Member Profile: Swanson Health Products

Member Profile: Swanson Health Products

Posted on September 2, 2021

Swanson Health Products (SHP) will soon become a household name, not only in the US but internationally, says Chase Bischof, a Sales and Marketing Analyst at SHP. With their increasing brand recognition for their excellent products and health-conscious consumers on the rise, the business is growing quickly. SHP started back in the 1960s with Leland Swanson, who was experiencing arthritis pain during his golf game. Through much research and success with supplements himself, he was eager to share what he had learned. And so, Swanson Health Products was born. It was originally a catalog and mail order business. Now, it includes a large warehouse, office headquarters, and the company’s only retail store, all based in Fargo, ND. They have also expanded with other warehouses and processing facilities strategically located across the US.

The company has been a local provider for health and wellness goods for more than 50 years, focusing on providing quality, science-supported, and affordable products. With these fundamentals established, the brand has grown beyond ND with a solid footing in the US and expanding further.
SHP is growing internationally, explains Bischof, “it began in response to a wide variety of international retailers looking for high-quality and affordable US brands in their local markets.” SHP has a strong international presence already, with authorized distributors serving more than 40 countries worldwide. With this increase in international interest, “we have embarked on a journey to partner with both traditional distributors and with larger, expert supply chains with sophisticated and efficient partners to reach many more global consumers,” explains Bischof.

Working internationally always comes with challenges.“But something Swanson does well, especially with our international clients, is to listen. They know their market best, and we want to provide them the resources they need to succeed. Listening to their needs becomes a huge part of everyone’s success,” says Bischof. Keeping the message clear and “crisp” is also a strength that has done SHP well throughout its business expansion. Keeping true to offering pure and potent health products at a great value and keeping that message consistent has increased their brand recognition and consumer trust.

As the pandemic continues, many consumers have become increasingly health-conscious, which has been good news for companies like SHP, who want to provide goods that support a variety of healthy lifestyles. And as supply chains and shipping situations are improving, the efficiency to get goods overseas is only increasing.

SHP most recently completed a Swanson Cares charity golf event this August, which raised funds to support a variety of local nonprofits. The Swanson Cares program was built as the nonprofit arm for SHP to support healthier communities initiative. The donations have gone to Ronald McDonald House Charities, the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center, and the YWCA in the Fargo-Moorhead community.

The company is also proud to host an upcoming District Export Council meeting for ND/MN area. The event includes ND Senator Hoeven and MN Senator Klobuchar, who will discuss the exporting environment throughout the region and how to improve and expand borders and market opportunities for many local businesses.

Continuing to maintain SHP’s community footing along with their goals for global expansion of their products seems to be second nature to their loyal and hard-working staff. Consistency through the generations and keeping true to their passion for quality health-oriented products at a great value has done the company well. As SHP looks to the future of becoming a household name, it seems they are well on their way.

https://www.swansonvitamins.com/

Burgum, Sanford meet with Japanese Business Delegation to Discuss Trade Opportunities

Burgum, Sanford meet with Japanese Business Delegation to Discuss Trade Opportunities

Posted on September 2, 2021

From the Office of North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum

BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford today met with members of a Japanese business delegation to discuss opportunities for partnership and investment in North Dakota’s economy and advancing North Dakota’s carbon neutrality goal.

During the discussions with the Japanese External Trade Organization (JETRO), Burgum and Sanford shared information about the continued growth and potential for carbon capture, storage and utilization (CCUS), enhanced oil recovery, using carbon in agriculture and the future of hydrogen in North Dakota. Burgum also highlighted his challenge for North Dakota to become a carbon-neutral state by 2030, emphasizing the administration’s approach of innovation over regulation.

“North Dakota has big opportunities in energy, agriculture and technology, and we are looking for partners in research and investment,” Burgum said. “We are excited to welcome these Japanese companies to our state and begin building the partnerships that will benefit North Dakota citizens for decades to come.”

“We continue to look for ways to attract investment and increase trade with foreign countries,” said Sanford, who serves as chair of the North Dakota Trade Office Board. “We are very pleased to have this delegation, representing a large number of Japanese businesses and organizations, here to visit about our future goals and present opportunities for North Dakota and Japan.”

Burgum and Sanford provided remarks during a daylong meeting organized and hosted by the North Dakota Department of Commerce and the North Dakota Trade Office. Companies in attendance included Toshiba America Energy Systems Corp., Kawasaki Heavy Industries (USA) Inc., Hitachi Zosen Inova, Mitsubishi Power Americas Inc., Toyota Motor North America, Choshu Industry Corp. of America Inc., Kanematsu USA Inc., Mitsui & Co. USA Inc., and Sumitomo Corp. Americas (Energy Group). Also in attendance were Haruka Sakamoto from the Consulate-General of Japan in Chicago and representatives from JETRO Chicago, JETRO Los Angeles and Keidanren USA. The delegation will participate tomorrow in a driving tour of North Dakota energy sites and visit Medora.

