Meg Brindle (HNZ’88, DC’90, ’92) has been an educator for almost 20 years, including being a professor in both the MBA and Public Policy programs at Carnegie Mellon. Today she works in Eastern Africa as vice president and director of education for the nonprofit Light Years IP, which assists developing countries in alleviating poverty.

What specifically do you do at Light Years?
My role is to teach intellectual-property and business strategies to farmers and producers living in the region. Just like Coca-Cola owns the formula to their products, farmers and producers need to own the brand and also more of the supply chain. So, we’re teaching them how to set up a business as well as how to own the export company and import companies outside of their borders to receive far more income.

How do you implement intellectual property?
Good question. It used to be that the physical aspects of products held more value. In 1982, for example, about 70-80% of the value of a man’s tie was in the material and construction; by 2002, the majority of the value, 60%-70%, was considered to be in the intangible value of the tie—the brand. This is true across the globe because creating physical products has cheapened. So, what we do is find products that have high intangible value and instruct local farmers, For example, we returned $101 million to Ethiopian coffee farmers by enabling them to license and trademark their fine coffees. Teaching farmers and producers to own more of the supply chain and receive much higher income is what I do in Uganda.

Why did you choose to assist Eastern Africa?
Through our feasibility studies, we found that we could have a dramatic impact. Africans, many of whom live well below the poverty level, were losing $1.4 billion per year for just the 14 products we covered in our research alone. By teaching them entrepreneurial, intellectual-property strategies, which they can then teach to the next generation, we’re on our way to eradicating poverty in the region because they already have the products.
—as told to Lisa Kay Davis (DC’09)

Related Links:
African IP Trust