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IPR: Optimisation more than legalisation

Amice van der Burg-Dissanayake, License Compliance Manager, Microsoft Sri Lanka, with Kanchana Silva, Director of Microsoft Software Asset Management partner, Zillione, discuss Intellectual Property (IP) improvement as a vehicle to improve national development with Adrienne Valdez.

“Genuine software, ultimately, is about optimisation rather than legalisation. Especially now that Sri Lanka is moving quickly, the economy will pick up even faster through partnerships with China, India and other developing countries. It’s the perfect time for companies to make sure they are competitive. This means having the right IT systems in place including the means to collaborate with counterparts all around the world,” comments Amice van der Burg-Dissanayake on Sri Lanka’s economic development. According to the Business Software Alliance (BSA) 2010 Global Software Piracy Study, from 2009 to 2010, installation of unlicensed software on PCs in Sri Lanka fell by three percent. This was the highest drop recorded in Asia Pacific, bringing the rate down to 86 percent in 2010.

Several public and private initiatives have contributed towards lowering the piracy rate in Sri Lanka, such as the establishment of the Anti-Piracy & Counterfeit Unit of the criminal investigation department of the Sri Lanka police. The consistent effort of the national intellectual property office and the Information & Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) and their respective drives have also supported this trend. Furthermore, Sri Lanka is a party to major intellectual property agreements including the Bern Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Madrid Agreement for the Repression of False or Deceptive Indication of Source on Goods, the Nairobi Treaty, the Patent Co-operation Treaty, the Universal Copyright Convention and the Convention establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Identifying the role of IP protection as a vital part of the country’s future economic development, Sri Lanka amended its laws relating to intellectual property with the introduction of the Intellectual Property Act No. 36 of 2003, which is a comprehensive establishment of violations against intellectual property rights (IPR).The law governs copyrights and related rights, industrial designs, patents, trademarks and service marks, trade names, layout designs of integrated circuits, geographical indications, unfair competition, databases, computer programs and undisclosed information. All trademarks, designs, industrial designs and patents must be registered with the Director General of Intellectual Property. Sri Lanka introduced regulations on the commercial use of local creations in 2008.

In December 2009, the government of Sri Lanka approved a new Information Technology (IT) policy for the government sector which includes rules on hardware and software procurement. The continuous efforts of the American Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka and other partners pursue more aggressive enforcement and enhance public awareness, including sponsoring IPR workshops for police, judges and senior government officials.

“Over the years, we have been involved in educating the partners, and to a certain extent the customers, to enhance their understanding of the benefits of genuine software. We have been driving awareness among the hardware partner channels, the system builders as well, to make sure that they understand the value they can deliver by selling genuine software,” explains van der Burg-Dissanayake.

As the License Compliance Manager driving the Genuine Software initiative, van der Burg-Dissanayake makes sure her team talks about not only the legal obligations and ramifications, but also the benefits of original software. They assist IT managers through regular meetings, helping with presentations and licensing options that best suit the customers’ requirements and situation.

The Genuine Software initiative engages with the partners selling Microsoft software. In the consumer software segment, they drive awareness and provide incentives to purchasing original software, such as free Microsoft security essentials, an anti-virus software. Microsoft puts a lot of emphasis on educating businesses and the general public about the importance of using genuine software and has partnered with companies to provide software asset and license management services to organisations of all sizes.

“Through software asset management, we educate partners about licensing too. Zillione, a software asset management partner, recently received a ‘silver’ competency and will be going out more in the market to help companies check the software they have,” adds van der Burg-Dissanayake.

Software asset management (SAM) is gaining momentum industry-wide as an analyst-endorsed best practice. Additionally, governance and corporate compliance requirements have created a growing demand for SAM solutions. The goal of a comprehensive SAM strategy is to help customers significantly reduce the total cost of software ownership, improve operational efficiency and more effectively manage assets. SAM can also support internal processes to help improve organisational governance and operational transparency.

“We anticipated demand in the early stage of the IPR initiative and invested our resources and time to become the first SAM certified partner in Sri Lanka. For the last five years we have been the only Sri Lankan partner with the Microsoft Software Asset Management competency. This has given us the opportunity to provide software asset and license management services to organisations of all sizes, from small businesses to large enterprises,” says Kanchana Silva, explaining Zillione’s role as a SAM partner of Microsoft.

“We have the expertise, and the motivation, to help customers save money and improve visibility and control of their software assets through optimised SAM practices.” With the continuous evolution of IPR initiatives the importance of genuine software is greater as consumers start to weigh the benefits, especially in security and services, creating a growing demand for SAM solutions.

“Offering SAM services presents a great revenue opportunity for us. Because SAM is a long-term strategy, we can deepen our customer relationships and earn trust by delivering solutions and services that help our customers save money, manage changes in technology, improve competitive advantage and reduce legal and financial risks,” adds Silva.

“The SAM competency goes well beyond the initial assessment and review, extending to process improvement implementation and future reviews and updates to help keep customer SAM programmes optimised. As part of the review process, we may discover the need for other services, such as product and support upgrades, integration technologies, product deployment and business process design consulting.”Microsoft believes that the global arena needs stronger IP protections in place to safeguard the industry’s ability to innovate, levelling the playing field for small businesses, and helping local governments generate tax revenue through the legitimate sale of genuine software and the services that accompany it. Sound IP policies reduce software piracy and counterfeiting, which sap government resources, threaten legitimate businesses and expose consumers to the risks that come from using non-genuine software.

“We have created a lot of collaterals, as well as organised events, to increase awareness and get our messaging across to customers. We’re trying to keep it light as we work with different organisations and keep the discussion local. The various industry segments organise more and more initiatives together, and we expect to see more from the group, with balanced initiatives that suit the local market,” notes van der Burg-Dissanayake.

She further adds that for Sri Lanka to be a development hub for Asia, stakeholders should think about how to grow the economy using IP as a vehicle. Local and foreign companies want to make sure the research and developments they invest in are protected. When there are initiatives in place that protect their endeavours the investments will follow.

“We want to work with the government to make sure they have more training and enough productivity tools. Together, we can develop the existing initiatives. In the long term, Sri Lanka should be able to progress quite well in comparison to other countries. If we drive the initiative with the key stakeholders on board, including the government, we will be able to innovate more quickly as a country, helping reduce poverty, offer jobs to local IT graduates and secure more investments for Sri Lanka,” concludes van der Burg-Dissanayake.

Amice van der Burg-Dissanayake

Amice van der Burg-Dissanayake, License Compliance Manager, Microsoft Sri Lanka