African Swine Fever Increasingly Threatens Pork in North America and Globally

African Swine Fever Increasingly Threatens Pork in North America and Globally

Posted on August 13, 2021

The African Swine Fever Virus (ASF) is a highly contagious hemorrhagic virus that exclusively infects pigs. Some farmers have experienced nearly 100% loss of herds, and the impact has expanded globally across Europe and Asia. In early August, the Dominican Republic identified two cases of ASF. Now that the virus has moved closer to the US, diligence to protect North American herds is more important than ever. The cases in the Dominican Republic are the first known detections of ASF in the Americas in  40 years, and there has never been a confirmed case in the US. Prevention, identification, and containment are the best ways to save the swine population from infection as there is no vaccine or treatment currently available.

"We need to take African Swine Fever seriously," says ND State Veterinarian and Animal Health Division Director Dr. Ethan Andress. "ND has a significant number of pigs, and although there is not a human risk, the economic and swine impact could be devastating both locally and nationally to the swine industry." Greater care should be taken from travelers and veterinarians to ensure proper sanitation to ensure infected items do not make it into the US. "We saw what happened in China with the devastation to their hog populations, we don't want that to happen here, and prevention is our best course of action," says Dr. Andress. The 2018 outbreak of ASF in China spread across the region and has reduced the global pig herds by nearly 25%, and they are now facing variants and additional waves.

"As the world opens up to international travelers, it is important that anyone visiting agriculture or food processing facilities take caution and thoroughly clean any items worn during their visit before returning to the US," says Drew Combs, the Executive Director of the North Dakota Trade Office.  These practices are essential to keeping unwanted viruses such as ASF from infecting other countries. The long lifespan of the virus contributes to the importance of good hygiene and sanitization of anything that could potentially come in contact with ASF.

What makes this virus particularly challenging to eradicate is its stability. Studies presented by the ND Livestock Alliance show that the virus can remain stable for 150 days in bones stored below 40⁰ F, 140 days in dried and salted ham, and can live for several years in frozen meat. The virus can also spread through animal feed and fertilizers. The incubation period is 5-21 days and can move more quickly when acquired by tick bites—the transmission from swine to swine occurs through bodily secretions and excretions, particularly through the nose and mouth. The animals, feed, and their products must be sanitized and closely monitored for spread.

Tamera Heins, the Executive Director of the ND Pork Council, explains, "security will be amped up in airports for any travelers from the Dominican Republic to ensure ASF does not get through."  Amber Boeshans, the Executive Director of the ND Livestock Alliance, highlights that the "African Swine Fever only causes illness in pigs and this is not a threat to human health. We want to continuously remind export partners and our consumers here at home that US pork products are safe to eat. However, the US hog industry moves around the country quite frequently. We all need to be doing our part to keep biosecurity as tight as possible. Following the best practices and going the extra mile to ensure we are minimizing this health risk to America's pig herd."  Making sure that clothing, especially shoes, are sanitized will be essential to keep this virus out of North America.

If ASF reaches the US, pork exports will cease, feed exports will also be halted, and swine sales will significantly decrease. There will also be impacts on the native herds with higher mortality rates, and commodity prices will see a deep drop in pork and feed-related products. Containment and diligence are needed to control borders. The US, Canada, and Mexico have already increased their efforts after the Dominican Republic outbreak.

Tackling ASF globally is a collaborative effort using both private and public resources to spread the word, not the virus. The measures put in place by the National Pork Industry Board should be followed to combat the exposure and spread of the virus. This includes sanitization of clothing, equipment, and other items used in the processing, research, laboratories, and fresh animal producers.

Resources:

Pork Industry Guidelines for International Travel and Biosecurity

Research Prioritizes African Swine Fever Prevention and Preparedness

African Swine Fever Inches Closer To The U.S. With Infections In Dominican Republic

Welcome the Two New NDTO Board Members

Welcome the Two New NDTO Board Members

Posted on August 5, 2021

The North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO) is excited to welcome Kermit Nash and Bill Price to the Board of Directors. Both members will bring an enormous amount of experience in business domestically and internationally, which will serve ND companies well in their efforts to expand global trade. Each new member will bring fresh ideas and insights into their positions with enthusiasm and a love for ND.

Kermit Nash, an ND native, is a partner at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr with nearly 20 years of experience in domestic and international law, emphasizing in business operations, governance, strategy, and investments. With a vast portfolio of clients, Nash assists businesses in a variety of sectors, including software, agribusiness, energy, food processing, manufacturing, and eCommerce. He has also provided counsel to on and offshore companies making their moves for expansion beyond their domestic borders.  Nash believes in the value of ND businesses operations that serve their local communities while also competing in the global market.

Bill Price is a fourth-generation farmer and rancher in ND. He is the owner of Global Beef Consultants and has a multitude of business experience in the state as a managing partner of Price Cattle Ranch LLP and Sunnyside Feeds LLC.. He was an integral part of starting Red Trail Energy ethanol plant and has advised and served on many boards in the past. Price continues to cooperate with many businesses locally and internationally to expand ND’s reach..  With his appointment to the NDTO board, he hopes to expand export opportunities for ND businesses, help them think globally, and remove barriers that inhibit trade.

The NDTO is looking forward to the addition of Nash and Price to the board of directors and hopes that this synergy will benefit many ND companies for many years to come.

eCertificates of Origin Available Through NDTO

eCertificates of Origin Available Through NDTO

Posted on August 5, 2021

The North Dakota Trade Office is excited to announce that eCertificate of Origin processing is now available through our website. This new service will streamline the Certificate of Origin paperwork process to reduce time and costs in obtaining this necessary documentation for export.

