Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Are you an in-house IP attorney in Africa?


Legal Counsel Roundtable (LCR) Africa are hosting the first ever in-house counsel programme for African lawyers entitled "How to succeed as an in house lawyer" and are offering a 10% discount to Afro-IP readers. Register here and quote "Afro-IP" to get the discount.
Large in house IP departments in Africa are hard to find for a number of reasons, including that:
  • There is a general lack of understanding of what is IP within a business and then, as a result, its value within a business.
  • African IP systems are, with few exceptions, poorly used and managed which means that users tend to lack faith in formal IP as an asset of the business.
  • There is little information available publically on IP management and enforcement in Africa meaning that stereotypical views prevail that IP provides little protection or incentive to invest on the continent.
  • There is a relatively small group of people who choose IP as their profession and IP still remains a marginal subject at most Universities.
  • In most cases it is cheaper and safer to use external providers to manage significant trade mark or patent portfolios, often because those portfolios are not large enough to justify the costs internally.
In the cases where qualified professionals are entrusted to form internal legal departments dealing with IP, they often sit alongside counsel doing what the organisation often values as more esteemed corporate work. Though not always the case, they can be seen as a cost centre and struggle to get valued and as a result, budgets. This is not just the case in Africa by the way, it is a problem in places like Europe too. However, it is potentially more acute in Africa given the factors outlined above.

Legal Counsel Roundtable is an organisation devoted to providing in house lawyers with strategic and operational insights for in house lawyers by delivering training programs, mentoring, networking opportunities and on-line content. Although it is a members' organisation, membership is free if you are working as an in house lawyer in Africa. Afro Leo thinks this is a wonderful opportunity for in house lawyers, whether they feel undervalued or not. Who knows it may lead to the development of a much needed industry group focusing IP issues in Africa.

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