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As governments around the world prioritise economic recovery following the devastating impact of COVID-19 on business, this year’s World Intellectual Property Day will shine a light on the role of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). 

Activities will be held under the theme: “Intellectual property and SMEs: Taking your ideas to the market” to encourage the use of intellectual property (IP) by SMEs, and foster innovation with a view to generating revenue and contributing to economic development.

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) observes World IP Day annually on 26 April to raise awareness of the role that IP rights play in encouraging innovation and creativity. South Africa is one of WIPO’s 193 member states.

South Africa’s World IP Day activities this year reaffirm the potential for small businesses to bring innovative ideas and designs as diverse as the country’s people to the marketplace.

The 2021 focus is on teaching SMEs to use IP as an asset, and a way for their businesses to increase revenue and employment, and contribute to the country’s economy. Although the theme focuses on SMEs, the celebrations will also target innovators, creators, youth and the public at large.

Acting Head of the Department of Science and Innovation’s National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO), Jetane Charsley, said the small business sector in South Africa is a critical part of the national economy. 

World IP Day celebrations acknowledge the ingenuity and creativity of SMEs, their impact on communities, and their contribution to reducing unemployment, alleviating poverty and shrinking inequality

“The effective use of IP and associated rights can ensure that we build stronger, more competitive and resilient businesses,” Charsley said.

“As specified in the National Development Plan, SMEs play an important role in employment creation. Net new employment is not typically created on a significant scale in existing businesses. We therefore need to foster sustainable businesses with the potential for job creation and competition,” she said.

The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition and the Department of Science and Innovation, through their entities and specialised programmes, namely, the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), NIPMO and the Technology Innovation Agency, commemorate World IP Day from 19 to 26 April 2021.

The results of the Second South African National Survey of IP and Technology Transfer (2014-2018) at publicly funded research institutions are also expected to be released.

The survey is a partnership between the Department of Science and Innovation, the Southern African Research and Innovation Management Association and NIPMO.

Among other things, the survey results highlight some positive trends in start-up/spin-out company formation, with 55 start-up/spin-out companies formed using institutional IP over the survey period.  Employment created by start-ups increased by 37% over the period.


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