In partnership with the American World Tade Chamber of Commerce (AWTCC), an eCertificate of Origin can be provided on average within one hour of documentation submission. The electronic iterations can benefit your company by:

  • Improving turnaround times to meet tight deadlines
  • Reduce errors to alleviate complications at customs
  • Reduce costs for couriers and wait time
  • Real-time information on submission status
  • Customers can verify eCertificates online

Certificates of Origin are used throughout the world in trade transactions and are recognized by nearly every country. The documentation is used to determine the goods' provenance, legal identification for tariffs and quotas, and identify if the good is legally allowed for import. For a refresher, see an introduction on Certifications of Origin.

The electronic versions improve the overall digital efficiency and security of the exporting package. They eliminate the risk of misplacing or mishandling the documents. The World Trade Organization has even set regulations and approves of the use of eCertificates. The necessary information to complete both the paper and electronic forms are almost identical.

This program has been an exciting step for NDTO to assist more ND companies. "Rural companies in North Dakota will likely benefit the most from this service, saving them staff and travel time to complete the certificate," says Jiwon Kim, NDTO's International Business Executive. He goes on to say that "companies who need quick access to Certificate of Origin documents will also find this as a great solution to get everything you need without leaving your desk." For NDTO member companies, the service is provided for $20 , and outside organizations can utilize the system for $50 per certificate. With this value-added service, NDTO hopes to support more ND companies and reduce time and stress on your company's exporting team.

Getting started is easy. Follow the step-by-step instructions are available here. With any questions or for more information on Certificate of Origin documentation, reach out to the NDTO team at info@ndto.com.

Tech & Trade: Blockchain for Global Exporting

Tech & Trade: Blockchain for Global Exporting

Posted on August 5, 2021

Technology can come in a variety of tools, applications, and processes to enhance our everyday lives. Throughout generations, advancements in technology have changed our daily lives, most for the time for the better. Technology can truly be transformational. In our next series of articles, we will explore how technology is impacting global trade, starting with blockchain.

Blockchain has been quite a buzzword over the past couple of years, combining data encryption, mathematics, and transparency to transactions globally. It is likely to change global trade for many generations to come.   For a great summary of what blockchain is, see our previously posted article ‘Technology & the Changing Global Landscape: What is Blockchain?’. There is also a video on ‘How Does Blockchain Work by Simply Explained’.

As a breif refersher of Blockchain, it is a system that stores a series of information on an open ledger where transactions occur.  When the movement of money happens, the account, to some degree, is visible to the world on the open ledger, and a record is created with the details of that transaction. Because the ledger is visible, it serves as a verifiable check and balance that the transaction has the money available to be finalized. The transaction is then linked or referenced to proceeding transactions and any transactions after it as a block of information. With each connecting block of information, the data is stored in a consecutive way that is highly encrypted and indefinitely linked to the previous and proceeding blocks of information. This is how blockchain gets its name; it is a series of blocks of information chained together in one system.

Here is an update on how blockchain has progressed since our last article and how it specifically impacts global trade. Reduced costs, increased transparency, and security are some of the primary benefits of using blockchain, says the World Trade Organization (WTO). Hosting entire conferences to raise awareness and adoption of digital technologies (including blockchain), the WTO believes that this technology can provide leaps forward in how  transactions are handled globally (Organization, World Trade, 2018).

Information transfer, transaction costs,  and customs verification/certification for the movement of goods are all eased with the transparency of blockchain technology. All of these benefits are expected to grow global trade by 31-34% over the next 15 years, says IBM (Sangha, Pureswaran, & Soman, For Global Trade to see Blockchain’s Benefits, Trusted Data Needs to be Shared Across Interconnected Networks in Digital Marketplaces., 2021).  With that kind of expectation for the future, some serious changes are afoot with how transactions will evolve.

The emerging organizations utilizing blockchain can be split into three groups, according to Shangha, Pureswaran, and Soman. Co-created platform companies make up 51% of users which  build networks and offer services to utilize blockchain technology. Co-created platforms use blockchain tech to incorporate additional information and details to accompany the blockchain transaction, such as tracing apps for a particular good for consumers. Companies seeking efficiency make up 31% of users. This category includes companies like Wal-Mart that see the cost-saving impacts and have shifted to using these networks. Companies that offer more than efficiency and add-on services have integrated blockchain, and other similar technologies make up 18% of users. These companies see long-term value in network integration for the entire global trading system from good creation, payment, movement, and arrival to the consumer.

One of the primary goals of blockchain is to reduce costs. Transactions costs are significantly decreased when using blockchain because traditional banks and payment systems are circumvented. There is less reliance on traditional banking as a form of legitimacy because blockchain technology allows for the open ledger as a verifiable way to purchase goods. In the future, we may even see that the traditional payment systems will need to reduce their costs to remain competitive. Mitigating risk for companies is also a benefit to blockchain users. With more transaction transparency, buyers and sellers can have better assurances of payment processing.

