Virtual roundtable sheds light on role of intellectual property for SMEs

Ministry of Industry and Trade's recently adapted to new technologies by launching online filing systems and e-services

Businessman and businesswoman discussing work on video call with team members through glass partition at office. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Businessman and businesswoman discussing work on video call with team members through glass partition at office. Image used for illustrative purpose.

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AMMAN — Intellectual property (IP) could be a company’s biggest asset when done right, according to experts.

Marking World Intellectual Property Day and International Property Rights Week, the US embassy in Jordan on Tuesday presented a virtual roundtable for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Jordan titled “How IP Can Help Take Your Ideas to Market”.

Opening the discussion, Zain Awamleh from the Industrial Property Protection Directorate, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Supply, indicated that the traditional function of any national IP office is to ensure that services are of optimal efficiency and timeliness, as well as to meet the needs of various users and SMEs.

“As an IP office within the Ministry of Industry and Trade, we must adapt our procedures to become more effective, diverse and inclusive; we must have personalised services and low fees, as well as user-friendly IP registration systems so that applicants can register, submit, and have a good understanding of the services with minimal fees,” Awamleh noted.

Awamleh highlighted the office’s recent efforts to adapt to new technologies by launching online filing systems and e-services.

“We will perform non-traditional roles as an IP office such as connecting stakeholders that provide guidance to SMEs and connecting them with all relevant agencies that engage directly with Jordanian SMEs. We aim to develop a better understanding of business strategies, assist SMEs in determining where support is required, and support the commercialisation of IPR [intellectual property rights],” she said.

Awamleh expressed the importance of raising awareness and informing people about IP and IPR as SMEs in Jordan and elsewhere struggle to recognise IP and its importance as part of their business strategy.

“We have supported people with patent drafting in the past years by collaborating with universities, Oasis500, Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and schools because we want students to be aware of IPR and its value as a culture. For the past four years, we’ve collaborated with the Ministry of Education (MoE) on annual industrial property competitions, bringing us closer to our goal of including IPR chapters in MoE’s structured curriculum. Moreover, we have regular programmes and national workshops to increase awareness and promote patenting,” Awamleh said.

Nizar Haddad, director general, National Centre for Agriculture Research (NARC), said that NARC started a unit for IP about eight years ago resulting in several IPs created thus far.

“We decided a year and a half ago to change our focus from IP to incubation of innovations from the private sector and entrepreneurs. Our goal is to develop intellectual property for NARC and make it accessible to farmers and beneficiaries,” Haddad explained.

During the past year and a half, NARC has received 65 applicants, but only 16 were accepted so far, according to Haddad.

Haddad indicated that with the assistance of NARC’s partners, there is an intention to expand the incubator to serve as a business accelerator. “You can raise seed capital from international or local investors and attempt to link entrepreneurs with the private sector; if this is successful, I expect at least 100 new entrepreneurs to be incubated,” he said

“The key focus for us in Jordan is on major issues that we face such as water scarcity, food security, and the depletion of natural resources,” Haddad added.

Saeed Albawab, a CEO of a startup, expressed how difficult it can be to come up with a patent as a young entrepreneur.

“Rule number one for me is: Fail fast and fail cheap,” Albawab said.

Albawab called for more assistance with patent registration cash flow, as entrepreneurs struggle in this area. He also suggested holding seminars on matters related to patents such as what could be patented and ways to draft a patent at a low cost, as only 20 per cent of patents are actually marketable.

“We need to learn more about IP drafters in order to communicate with them better,” he added.

Charles Sha’ban, executive director, Abu Ghazaleh Intellectual Property, stressed the importance of IP and online presence. “Since we are in the digital era, and particularly since the pandemic, everyone understands the value of being online, it is critical to choose a good domain name from the start in order to establish an online presence. Entrepreneurs must think about intellectual property from the start of their company, both locally and globally. It’s important to hold a trademark or logo and know how to protect it, as the trademark accounts for more than 92 per cent of the company’s revenue for a lot of big companies.” Sha’ban explained.

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