THE ROLE OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY (IP) LAW IN THE GROWTH OF SMALL AND MEDIUM ENTERPRISES (SMES) IN NIGERIA
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY.
The world over, entrepreneurship and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have provided effective means of greater employment and improving the standard of living for people. SMEs are regarded as the engine of economic growth and development in most developing countries. The contributions of the SMEs in industrial sector to the Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are valued at about 46% thereby making it the second largest contributor to the nations GDP after the oil sector. SMEs are also perceived as the key to Nigeria’s economic growth, poverty alleviation and employment generation but their unimpressive performance in employment generation in recent year has generated a lot of research interests on their challenges and prospects.
It is in recognition of the immense contribution of the SMEs to national development that Intellectual Property (IP) has stepped up to provide for protection, promotion and support for the SMEs.
IP is the product of one’s intellectual activity and consist of different areas of creativity. These areas include industrial property and copyright and related rights. Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) on the other hand are those rights derived from intangible property that protect innovation and reward innovative activity.
IP is unique, as it is the fruit of personal creation and inventiveness. In virtually every instance, it stimulates progress, growth and transformation. Hence, society provides legal rights over IP to encourage the production of inventions and creative works that benefit society and so help innovators and creator make a living from their work. The system is designed to benefit society as a whole by striking a balance between the creator and user i.e. ensuring that their needs are satisfied.
Daily, new products appear in the market and this is as a result of continuous human activity. The innovative and creative capacity, however, is not always fully exploited as many SMEs are not aware of the IP system or the protection it can provide for their inventions, brand and designs. The result is, a good invention or creativity is lost to larger competitions that are in better position to commercialize the product or service at more affordable price, leaving the true inventor without any financial benefit or reward.
IPRs enable people to benefit from their innovations, creative work and prevent others from copying or unfairly gaining from the inventor’s creativity and investment. With IP protection, it deters potential infringement and turns ideas into business assets with real market value. IP is an increasingly important asset that must be continually nurtured, protected and stimulated to grow.