Blockchain has a strong potential to increase access to funds and create more efficiency for value chains, particularly for perishable products. FairFood says that “Blockchain can ease access to supply chain finance for smallholder farmers and other chain actors, can enable direct payments to actors in the supply chain and can reduce transaction costs of money transfer to LMICs” (Low and Middle-Income Countries) (Fair Food, 2019). Administrative costs and time in moving and validating paperwork for goods to be transferred can be reduced with a decentralized ledger. There will also be a clear chain of origin to ensure that moving goods through customs and across borders can go more smoothly, reducing time and effort on ensuring that documents are in order.

Blockchain, if integrated globally, could ease economic barriers to trade by improving visibility on tariffs and quotas from a government and data tracking standpoint. With these digital technologies, tariffs and quotas can be more easily tracked and traced throughout the entire process, and the reporting will become more transparent for all parties involved with one centralized data set.

Limitations for blockchain rest on scalability and adoption. Blockchain as a system will work best if embraced by the vast majority of trade parties to reduce friction across the board. If processing methods change throughout a trade deal, the benefits are lost from switching methods.

When considering financing outside of traditional banks, many small businesses can find blockchain attractive as assets are more transparent, and a relationship/history with the banking institution is not needed. Each exchange is verifiable on the decentralized ledger, which greatly reduces payment risks. Another limitation of blockchain is the volatility of crypto-currency (on which many blockchain transactions are based) which can scare off many new users and may inhibit initial larger-scale adoption (Liao, 2021).

Whole networks, not just individual companies, are needed to see a return on investments with blockchain technologies. The structure needs to work as a system of fully integrated steps chained together to create an information flow that allows for more trust. Doing business globally requires a vast amount of trust, which is how financial institutions have become an integral part of the trade process. (Sangha, Pureswaran, & Soman, Advancing Global Trade With Blockchain, 2020). Building trust has been difficult, but eventually, as blockchain gains adoption, the system itself will be the network of trust, with accountability and verifiability built-in with the transparent ledger. COVID-19 has slowed many processes globally, but the increased awareness of the need for integrated digital technologies in global trade is not one of them. The pandemic has amplified the need for such systems to keep records and maintain value-chains globally.

With interconnected trade, many barriers are being reduced, from cost, trust, and government by using blockchain technology, and it is anticipated by many in the trade industry to be transformational. Adoption and trust remain key factors to the success of blockchain technology. Time will continue to tell if these types of technological innovations will impact trade long-term.

References

Fair Food. (2019, May 29). Report: the potential of blockchain for agri-food. Retrieved from FairFood: https://fairfood.nl/en/resources/report-the-potential-of-blockchain-for-agri-food/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwub-HBhCyARIsAPctr7xm3le2_Ug4Sk4qbpjS02dMu7oLcVVtuVazWuq51vq0dfKe2Wl6vAMaAlzcEALw_wcB

Liao, R. (2021, July 19). How Decentralized Finance Will Transform Business Financial Services – Especially for SMEs. Retrieved from World Economic Forum: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/07/decentralized-finance-transaction-banking-smes/

Organization, World Trade. (2018). World Trade Report 2018. Retrieved from World Trade Organization: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1755-1315/421/2/022051/pdf

Sangha, P., Pureswaran, V., & Soman, S. (2020, May). Advancing Global Trade With Blockchain. Retrieved from IBM: https://www.ibm.com/downloads/cas/WVDE0MXG

Sangha, P., Pureswaran, V., & Soman, S. (2021). For Global Trade to see Blockchain’s Benefits, Trusted Data Needs to be Shared Across Interconnected Networks in Digital Marketplaces. Retrieved from IBM: https://www.ibm.com/thought-leadership/institute-business-value/report/blockchain-global-trade

ND Officials Return from a Successful Mission in Qatar and Turkey

ND Officials Return from a Successful Mission in Qatar and Turkey

Posted on July 20, 2021

FARGO, ND - ND Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, ND Commerce Commissioner James Leiman, and North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO) Executive Director Drew Combs returned from a successful mission in Qatar and Turkey. NDTO team worked closely with Qatari and Turkish counterparts to ensure a successful mission which included several ND companies with interests in expanding relationships internationally into the region.

The mission was intended to build on NDTO's relationships with Qatar and Turkey that started during the pandemic to create a lasting footprint for the future. The NDTO coordinated a two-part mission, which was completed late last week. Commissioner Goehring and Commissioner Leiman, both NDTO board members, played essential roles in representing ND. "North Dakota is experiencing growing opportunities in multiple sectors," says Commissioner Goehring. "It is a privilege to emphasize all North Dakota has to offer the global marketplace."

Commission Leiman appreciated the opportunity to join the mission to build on a variety of investment opportunities in Qatar and Turkey, saying, "I don’t think this mission could have gone any better. We are looking forward to building many new avenues for businesses in ND."

Over the past year," the NDTO has a budding relationship with Qatar and Turkey, and this was a perfect opportunity to build on those relationships and create a solid foundation for the future with our new friends," says Combs. 

While in Turkey, connections were made with the Turkish Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Industry and Technology, and Ministry of Trade. Other prominent business meetings were held with energy, agriculture, and technology leaders. Both ND and Turkish businesses shared ideas on how to best partner for the future on a variety of projects.

