World Intellectual Property Organization

Assisting SMEs to Make Effective Use of Patent Information: The NOTAP Case

Introduction

Depending on financial resources and the existence of an adequate Intellectual Property (IP) support infrastructure, SMEs support institutions in different regions worldwide have initiated different strategies of assisting SMEs to make effective use of the IP system. Such strategies range from outright granting of funds to enable SMEs to process the acquisition of an IP Right, such as a patent, the provision of technology information aimed at enhancing SMEs competitiveness in the local and international market, and the dissemination of information for creating IP awareness. The underlying objective of these strategies is to facilitate the effective use of the IP system by SMEs.

In Nigeria, the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP), an agency under the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology is responsible for the acquisition, promotion and development of technology. NOTAP was established in 1979 and at that time it was known as the National Office of Industrial Property (NIOP). In 1992 the name was changed from NOIP to NOTAP so as to reflect more clearly its activities.

In 1998, NOTAP was given an additional mandate to commercialize locally developed R&D findings, inventions and innovations from research institutes, universities, polytechnics, private laboratories and workshops.

The Office has undertaken some initiatives aimed at assisting SMEs in Nigeria to make effective use of Intellectual Property through the Patent Information and Documentation Centre (PIDC) established in NOTAP with the assistance of WIPO.

NOTAP Support Services to SMEs

Like it is the case in many other countries, SMEs in Nigeria constitute the majority of enterprises and are considered the engine of growth. Unfortunately, SMEs in Nigeria also rarely seek to benefit from the Intellectual Property available globally.

National Awareness Building Programme on Intellectual Property Rights and Technology Information in Patent documents

Having realised this, NOTAP embarked on an awareness-building program whereby technology information in patent documents is used to sensitize entrepreneurs to the usefulness of patent information as an innovative instrument for supporting SME creation, development and growth.

The main elements of the program are as follows:

i. To sensitize and raise awareness of Nigerians on the existence of PIDC in NOTAP, the usefulness of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), in particular the patent system, as a catalyst for national development and wealth creation.

ii. To disseminate the technical information in patent documents among researchers, inventors, innovators and students, with the view to using it to improve the quality of R&D activities in the research communities and to encourage greater inventive and innovative activities.

iii. To disseminate technology information to SMEs that will assist to enhance their processes and products with a view to making their products competitive in the local and international markets.

iv. To inform Nigerians of the numerous Technology Support Services rendered by NOTAP.

Notap as a Patent Agency

NOTAP assists SMEs, inventors, researchers to patent their inventions and innovations. In doing this, NOTAP provides the following services:

  • Assistance with the drafting of patent applications covering the inventions; and
  • Payment of the prescribed registration fees at the Registry of Patents, Trademarks and Design Office in Abuja.

So far, NOTAP has assisted fifteen (15) SMEs/local inventors to patent their inventions. The Table shows Patent Applications submitted to NOTAP for patent assistance, number filed at the Patent Office, and the number of patents granted. Applications received but not filed were those that did not meet the minimum standard for patenting.

ANALYSIS OF PATENT APPLICATIONS SUBMITTED TO NOTAP FOR PATENTING ASSISTANCE (JAN. 1999 - SEPT. 2002)

TABLE I

YEAR

NUMBER OF PATENT APPLICATIONS SUBMITTED TO NOTAP

NUMBER OF PATENT APPLICATIONS FILED BY NOTAP AT PATENT REGISTRY

NUMBER OF PATENT APPLICATIONS GRANTED

1999

2

1

1

2000

30

13

9

2001

14

6

3

2002 (Aug)

12

5

2

TOTAL

58

25

15

The Patent Information and Documentation Centre (PIDC)

In 1991, WIPO assisted NOTAP in the establishment of the Patent Information and Documentation Centre (PIDC). The center is a computerized databank with access to patent information available globally. The objective and the role of PIDC is to provide access to technological information in patent documents in a manner suited to the needs of the users.

From 2000 to date, about three hundred and seventy six (376) registered users have benefited from the services rendered at the center. Twenty (20) out of these users are potential and already established SMEs. In order to fulfill its mandate, NOTAP has also become one of the main users of the PIDC.

NOTAP uses patent information for the following purposes:

  • Provision of information about existing and prospective industrial property rights in Nigeria (i.e. validity and ownership) with the objective of assisting SMEs to avoid unauthorized use of protected IPR which could make them liable for infringement action.
  • Identification of alternative technology sources. NOTAP also assists in development of negotiating skills in the event SMEs want to pursue the identified technology as a licensee or an outright buyer.
  • Assistance with upgrading SME products and processes through the use of new technology and the evaluation of a specific technology and identification of possible licensors.
  • Market survey in order to identify technology trend at an early stage.

Commercialization of R&D Results and Inventions

Many R&D results and inventions from the public and private sector organizations require further development before they can become attractive to industry. NOTAP has been identifying commercially viable R&D results and inventions. This is done through the following activities.

  • Preparation of Guidelines for commercialization of R&D results to give an overview of stakeholder's duties and obligations in the commercialization process.
  • Development and analysis of Questionnaires to ascertain the status of R&D projects.
  • Development and continuous upgrading of the Compendium on R&D Results and Inventions.
  • Development of Questionnaire on the needs of industry for the purpose of channeling them to research institutions to provide technological solutions.

Extension and Technology Advisory Services

Apart from the aforementioned services, NOTAP also provides technology advisory and extension services to SMEs, through the Research-Industry linkage programme. Some of the elements of the programme are:

  • Linkage between research and industry by establishing long-lasting, trust-worthy relationship and partnership of the stakeholders in commercialization.
  • Preparation of project profiles based on locally developed technologies for interested and potential investors in small and medium-sized enterprises.
  • Brokerage role for the promotion of commercialization of indigenous technologies.

Furthermore, to make technological and industrial information easily accessible to SMEs, scientists/researchers, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders, NOTAP has published some technical books as one of its strategies to assist in the dissemination of scientific and technological information to Nigerians. Some of these publications are:

  • Patent Packages for SMEs in all sectors.
  • Industrial Project profiles
  • Typical Patents
  • PIDC Handbook
  • NOTAP Guidelines on Commercialization for Investment Promoters
  • NOTAP Guidelines on Commercialization for Research Institutions

For more information on NOTAP's SME activities contact:

Dr. Bulus N. Gyang Director, M&ES
or
Ms Funke. A. Araba Director, TADI
e-mail: notap2@yahoo.com

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