The use of intellectual property protection by micro, small, and medium-scale enterprises: a case study of Ghana
Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) form the backbone of most national economies and are often the driving force behind innovation. Intellectual property (IP) rights provide legal protection for MSMEs against unauthorized exploitation of their innovations by others. As part of Ghana's trade policy reforms, Ghana and Switzerland recently signed an agreement to strengthen IP rights administration in Ghana, in order, inter alia, to improve the business environment and encourage innovation. However, little research exists on the use of IP protection by businesses, especially MSMEs, in developing countries such as Ghana. Will a strengthened IP regime benefit MSMEs? Using qualitative procedures, this study examines the use of IP, especially trademarks and industrial designs by MSMEs in Ghana. The evidence indicates that MSMEs do not use formal IP protection as a competitive strategy, and adapt to the threat of imitation by using informal methods such as trade secrets, maintaining product quality and constant innovation. The study concludes that promoting IP as a tool for enhancing MSME competitiveness requires an integrated approach involving awareness creation on the benefits of IP, increasing MSME access to appropriate and affordable IP services and ensuring effective enforcement of IP rights together with promotion of other competitive strategies such as improving product quality and customer service, protection of cultural artefacts and promotion of national trademarks.