Following Turkey was the Qatari leg of the mission. Meetings with government officials from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Free Trade Zones Authority,  Qatar Investment Authority, the Ministry of Municipality and Environment, and Qatar Stock Exchange. Qatari business people with agriculture, energy, and technology expertise welcomed the ND delegation throughout the week of meetings. The meetings focused on the exciting things happening in the state across several industries, as well as the many opportunities for partnership that will increase synergy between ND and Qatar.

"I can certainly say that the hospitality shown by the Qatari government was phenomenal, and we made many new and long-lasting connections," says Combs. Highlighting the success of the mission in both Qatar and Turkey, coupled with the ND businesses traveling with the delegation, there are many opportunities to thrive in the increasingly globalized world. The mission was a success in creating more bridges for communication, idea exchanges, investment opportunities, and cross-pollination for many ND companies in the future. As the world begins to open up and travel is becoming more available, NDTO and ND will continue to engage internationally and promote the state’s abundance in resources to increase ND’s global footprint.

 

How Kimberly Kelly Will Put Trade Credit Insurance to Work for You

How Kimberly Kelly Will Put Trade Credit Insurance to Work for You

Posted on June 30, 2021

Trade credit insurance is largely considered a discretionary insurance purchase, but Kimberly Kelly, Founder of Trade Credit Specialty, is on a mission to change that. As one of our newest NDTO Trade Service Provider members, Kelly shares her passion for how trade credit insurance can be leveraged daily to grow domestic and export credit sales safely. Her consultative, client-centered approach is changing views for the better.

Overhead expenses, sales metrics, and achieving quotas can often be barriers to a truly consultative insurance broker relationship. "It's understandable that larger firms must consider their profitability, but this can sometimes present a conflict of interest. I wanted to eliminate that dilemma, so I created a firm with low operating expenses, allowing me to be a true consultant," explains Kelly.

Trade Credit Specialty is an insurance brokerage that operates like a consulting firm. Their focus is to advise, support, and provide technical expertise instead of simply selling insurance. Their business model relies on technology to reduce operating expenses and increase efficiencies for both the broker and the client. "It's this low overhead and increased efficiency that allows us to provide service and expertise at a level often expected from global firms but sometimes not realized with smaller firms," Kelly explains.

For example, the "Next Steps" page of their website houses time-saving embedded documents. Using the "Virtual Meeting Request" button enables a meeting to be scheduled quickly, according to your schedule. The "Relationships" page offers quick links and forms on demand.

Low operating expenses eliminate the need for sales quotas or revenue goals, allowing the only measure of success to be client satisfaction, which is their mission. "I sincerely want to help businesses, and I have no problem assessing the situation, and if trade credit insurance isn't a good fit, I'll admit that."

So, why purchase trade credit insurance? Great question; here are a few benefits:

  • Competition: By relying on a trade credit policy, a company will be able to offer buyers payment options, including higher credit limits or longer payment terms as opposed to limiting themselves to cash-only sales.
  • Non-payment risk mitigation: Policyholders can confidently extend terms to new customers or increase credit for marginal customers. Additionally, the responsibility of determining the creditworthiness of these customers is transferred to the carrier, eliminating that task for the policyholder
  • Preserved cash flow: Trade credit insurance gives confidence that cash flows will not be interrupted by slow pays or insolvencies, particularly when a concentration is identified.
  • Augmented borrowing power: Insured AR will become collateral, allowing banks and lenders to add export, marginal or concentrated risks into the borrowing base.

The examples above illustrate the variety of benefits reaped from an in-force trade credit insurance policy, supporting day-to-day operations beyond filing a claim, and that is Kelly's favorite part about trade credit insurance. "Trade credit insurance isn't a policy that sits on the shelf, tapped only in the event of a loss. It is leveraged on a daily basis to support safe growth. It's really a cost-effective tool," says Kelly.

Overall, trade credit insurance gives a competitive advantage to the policyholder, eliminates the responsibility of due diligence, and mitigates non-payment risk in both the domestic and global marketplace.

For more information on trade credit insurance, use these links to connect with Kimberly Kelly at Trade Credit Specialty or reach out to the NDTO team at  info@ndto.com.

Exporting in the Time of COVID 19- Lessons Learned and Looking Ahead

Exporting in the Time of COVID 19- Lessons Learned and Looking Ahead

Posted on June 30, 2021

For our last edition in the series of Exporting in the Time of COVID-19, we revisit subjects from our previous topics and look towards the future with lessons learned as more information becomes available. While some of us are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the pandemic, there are many countries still in the midst of the fight. Keeping that in mind, there are many lessons to be learned so far, and how we can all continue to find ways to rebound and be more resilient in light of this ongoing global pandemic

Global cooperation has become essential on so many levels, including government, for and non-profit businesses, and private and public sectors, to find innovative approaches to keep forward momentum. Teamwork is vital as companies collaborate to spur each other's success. Maham Siddique said it well, when speaking about supply chain resiliency, that "connectivity, transparency, technology, and flexibility will empower buyers and suppliers… The resiliency-building lessons learned from the pandemic have taught us that establishing collaborative solutions can drive better trade outcomes (Teamwork 'Key to Overcome COVID-Induced Trade Hurdles', 2021)." She goes on to highlight four resiliency tactics for the future that every business should know - how their own supply chain works, how to embrace technology, having transparency in business, and how to flexible. All of these items can be identified and utilized to better prepare for the next global disruption – and all experts say there will be another one.

