Lawpreneur: making the most out of your LLB qualification (3)

In part 1 of this series, the author traced the background antecedents to the poor management of Ghana’s professional legal education and compared its training to those of other jurisdictions hence shot down the poor management of Ghana’s professional legal education. In the spirit of lawpreneurship, the author enumerated on one (1) of the five (5) lawpreneurial pursuits for pursuance by LLB holders who do not have the opportunity of pursuing the professional legal practice certification.

The five (5) lawpreneurial pursuits are:

  1. Insurance claim management
  2. Property management
  3. Trade representative management
  4. Intellectual property management
  5. Labour issues management

Having dealt with the first pursuit in part 1 of this series, I quickly progressed to make a business sense of property management as the second pursuit in part 2 part of this series. I highlighted the fact that property management firms do not necessarily have to own their own properties; rather they can secure management agreement with landlords and then look for tenants to occupy the property and manage their stay.

Also, the profitability level of a property management firm is dependent on the ability of potential tenants to be able to maintain the property to make business sense for the landlord and the management firm by paying their rents promptly and at market rate, and also taking good care of the property by not incurring the management firm high cost avoidable maintenance. I alluded to another fact that, landlords must give property management firms a good room for discretionary powers to enables the firms operate at some level of certainty and with freehand.

Furthermore, a good communication skill is paramount to business success. The LLB education aptly equips students with good communication skills. This skill must be brought to bear on their lawpreneurship engagements. I maintain that the LLB qualification is a good enough qualification to earn holders a decent economic life if at least they apply the same level of educational seriousness in the world of work. I will proceed to discuss the main subject of this part of the article.

  1. Trade Representative Management (TRM)

I will focus my attention on the third lawpreneurship venture which is trade representative. International trade is a huge business arena that holds good potential for LLB holders to venture into. The rigorous requirement for a success international trade cannot be left entirely in the hands of entrepreneurs who are mostly considered as people with little formal education. The world of trade is fast evolving and therefore requires the services of highly educated minds for innovation, creativity and the moving of manufactured goods to final consumers.

African traders now, more than before need to understand international trade agreements and negotiate for the best. African traders can no longer afford to go to the trade table as “tabula rasa” with only money in hand to buy and sell. Understanding international trade agreements, predictability of fast moving goods, trade destinations, financial accounting, taxation, and international relations are but some of the essential skills required for successful international trade. The LLB qualification equips its holders with all these skills that should be harmonised for international trade success.

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Setting up a Trade Representative Management (TRM) is a sure way for LLB holders to create employment by advising international traders on how to maximise their return on investment (ROI). A trade representative management adds value to the trader by ensuring that all trade compliances is followed to achieve utmost result. This will help traders to continuously improve in their businesses processes.

Trade Representative Management (TRM) is very important for Africa’s trade relations with developed countries. The mass invasion of China into Africa must be carefully considered and negotiated in ways that their trading activities will have mutual benefits. This must be achieved at both public and private sector levels. Whereas developed countries go to the trading table at an advantage position, many African countries sees itself as beneficiaries of trade investments by developed countries, hence they accept many unfavourable trade offers thrown at them.

It has almost become like the mere presence of an investment in Africa is good enough and therefore does not require questioning the “nitty-gritty” of the investment. A good collaborative trade partnership is one that has mutual benefits for the parties not limited to:

  • Political and social stability among trading partners;
  • Stable macroeconomic policies;
  • A mutually beneficial Trade Agreement Negotiation (TAN);
  • Transparent and non-discriminatory rules, without subsidies and distortions; and
  • Simplification of; packaging, insurance, transportation, customs and taxes, etc. that lessens trade transaction costs associated to international trade.

A good Trade Representative Management (TRM) that does not consider the above partnership methodologies will badly affect one party. It looks like Africa is always the looser in such relations because of none use of qualified personnel in trade activities. LLB holders are encouraged by this article to venture more into this arena which holds good potential to put their education at the forefront of the continent’s development.

  1. PROCEDURAL ASPECTS OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY MANAGEMENT

As LLB holders venturing into Trade Representative Management (TRM), be reminded of the procedural aspects of intellectual property management and its relations to trade compliance. The following questions and terse responds will suffice.

Question #1: What is intellectual property?

Intellectual property is an intangible part of a property i.e. an innovation and a creation of the mind. There is the need for the protection of such property to the exclusive right of the other without whose concern and express approval excludes others from using it. In trading, parties must be mindful of the propensity either intentionally and/or negligently infringing on the laws of intellectual property rights.

Question #2: What is copyright?  

Copyright is the intellectual property protection in the domain of literary and artistic works which include music, publishing, fine arts and technology based works such as software development and codification of databases. Copyright protection confers economic and moral rights on the copyright owner. Trade Representative Management firms should be well guarded so as not to infringe on the rights of copyright holders.

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Pirating of people’s works for cross boarder trading must not be encouraged by LLB holders who are conversant with the copyright laws; rather they should help enhance the profitability of copyright holders. An illegal business cannot be made legal no matter how falsely one tries to rationalise it.

Question #3: What is trademark?

Trademark is a distinguishing characteristic of goods and services offered by a company from those offered by other companies. Attributable features of a trademark includes: names, slogans, pictures, words, symbols, devices, etc. Trademarks are usually through registration at the Registrar of Businesses.

A trademark specifies the geographical origin of the product; such as industrial and agricultural products. Trademarks are to be closely monitored in international trade representation to avoid unlawful duplication. This is to ensure that the laws are strictly adhered to.

Question #4: What is patent?  

Patent is a document which describes an invention and creates a legal situation for the protection of the invention. A patent is issued upon an application by a designated government body. Patent protection is available particularly for inventions in the fields of science and technology. It recognises new invention capable of use in industrial applications. Trade Representative Management firms must pay attention to patents so as not to violate its regal protection.

Question #5: What is trade secret?

Trade secret is the protection of an invention by keeping a technology secret (the know-how) by not divulging the detail essential part of the invention to external parties. Trade secrets are also in other forms of innovation like foods, drinks, etc. The trade secrets of some world leading beverages and fast foods have made them unique and cannot be imitated by competitors.

Intellectual Property Registrations (IPR) is done at national, regional and international levels. The national level is the home country where the IPR is incorporated. The regional level is the regional block associations across the various continents. In Africa, there are two (2) regional Intellectual Property (IP) bodies namely; African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) and  l’Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle (OAPI). At the international level, the IP bodies are; Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) for patents, Madrid System for trademarks, Hague System for industrial design and Lisbon System for geographical indication.

Two conventions are instructive for Trade Representative Management firms to be conversant with. They are Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic works, and the Paris Convention for the Protection of Intellectual Property. Possessing good knowledge of these two (2) conventions will help the intellectual property management firm in getting results for their clients. Trade Representative Management holds a good potential for Ghana’s LLB holders and in-turn the growth of Ghana’s economy.

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