COLLABORATE TO COMPETE: USING INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY AS A RESOURCE FOR IMPROVING THE COMPETITIVENESS OF JAMAICAN MSMES
Jamaican firms face a particularly chronic challenge: the iconic nature of many of the island’s products and services often results in strong demand in international markets and acts almost as an inducement to foreign firms to pose as Jamaican and thus compete for the market created by Jamaican brands. Inauthentic versions of products, supposedly from Jamaica, often tarnish the reputations and damage the brands of Jamaican firms.
The need for Jamaican firms, particularly small and medium sized ones, to act to promote their products and services, while protecting their intellectual property and brands, their reputations and thus the viability of their businesses has become a matter of urgency. This created opportunities for collaboration, improved competitiveness and growth through a series of market initiatives, including branding, joint marketing, broadening the international buyer base and wider leveraging of knowledge.
The Competitiveness Company has played a lead role, in association with its Intellectual Property attorneys, in working with MSMEs to improve their recognition and understanding of their intellectual property and the role that it can play in their competitive advantage. The Company has undertaken a coherent series of activities, from training workshops, through in-firm audits of MSMEs’ Intellectual Property, and surveys of IP service needs, culminating in the registration of selected Collective and Certification Marks. (Collective Marks are symbols that indicate specific characteristics, modes of production or geographical origin. Certification Marks denote compliance with defined standards. These Marks are efficient defence mechanisms to protect authentic products, while at the same time enabling individual firms to compete with their enterprise-specific brands.) The initial initiative was co-funded by the Private Sector Development Programme, The Government of Jamaica and The Competitiveness Company. Building on this platform, with funding from the IDB/Multilateral Investment Fund, TCC did further work leading to the registration, management, monitoring, policing, promoting and positioning of a family of Marks. These are expensive undertakings for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to contemplate individually. The project created, through Collective Action, quasi public goods for the benefit of participating as well as future SMEs. and resulted in the development of 5 Certification Marks for Ackees, Jamaican Honey, Jamaican Scotch Bonnet Peppers, Jamaican Jerk Sauces and Seasonings and a generic mark, Jamaica’s Finest, registered in Jamaica, The US and Europe. There are 4 Collective Marks: Visual Arts, Boutique Agribusiness, Fresh Produce and Wearable Art, registered in the US. All the marks are policed by TCC’s IP attorneys who stand ready to issue Cease and Desist letters.