Supply Chains

Much was learned in the supply chain and logistics arena from the pandemic. Nimble and agile became two of the descriptors of successful transportation and logistics companies coming through the pandemic. Teamwork, agility, and re-routing goods and supplies became essential to navigate the continuously changing logistics environment during the pandemic. Traditionally, supply chain experts were trained to focus on efficiency and low-cost solutions, but the pandemic forced a paradigm shift taking risk management into account. Evaluating procurement costs, lead times, and material sourcing alongside profitability became essential (Phillips, 2021).  Adopting many digital technologies has become a clear advantage for companies that invested in these products long ago. They now have the intelligence and metrics to determine better logistical operations over their products.

Companies that initially saw a wide gap and disruptions in their supply chains talked early on about potential reshoring or nearshoring operations to provide more control. For many, this has not shown the be the case. Very few companies have taken the steps to re-shore. Better visibility of their supply/value chains and upgrading their logistics processes have proven to do the trick for many and will pay off in the long run.

Trade Policy

With many initial reactions to the pandemic, governments took steps to protect themselves before looking to their neighbors and beyond. Protectionism became a concern with policies focused on reactions to the pandemic in the immediate and not considering the breadth and depth that the pandemic could have globally. A year-plus later, we see that this is not the case. As pandemic restrictions started to ease, the collaboration between governments has started to increase.

Policy shifts will likely be seen as the vaccine rollout becomes more successful. Humanitarian and social programs are increasingly needed globally as food access, agriculture, small businesses and manufacturing industries start rebuilding. The process and structure will look very different depending on the country and the government's focus. We will likely see shifts less concerned with protectionist goals and more emphasis on expansion or loosening of tariffs on certain goods as humanitarian aid increases.

The UN Conference on Trade Development (UNCTAD) suggests that global trade should focus on climate change actions and developing programs to prioritize people and the environment (Make Trade More Sustainable and Inclusive, Leaders Say, 2021). Hopefully, these priorities of building up developing nations and increasing green energy and climate change initiatives will build towards a better future for the greater good.

Food Insecurity

Globally, there are several counties on the brink of famine, according to the UN World Food Program. The food supply was initially of concern, but as more research has come to light, access to food is a more significant problem in struggling countries. The food supply is available, but for many, it is not affordable. In many countries, food is supplied by small-scale farmers in local markets, and not the large production and complicated supply chain structures we see in the US. As lockdowns and public gathering restrictions were enforced, many local markets were unable to operate. Small-scale farming operations across the globe were more heavily impacted because of the structure of distribution and sales. Low and middle-income countries have been the most affected by hunger historically. What has been a predominantly rural issue now is seen throughout urban low and middle-income areas. The pandemic has increased hunger in urban areas dramatically due to job and wage instability.  (Sova, 2021)

With 50% of pre-pandemic food consumption coming from restaurants, this industry was hard-hit in developed countries. Overall, when the pandemic started to grip the world, many food-related businesses were making short-term adjustments, planning for a few weeks or months. As time when on, those adaptations had to become long-term fixtures. It is often easier to adjust for the short term, explains Brandon Barholt, president of KeHe Distributors, an Illinois bases fresh food distributor. A surprise he noted was that small manufacturers were more agile than anticipated, especially when compared to larger food manufacturers.  (Johns, 2021). The increase in at-home meal consumption, experts say, is likely here to stay. This is explained by a whole generation that did not know how to cook and was now forced to. Additionally, with income still an issue for many, eating out is a luxury that can wait. The pre-pandemic split of 50% restaurant food consumption and 50% at-home food consumption is not likely to return quickly in the US. While the US and other developed countries are not seeing empty shelves anymore, grocers are opting for a more focused inventory, ensuring staples are readily available. Many new products will be limited as grocers become more comfortable with the new buying habits of consumers. Hunger and food insecurity are still prominent in the developed nations, as access and rising food prices are likely to increase over time.

In 2021, many countries and communities will continue to struggle to put nutritious food on the table, warns the UN. Rising food prices are a limiting factor for families across the globe and will continue to be a major hurdle for the foreseeable future. Humanitarian aid, non-profits, and governments will need to embrace many tools to combat the struggles to reduce food insecurities.

Uneven Recovery

International businesses overall fared better than their solely domestic businesses. Global connectedness has been attributes as a key source of success for international firms, but also made international companies more susceptible to the initial pandemic shocks. After the early shock of the pandemic, international firms had multifaceted efforts to respond - employing several tactics like working remotely, adapting products, finding new suppliers, and in some cases loaning out workers to other manufacturing firms (Borino, Carlson, Rollo, & Solleder, 2021). Soley domestic businesses employed many of the same tactics but had fewer options to adjust within their borders.

Downstream supply challenges for many businesses are still a concern. Slow production capacity hampers some of the previously available goods to deliver products to consumers. Wood shortages, for instance, mean that shipping palettes are still in short supply, causing some manufactures to cut back production. Other companies have adapted to new packaging and other staples to move forward despite the shortages (Johns, 2021).

