Friday 20 September 2013

Caroline B Ncube

IP policies in Africa - no 4 Botswana

This week the African IP policy series visits Botswana. Botswana  recently updated its patent law through the Industrial Property Act, 2010 and its regulations which came into force in September 2012 (see IP Watch commentary on the Act here). This Act introduced pre-grant opposition of patents, a measure that  has been suggested in South Africa's draft IP policy. Botswana does not yet have an IP policy but has a Competition policy (2005) and a Research, Science, Technology and Innovation (RSTI) policy (2011) which both address IP.

Botswana's national Competition Policy, 2005, exempts IP from its ambit in the following terms:
"The Policy recognises the important role intellectual property (patents, trade marks and copyrights) plays in Botswana's human and economic development endeavours -and the need to protect and safeguard the interests of intellectual property rights-holders [and presumably to balance these rights with those of other stakeholders, in the public interest, says this Leo]. Therefore, as a way of protecting intellectual property rights from infringement and in order to promote the development of creations and· innovations, intellectual property rights will be excluded and exempted from the ambit of this policy."

The RSTI policy states the following in relation to IP:
"Policy Commitments:
5.9.1 Since wealth creation and economic development hinge on Intellectual Property (IP) and
 knowledge [yes they do, but only if properly calibrated to ensure suitability for a
 particular jurisdiction],Government will continue to enforce compliance to the Botswana 
Intellectual Property Law to foster creativity and innovation [a word of warning: an over emphasis 
on the enforcement of inappropriately crafted laws can be counterproductive]. The law provides
 for protection of inventors and innovators against infringement of their Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)
 during commercialization and trade by according them exclusive rights for their inventions, innovations
 and creations during the term of protection, enabling them to realize economic rewards from their efforts.
 Intellectual Property Rights of interest to this policy include patents, utility models, and industrial designs
as they protect scientific and technological innovations and their economic impact.
5.9.2 Strategies for stimulating and enabling accelerated protection of scientific and technological
 creativity and innovation including appropriate support for technical assistance in processing of
 intellectual property protection will be developed. Research institutions are expected to develop
 institutional IP policies that are aligned to the national IP legislation and policy [but there is no
 IP policy yet] to encourage creativity and innovation.
5.9.3 Initiatives will be developed to capacitate intellectual property right holders to maximise 
their benefits in order to stimulate national creativity, innovation and information exchange between
 inventors and innovators. Intellectual property professional and funding bodies will be expected to 
support Small and Medium Enterprises in acquiring patents and other intellectual property rights
[hopefully, only where this is appropriate]. A culture of protecting innovations and inventions
 will be inculcated at an early stage by introducing intellectual property education and enhancing 
creative field curricula such as design, science and engineering.The IP education will raise 
awareness of and create interest to pursue intellectual property studies such as “Patent Law and
 Support” at postgraduate level. Botswana has an Intellectual Property Law that was revised in 2009,
but an IP policy to guide the management and exploitation of IP still needs to be developed.
5.9.4 Government commits to ensure that all legislation and policies that are important for stimulating
R&D are complementary and in harmony across sectors and aligned to Botswana’s multilateral

There are no indications of when an IP policy will be developed and published but judging by the flurry of activity in the last  few in relation to the revision of the patent laws and the RSTI policy, an IP policy may be imminent. 

Caroline B Ncube

Caroline B Ncube

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