Monday, 10 June 2013

An Association of Kenyan IP Professionals?

On Saturday the latest meeting of IP CheckIn was held at CIPIT.  IP CheckIn (on Twitter @IPCheckin) is a loose affiliation of Kenyans interested in discussing IP issues, and we gather once per month to discuss current and interesting topics in IP. Usually attended mostly by lawyers, we are always very happy when non-lawyers (typically musicians, inventors, or business people) are present to provide a different viewpoint.
Declaration of Independence, John Trumbull 1819

First, I am always amazed and impressed that (on average) 20+ people are willing to spend 2-4 hours of their Saturday voluntarily gathering to discuss IP. The tea and mandazi (doughnuts) cannot possibly explain this; there is a passion/curiosity about IP among attendees that is contagious.

The primary topic this month was the creation of an Association of Kenyan IP professionals. Specifically, we discussed several questions:
-       What should be the goals of such an association?
-       Who should be allowed to join?
-       What should we call it, and what structure should it have?

What ensued was an engaging and sometimes passionate debate about the state of IP in Kenya, the needs of Kenyan creators and businesses, and how/whether an Association can serve those needs.

There seemed to be consensus that an Association (although I am calling it an “Association” there was debate over whether to make it a Company or a Society, and the conclusion was to form a Company Limited by Guarantee) was a good idea and would provide benefit. An inventor (“layman” by his own words) was present and recounted his experience with IP in Kenya. He was quite happy and excited to learn of the potential formation of an Association.

The most contentious aspect seemed to be over membership issues, i.e. whether to open the Association to anybody with an interest in IP, or whether to restrict to IP Practitioners (with an accompanying debate over what exactly is an IP Practitioner). There was consensus that the Association should have a way of telling the general public that certain individuals are qualified to give advice on IP issues. The idea for a tiered membership was well liked. Anybody can join the Association as a general member, but certain individuals (lawyers, academics, and others with specialized training) will achieve exceptional status and be “certified” as qualified IP Practitioners.

The Association is well underway in conception, and hopefully at the IP Checkin next month we will be able to finalize a Constitution. Comments or suggestions on this will be greatly appreciated and can be sent to CIPIT or posted here.


IPKenya said...

The Company Limited by Guarantee is the most robust vehicle for the Association. Therefore I propose that a broadly worded memorandum and articles of association be developed.

Thereafter the intricate details regarding membership and other rules can be developed by a Secretariat to be tabled and adopted by a Board of Directors and the AGM.

Chijioke said...

I don't know about Kenya but Nigeria's Companies and Allied Matters Act leans more in favour of an incorporated trustee (Association) than company limited by guarantee. Personally, i think "Association" sound all-embracing. (Again, i don't know how it works in Kenya. I'm happy to share what Nigeria's IPLAN (IP Lawyers' Association)experience to the best of my knowledge.

Anonymous said...

It is widely accepted that such associations are more of professional bodies than NGOs. The Association for Lawyers, Doctors and other professionals are registered as societies whereas the majority of NGOs are either registered as trusts or companies limited by guarantee. Therefore I would argue that the Society is better suited than a company limited by guarantee.

Lusi said...

My opinion is, that IF the idea informing the formation of a collective entity under which persons engaging in the practice of Intellectual Property in Kenya, is to inter alia standardise competence and ensure that quality services are rendered then I would agree with Anonymous that the apt entity would be a society.

However IF conversely the idea is to have an entity that simply promotes the awareness and uptake of Intellectual Property in Kenya without necessarily having a role in the management of practice standards and industry best practise, then the idea mooted along the lines of a company limited by guarantee may suffice. An association also brings about a feeling of inclusivity [sic].

Having said that I suppose that the gap presently subsisting in the practice of IP in Kenya, largely stems from absence of a body from persons purporting to offer competent IP counsel are affiliated, which body would in turn possibly champion al beit in consultation with KIPI which presently registers Patent agents certain minimum skills and/or knowledge for the members or practitioners of IP in Kenya. This will certainly foster professionalism and open up the market with a co-relating increased uptake in assertion of IP rights by members of the public who will be convinced of appropriate protection of their interests.

Moving forward I would be keen to observe the key objects of this entity; which I hasten to observe ought to be a Society/Association, as stated in the Constitution which again points to a society.