For example, the manufacturing industry is picking up in the UK. It is reported to have the highest growth rate since 1994, including orders, employment, and output (Drives and Controls, 2021). Keeping this momentum going will be a continued battle with embracing greener technologies set forth by UK governments and maintaining a competitive edge with other industrial and manufacturing powerhouses. The UK rose to the challenges presented by the pandemic and succeeded. Keeping the drive from the pandemic will be the key to maintaining greater global competitiveness for the UK manufacturing industry.

The global pandemic is still running amok for many countries, and now more than ever, a call to action for philanthropic endeavors is needed. There is a lot of potential for companies to join in on the continuing pandemic fight. Filipi explores how to identify a niche that your company may be able to fill and promote philanthropy across your organization (Filipi, 2021). We saw many manufacturers in the Midwest transition their production lines for PPE creation or hand sanitizers. This type of ingenuity is still needed as we continue to move through the pandemic waves.

Although resilience and adaptation remain at the forefront of recovery, there is still a long road ahead. Many industries, including food and manufacturing, are overall struggling to fill job vacancies hampering rebound. Additional surges and vaccination rates continue to impact countries across the globe, with travel restrictions still in effect throughout many parts of the world. Many economists and leaders are predicting continued challenges through 2021. However, through continued support, collaborative efforts, and transparency, recovery is happening, although it is a marathon, not a sprint.

References

Borino, F., Carlson, E., Rollo, V., & Solleder, O. (2021, April 30). International firms: More exposed but more resilient during Covid-19. Retrieved from VOX EU: https://voxeu.org/article/international-firms-more-exposed-more-resilient-during-covid-19

De Bellefonds, C. (2021, June 11). 7 Lessons We've Learned From This Pandemic to Remember for the Next One. Retrieved from Self: https://www.self.com/story/pandemic-lessons

Drives and Controls. (2021, June 15). Retrieved from We Must Apply the Lessons fo COVID to the Future: https://drivesncontrols.com/news/fullstory.php/aid/6750/We_must_apply_the_lessons_of_Covid_to_the_future.html

Filipi, F. (2021, June 23). Lessons Learned from Pandemic Responses that Leverage Philanthropy. Retrieved from Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesnonprofitcouncil/2021/06/23/lessons-learned-from-pandemic-responses-that-leverage-philanthropy/?sh=5b0d69b37851

Harvey, F. (2021, February 15). Risk of Global Food Shortages Due to COVID has Increased, Says UN Envoy. Retrieved from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/15/risk-of-global-food-shortages-covid-increased-un-envoy-agnes-kalibata?CMP=share_btn_tw

Johns, M. (2021, June 11). One Year Later: Lessons Learned in the Food Supply Chain. Retrieved from BMO Capital Markets: https://capitalmarkets.bmo.com/en/news-insights/food-consumer-retail/covid-19-insights/one-year-later-lessons-learned-food-supply-chain/

Make Trade More Sustainable and Inclusive, Leaders Say. (2021, June 16). Retrieved from United Nations Conference on Trade and Development: 2021

Pearson, J., & Altman, S. A. (2021, May 18). How DHL Express Navigated the Pause — and Rebound — of Global Trade. Retrieved from Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2021/05/how-dhl-express-navigated-the-pause-and-rebound-of-global-trade

Phillips, S. (2021, May 15). How COVID-19 Took the Supply Chain to a New Place. Retrieved from Global Trade Magazine: https://www.globaltrademag.com/how-covid-19-took-the-supply-chain-to-a-new-place/

Sova, C. (2021, April 2). After One Year of COVID-19, What Lessons Have We Learned About Hunger? Retrieved from UN World Food Program: https://www.wfpusa.org/articles/after-one-year-of-covid-19-what-lessons-have-we-learned-about-hunger/

Teamwork 'Key to Overcome COVID-Induced Trade Hurdles'. (2021, June 9). Retrieved from Trade Arabia Business News and Information: http://www.tradearabia.com/news/REAL_383327.html

Copyrights, Patents, and Trademarks, Oh My! How Intellectual Property Rights Vary Globally 

Copyrights, Patents, and Trademarks, Oh My! How Intellectual Property Rights Vary Globally 

Posted on June 30, 2021

Navigating through the process of registering your trademarks and confirming copyrights and patents can be a challenge, but taking those items internationally brings about a whole new set of rules, regulations, and decisions for the future of your business.

Intellectual Property (IP) rights exist to protect innovation. One of the driving forces for change in this world is the innovation of new ideas, processes, materials, and goods. Being able to protect the ideas and innovations, if only for a short period of time, allows the creator to benefit from their ideas financially. The laws give the creator ownership and control over how their creation is used, ultimately allowing them to benefit and recoup the time and investment on their creations.

As far back as 1886, in the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, businesses were thinking about protecting intellectual property.  Today, there are more than 25 international treaties on IP, and the world is constantly changing to keep up.

Let's dive into the different types of IPs and how to protect them.

Intellectual Property

Intellection Property (IP) is defined by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as "creations of the mind – everything from works of art to inventions, computer programs to trademarks and other commercial signs." It refers to a variety of rights by those who create works that are protected under copyright laws, patent laws, and trademark laws. Each item has different laws and regulations based on the type of item/work. We can think of IP as the umbrella over copyrighted, trademarked, and patented materials.

