IP & Innovation: a must for SMEs
In the ASEAN Region, in Australia and New Zealand, business is booming and is forecast to continue to grow. By 2020, the middle-class population in Southeast Asia is estimated to reach 400 million. This is undoubtedly great news for local SMEs. However, the opening up of markets and new regional business opportunities also implies numerous new challenges that if not adequately tackled may seriously injure your business. These include:
- More competition from worldwide companies
- Need to reduce costs
- Shorter life-cycle for products
- Stricter legislative requirements
- Enhanced awareness and expectations by customers
Let’s now see what you can do to properly tackle all the above issues, in order to foster your business competitiveness. If you want to survive enhanced competition, and actually beat your competitors; if you wish to become more successful and make more money, then you need to … INNOVATE.
There are multiple ways in which you can innovate. However, most prominently you can:
- Provide new, enhanced and better products and services, and/or
- Provide the same products or services, but at competitively lower prices.
- Needless to say, if you can do both … your chances of success will be greater.
Innovation should take place at all levels of your business, from the analysis of customer needs (looking for new trends and possible niches); to the conception and prototyping phases; to efficient production, to the marketing and after-sale services. Your innovative efforts may result in some or all of the following:
- Your products are more attractive and eye-catching,
- Your products or services enjoy higher quality, or possess more functionalities,
- Their branding is improved,
- Their price is lower,
- Your marketing strategy is well-conceived and successful,
- Your after-sale services are excellent and well-thought-out.
However, innovating is hardly cost-free. It systematically involves significant human and financial resources. The only way in which you can ensure that nobody exploits your innovation without your authorization, that no one takes a free ride by copying you, and that you alone take full advantage of your innovative endeavours2 is by protecting your creative efforts through the appropriate IP right.
By looking at the examples above, if you have:
- Improved the ornamental or aesthetic shape of your products, you should protect this new form as INDUSTRIAL DESIGN;
- Found ways to improve the quality of your products or services or their functionalities, or discovered more efficient ways to produce them while reducing costs, most probably you can protect this invention through a PATENT or (if smaller) a UTILITY MODEL;
- Adopted a new name or created a new logo for your products or services capable of distinguishing them from those of your competitors, then you should run to protect this sign as TRADEMARK;
- Adopted especially successful marketing techniques and after sale services, you should make sure that you treat them as TRADE SECRETS;
- Developed written documents (e.g. internal manuals, brochures for your company, advertisements, etc.), you will be pleased to know that they enjoy automatic protection under COPYRIGHT.
 Subject to a certain number of exceptions.
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