Mauritius to help African tech start-ups with active Intellectual Property management

Innovation is the cornerstone of the digital economy. Indeed, today’s global economy is increasingly being powered by new knowledge and ideas. Digital technology, the Internet, biotechnology, information technology and communication, as well as a host of other such emerging technologies, are playing a critical role in what is termed ‘the knowledge economy.’

A business term for creations of the mind, Intellectual Property (IP) refers to the universe of inventions, literary and artistic works, symbols, names, images and designs used in commerce. As the knowledge economy expands, IP is playing an important role in an increasingly broad range of areas, ranging from the Internet to healthcare. With the prominent place being accorded to intellectual property, the capacity to tap IP assets while protecting the rights of inventors will be a determining factor in the development of the global, knowledge-based economy during the next decade.

Speaking of the knowledge-based economy, it is no secret today that the world is looking to Africa as it transforms into the new cradle of innovation. Indeed, emerging technologies such as mobile money transfers and peer-to-peer lending are becoming ground-breaking realities in the land of opportunities.

Africa also plays host to many start-ups in the area of e-commerce, which is proving to be a vital economic sector to serve its fast-growing consumer market. To provide an idea of the potential size of the consumer market in Africa, consumer expenditure on the continent is expected to reach US$2.1 trillion by 2025, and US$2.5 trillion by 2030. Also, in 2030, if the recently-ratified Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) is properly implemented, a single continental market for goods and services will be operational, offering corporations different points of entry to the continent and a potential market of 1.7 billion people.

Why do start-ups need to protect IP?

If you have founded a tech start-up in Africa, you might wonder why it is so important to “protect assets”, considering you have so few of them to begin with. However, it is ironically this very lack of tangible, physical assets that makes it so critical you identify and protect the assets you do have – your intellectual, intangible assets.

Indeed, your start-up possesses valuable IP assets such as patentable technologies, registrable trademarks and protectable copyrights. It is highly likely that these very intellectual assets will be your key differentiating factor and will help you develop a value proposition that stands out from competition. Failure to identify and protect your intellectual assets can even mean that your business suffers a serious setback if a more established competitor sees your business succeeding and takes the essence of what is special about it – your innovation.

To take your creative ideas to their full potential, as an African tech start-up owner, you need a jurisdiction where you can innovate with peace of mind, and the certainty that your Intellectual Property shall not be used without your express consent.

Why should you outsource IP management?

This is where IP holding companies are widely used by tech companies in order to provide unfettered access to experts who can protect their intellectual assets and undertake active IP management for them, while they focus on their core business. These legal entities are expected to perform the following key roles:

  • To hold IP rights such as patents, copyrights and trademarks;
  • To charge royalties, commissions, marketing expenses, manufacturing costs and fees for advertising services and technical assistance to the subsidiaries of the group.

Such a holding structure allows you to undertake active management of IP assets, which requires a concerted focus on three key pillars, also referred to as the holy trinity of IP management:

  1. Protection – Undertaking patent registration to ensure control of IP assets.
  2. Valuation – Conducting due diligence to determine the market value of IP assets.
  3. Optimisation – Licensing your IP assets in order to leverage them to generate revenue.

All three roles must be performed to enable your business to protect its IP assets, understand their true value as well as to ensure that your IP assets are in a position to yield the desired revenue for your business.

Why Mauritius is a good choice for IP outsourcing?

Mauritius offers unparalleled ease of doing business. Recently making it to the top 20 in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report for 2019 with a 79.58 score on the “Ease Of Doing Business” (EODB) scale – where it is ahead of countries like Ireland, France, or even Germany – Mauritius is the first African country from the Sub-Saharan region to achieve this feat. Supplemented with the business facilitation advantage, Mauritius has signed 23 Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (IPPAs) and 22 Double Tax Avoidance Agreements (DTAAs) across Africa, making it a natural gateway to the continent.

Moreover, the presence of major international and local banks in Mauritius with branches in various African nations, together with international accounting, financial and legal institutions, makes the country a leading International Financial Centre (IFC) which attracts both local and foreign talent to its advantage. Recognised by international authorities such as the OECD as a secure and well-regulated jurisdiction, the Mauritius IFC is consistently improving upon its legal and regulatory frameworks for exchange of information and transparency in line with international norms and standards.

Most importantly, IP legislation in Mauritius is consistent with leading international norms, as the island economy is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), and signatory to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Universal Copyright Convention, and the Berne Convention. IP is protected in Mauritius by the Patents, Industrial Designs and Trade Marks Act of 2002 and the Copyrights Act 2014. To reinforce and expand IP protection in Mauritius, the government announced in 2017 that it would adopt a new Industrial Property Bill, covering all aspects of IP. In addition to patents, trademarks, and industrial designs, the Bill protects plant breeders’ rights, geographical indications, and layout designs of integrated circuits and utility models which are not covered by the existing legislation. Under this Bill, legislation on industrial property in Mauritius has recently undergone a thorough review with a view to promote innovation and enhance a legal environment that keeps abreast with international trends, thus reinforcing the status of Mauritius as a platform with a sound legal framework to protect IP rights.

In conclusion

With a vibrant global business sector that offers options to structure active investments into the continent with the use of holding companies that ensure your rights are protected, Mauritius is indeed the preferred choice for African tech start-ups looking for an IP outsourcing destination.

If you are looking at outsourcing your IP management to Mauritius, we invite you to consider Rogers Capital Corporate Services Ltd, an experienced corporate services provider run under the aegis of Mauritius-based conglomerate Rogers Group. With our robust product and service offerings, including but not limited to corporate administration, accounting and payroll, tax advisory and compliance, we can help your African tech start-up to set up a holding company in Mauritius and take care of IP management on behalf of operating companies in multiple African jurisdictions.

For more information do not hesitate to contact us

KEVIN BESSOONDYAL

Head-Business Development

kevin.bessoondyal@rogerscapital.mu