Typically, there are two categories when discussing IP, copyrights, and industrial property rights, including patents, industrial design, and trademarks. Below are some details about each and things to consider before taking your products or services international.

Copyright

Copyrights encompass a large body of work - from individual writings, music, movies, and one-of-a-kind works of art to databases, computer code/programming, maps, and architecture. The copyright allows control over how the distribution of work and the creator's right to be acknowledged. Transfer of copyright is quite common and happens when the original owner gives the rights to someone else to benefit or utilize while also collecting a fee for use (also known as royalties).

Internationally, many copyright laws have both criminal and civil penalties that the copyright owner regulates. Rights are often defined in two categories - economic and moral rights. Economic rights include the right to profit from one's creative project. Moral rights, including the right to be acknowledged and alterations to their work, are limited as not to cause damage to the creator.  Economic rights typically have international time limits, which after the period expires, the work enters the public domain for use. Time limits for moral rights are indefinite in some countries, both others have specific time limits.  While full international copyright does not exist, many international protections and policies are in place through government treaties and agreements.

Industrial Property Rights

Patent

Patents are typically reserved for inventions and provide the patent owner with exclusive rights to the product for a set period of time and legally allow control over who uses, sells, or makes the invention. After the exclusivity time has passed, others can utilize the design.  The key to a patent is that the protection granted is for something completely new, a new product, a new process, or a new solution. Some inventions that may not be eligible for patients include scientific or mathematical theories, flora and fauna species, and medical treatments. These non-patentable items intend to benefit humankind without formal control or restriction.

Domestically and internationally, there is an application process for patents, which varies by region and often involves a fee. It is recommended to seek local legal representation for each international patent application in each country you intend to file.  Some regional patent systems exist where one patent can cover multiple regions, such as the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) or the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT System).

Industrial Design

A little more abstract than a patent, industrial design encompasses a product's look and feel, and is prevalent on the consumer level with a product's design or aesthetic elements and details considered "ornamental." For example, the industrial design could be a new ergonomic chair that is exclusively designed to be unique, the chair itself is just a chair, but the ornaments adorning the chair could be a discerning factor for consumer preferences. Other aspects of industrial design include two-dimensional features like lines, patterns, and colors.

Internationally, for the industrial design protection to apply, the products should show originality and be produced on a larger scale (not a one-of-a-kind piece). Laws vary widely for industrial design and should be carefully considered before beginning the process of registration.

Trademarks

Since ancient times, trademarks have been in practice when Roman brick makers would each have their own mark to signify the maker, gaining a reputation for quality, craftsmanship, or lack thereof. Today, trademarks work in much the same way - to indicate the origin of the goods or maker. There are legal protections to control the use of a specific mark to deter counterfeiters.

The trademark itself can be represented by letters, words, numbers, symbols, colors, or pictures, as well as 3-dimensional designs, packaging, and even sounds. As long as the mark is distinct and not already registered similarly, it can qualify as a trademark. Registration will often be granted for a set period of time and needs renewal. Additionally, trademark registration requires a fee and disclosure of the types of goods and services provided by the mark. Once granted, if the trademark is used fraudulently, the trademark owner has legal ground to defend their product.

Counterfeited goods are harmful to legitimate businesses, and they often support not-so-savory endeavors. They also undermine the IP of the legitimate business, which can damage their reputation and reduce their success.

The best way to protect the IP from counterfeiters is to register the copyright, trademark, industrial design, or patent in each market, country, or territory you intend to use it in. Some countries have a higher amount of counterfeit goods, so it is a good idea to seek out protecting your companies' goods in higher-risk markets first. Other best practices to consider when selling your IP globally are using vetted or reputable dealers or partners in foreign countries and building relationships to understand how your IP will be respected if exported.

Because IP laws and regulations vary widely globally, it is best to engage with international legal advisors to navigate the process. There are several agreements, systems, and treaties that companies can use to maximize their efforts in registering their products for multiple countries all at once.

The WIPO administers 26 treaties regarding IP rights. The list, along with more specific information on treaties, can be found in the references below. The World Trade Organization and its members also utilize the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement.

The information presented above is intended to familiarize you with some of the issues regarding IP and variations worldwide. Legal advice is highly recommended for IP questions and legal matters. For more information on legal providers who specialize in international law, please reach out to info@ndto.com

References

Basic Facts About Trademarks: What Every Small Business Should Know. (2021, June). Retrieved from United States Patent and Trademark Office: https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/uspto-videos/basic-facts-about-trademarks-what-every-small-business-should

International Copyright Law. (2021, June ). Retrieved from International Trade Administration: https://legacy.export.gov/article?id=International-Copyright-Law

Trademark Information Network. (2021, June). Retrieved from United States Patent and Trademark Office: https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/basics/trademark-information-network

TRIPS — Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. (2021, June ). Retrieved from World Trade Organization: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/trips_e/trips_e.htm

WIPO-Administered Treaties. (2021, June ). Retrieved from World Intellectual Property Organization: https://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/

World Intellectual Property Organization. (2021, June). Retrieved from https://www.wipo.int/portal/en/