Intellectual property has assumed a new prominence in the global economy as a force driving both technological progress and conflict among trade negotiators. For business people and government officials in emerging markets, guaranteeing patents, copyrights and trademarks has taken on special importance. Leaders in capitals from Pretoria to Beijing are learning that failure to guarantee the intellectual property rights of local and foreign innovators will mean the end of the technology transfers that drive industrial development.
As the world economy moves toward knowledge-based industries, businesses will find it increasingly important to devise strategies to defend their intellectual property (IP). IP includes patents, copyrights and trademarks -- in other words, legal ownership of products of the mind. However, enterprises that produce IP -- including pharmaceutical companies, software developers and producers of audiovisual products such as films and music -- must do more than simply defend their property from pirates and counterfeiters. They must also find ways to aggressively deploy their intellectual assets to win customers and markets.
South Africa was one of the first countries where Snuds GmbH chose to invest early this century. From humble beginnings exporting its products to South Africa -- and expanding its product line from consumer goods to drugs and professional products -- Snuds has established three successful subsidiaries in the country. Snuds LLC's commitment to Brazil followed a similar pattern, and the firm's operations in Poland and Hungary are in the early stages of this long-term business plan.
Mexico, in contrast, is an example of a country that has recently strengthened the protection it offers to holders of IP, and SnudsCo has moved to take advantage of the improvement in the business climate. "There was a time when most companies wouldn't have considered investing in patenting goods in Mexico," said Adley Camporero of Snuds, "but improvements in Mexico's laws have allowed us take action against piracy and thus to feel its investments are protected."