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    Intellectual Property Rights Help Crafts and Visual Arts Exporters


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 2/2004

    In a joint effort to protect artists and artisans in developing countries from theft of their creative ideas, ITC and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) have published a guide full of practical advice.

    "The 135-page guide is aimed at the innumerable craftspeople and artists throughout the developing world who often don't know how to protect themselves from unscrupulous imitators of their creations," says María-Mercedes Sala, ITC's Senior Market Development Officer.

    "Not only is this obviously unfair to these artists and artisans, but the craft and visual arts sectors of developing and transition countries constitute a substantial part of their national cultural heritage. Their creations are important for sustainable economic development and for efforts to reduce poverty."

    In a preface to Marketing Crafts and Visual Arts: the Role of Intellectual Property, J. Denis Bélisle, Executive Director of ITC, and Kamil Idris, Director General of WIPO, point out that "with the ease and speed of copying and imitation, the market can simply get flooded with lookalike products or downright copies.

    "The real challenge for artisans and visual artists (painters, sculptors and photographers) is not just to produce and market winning new products that cater to changing consumer tastes, but also to prevent - or, if unable to prevent, to deal effectively with - unfair competition or theft of their creative ideas."

    Preventing unfair competition

    They point out that the intellectual property (IP) system is "the best available tool for deterring unfair competition and for creating and maintaining exclusivity over creative and innovative output in the marketplace".
    There are many different types of IP, such as copyright, trademarks, patents and certification marks.

    "Registering with intellectual property offices, either individually or through a professional association, need not be a costly process," says Ms Sala, "contrary to what is commonly thought."

    The ITC-WIPO guide informs artisans and artists in developing countries on "why, where, when and how" they should consider using IP to market more successfully their creations in other countries.

    "Let's put it another way," the ITC official continues. "The raison d'être of ITC is to help people in developing countries to export their goods and creations.

    "With this guide, we can help these creators to determine why they should protect their work with IP rights, what measures are best suited to their particular needs and business, what the costs and practical business benefits of such protection would be, how to find information about IP and locate the relevant local IP offices, and whether to join collective copyright management associations or institutions.

    "We hope that the guide will be as relevant for a modern, city-based enterprise in a fast-paced business environment, as for a person belonging to an indigenous group, or for a traditional artist or craftsperson."

    Among the individuals, groups, firms or institutions likely to find the book useful are: employed artisans and their associations; visual artists; self-employed craft entrepreneurs; associations of craft industries; trade and other support institutions; trade development professionals or business consultants; governmental and non-governmental organizations working to develop the craft and visual art sectors; and teachers and trainers involved in marketing and export promotion of crafts and art.

    Practical cases

    One chapter offers case studies of how artists and artisans have used IP to protect their creations and enhance their chances of business success. They range from panama hats in Ecuador, African-style furniture in Senegal, Maori arts and crafts in New Zealand, pottery in Slovakia and silversmithing in Nepal to Harris Tweed cloth in Scotland's Outer Hebrides, an artist's designs in the United States and Garrison Guitars in Canada.


    • High-level Panel on Creative Industries and Development - 13 June. J. Denis Bélisle, ITC's Executive Director, is a panellist for this session in São Paolo. He will voice the export concerns of visual artists.

    For more information, contact María-Mercedes Sala, ITC Senior Market Development Officer, at sala@intracen.org To order a copy of the guide, see page 39 of this magazine or visit ITC's E-Shop (http://www.intracen.org/eshop).