. economy with 28 million SMEs accounting for nearly two-thirds of new private sector jobs in recent decades.
“Intellectual property rights are crucial components of SMEs most valuable assets,” she said.

She noted that an SME’s brand logo, invention, software application, trademark or copyright might become the business’s highest source of revenue.

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Leonard, however, said that most SME owners in Nigeria did not yet appreciate the role of IPR in business development promotion.
She said that as a result, they failed to take important steps including registering Intellectual Property (IP) to secure their interest in their intangible creations.

“They may find IP to be abstract or lack information regarding the appropriate way to protect their businesses.

“Often, even those who have some knowledge may see the process as time consuming.

“This shows that everyone has an important role to play in championing IPR and it is incumbent upon relevant government authorities to make this process less cumbersome and time consuming.

“It is incumbent upon stakeholders to raise awareness and for enforcement agencies to do their part in securing those rights.

“Nigerian SMEs working alongside other stakeholders can help shape the direction of Nigeria’s growing knowledge based economy, which promises to significantly benefit the country’s destiny,” Leonard said.

WIPO, a specialised agency of the United Nations, is the global forum for intellectual property policy, services, information and cooperation.

In 2000, WIPO member states designated April 26, as World Intellectual Property Day with the aim of increasing the general understanding of Intellectual Property (IP).