Innovation and trademark protection: two sides of the same coin

Innovation and trademark protection: two sides of the same coin

Trademarks protect a company’s intellectual property, and thus play a key role in encouraging innovation and ensuring organisational longevity.

By Cindy Bodenstein, Marketing Manager, ContinuitySA

How does one tell whether a company or country is a leader? More importantly, how does one tell whether either are likely to continue being profitable or successful? Of course, there are many answers but one of the important things that analysts look at is the number of patents and trademarks a country or company possesses. These are known to provide a good indication of an entity’s economic potential.

Trademarks and patents are so important because they are the outward and visible sign of a company’s or country’s ability to innovate, and thus to stay ahead of the pack. In a recent speech, the former CEO of the Innovation Hub, Dr McLean Sibanda, said, innovation was required for economic and social growth in a middle-income country like South Africa. IP and patenting policies, which protect innovation, should thus be seen in economic terms, he argued.[1]

Let’s be clear about this: innovation comes in different forms. The most obvious is technical innovation that is produced in laboratories, but other types of innovation are the product of experience and thought and relate to new and/ or better ways of doing things. The latter would include business processes and methodologies, which are the distillation of years of experience combined with the insights of expert people and international best practice.

Technical innovation typically results in a new product, while other types of innovation might yield a framework or methodology for doing something: for example, how to construct a risk profile or how to assess a company’s maturity in relation to a certain activity. These frameworks can look deceptively simple, but in fact they are based on years of measuring results and an in-depth understanding of a particular business area.

Both are considered to be intellectual property, and thus may be protected by trademarks and patents. These legal instruments protect the company’s investment in producing that product, framework or methodology, but they also protect the consumer. A trademark or patent means the consumer gets what he or she is paying for and can rely on the product or service “doing what it says on the box”.

A services company like ContinuitySA is a great example of how trademarks work. Having been the leader in our field of business continuity and resilience in Africa for more than 30 years, we have amassed a huge body of experience. We know what works and what does not; our people have studied (and contributed to) the development of international standards and we have created replicable methodologies for implementing those standards within a company’s unique business context. All this accumulated experience and expertise is preserved—and continually improved—in the frameworks and methodologies we have evolved.

Because they are properly documented, these effectively become blueprints that can be used to mitigate risks and then help an organisation recover from any disaster. And because they are protected by a trademark, they can be shared with clients and used to achieve their goals reliably.

One might argue that a trademarked service or concept indicates that its owner is serious about the quality of the service it delivers and invests time and money in making it both excellent and replicable. They are also the real capital that will underpin our continued profitability.

During the past 30 years, we have come up with a considerable number of innovations in the field of business continuity, and many of them we have protected with trademarks. Currently, we have 10 trademarks registered. For us, they are a proud testimony to the lessons we have learned alongside our clients in the past and, much more importantly, of our ability to continue perfecting our services into the future.

[1] Tasneem Bulbulia, “Strides made in S Africa’s IP landscape, but more substantial participation required”, Engineering News (30 January 2019), available at http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/strides-made-in-s-africas-ip-landscape-but-more-substantial-participation-required-2019-01-30.