Saturday 5 July 2014

Caroline B Ncube

IP Policies in Africa no 25, 26 and 27 - Kenya, Lesotho and Liberia

Back when this Leo started this series, she intended to trek across the continent to:
1. determine if a country has an IP policy in place;
2. if there is a policy in place, to review the policy; and
3. if there is no policy, to establish if there is any publicly available information on the preparation of such a policy.

Well, several months later, she's discovered that IP policies are rather thin on the ground. This is surprising because this Leo thinks that a policy is a blueprint that should inform and direct laws and practices. In the absence of explicit IP policies, what drives African countries' IP agendas? When African states received IP laws from the countries that colonised them, those transplanted laws were infused with the policies of their countries of origin. The prevailing socio-economic conditions in those countries were, and continue to be, markedly different from those in Africa. Surely then, it is imperative for African states to come up with policies that allow them to re-engineer their IP laws to suit them, within the bounds of existing IP treaty obligations? It is of course difficult to draw up a blueprint (IP Policy) when one already has a structure (IP laws) in place. But if one is to renovate that structure it is absolutely necessary to have a blueprint to guide the changes. Therefore, it is encouraging to see that all of the countries surveyed today are either working on, or already have, an IP policy.

Kenya already has a policy on TK and IP known as the National Policy on Traditional Knowledge, Genetic Resources and Traditional Cultural Expressions, 2009  (available here). In addition, Kenya started work on an IP policy several years ago, and fellow Leo Dr Isaac Rutenberg has been involved (see a post on this by Victor Nzomo on IP Kenya here). It was thought that an association of IP professionals would be best placed to drive the policy formulation process and steps were taken to establish the association (see Isaac's post here). Work on both fronts - the association and the formulation of an IP policy - seems to be continuing. In June 2013, David Opijah provided a detailed overview of the progress in relation to the IP policy till then here. An update on what has occurred since, please, Isaac?

Likewise Lesotho is also working on a national IP policy though the details are sketchy. According to a WIPO report entitled 'WIPO support to NEPAD in collaboration with other United Nations Agencies' (May 2012 - April 2013) available here, an IP policy formulation process was launched in the period under review.

According to the same WIPO report, an IP strategy is under implementation in Liberia (one day, this Leo will tackle the terminology stew - is it a policy, a plan or a strategy? Does it matter what we call it?) After a diligent search, this Leo was unable to locate a copy of this policy. All she could locate is a WIPO document entitled 'Intellectual Property Development Plan for the Republic of Liberia: Final Report on the Needs Evaluation' (2009) available here. This leads to a rant about one of this Leo's pet peeves -- why do all the work on an important document such as a national IP policy and then not make it available? Isn't that what WIPOLex is for? (tut tut, Leos get irritable when they can't find things). Any pointers to where the final policy may be found ( instantly restoring this Leo's good mood) are very welcome.

For more on Africa's colonial IP legacy and thoughts on how to overcome its deficiencies, see Prof Chidi Oguamanam's article entitled 'Charting a course for intellectual property rights' here 

For a look at colonial copyright in Palestine, see chapter 1 of Michael D. Birnhack's book entitled Colonial Copyright: Intellectual Property in Mandate Palestine (2012, OUP) here

For a discussion on neo-colonial IP see Rahmatian, Andreas 'Neo-Colonial Aspects of Global Intellectual Property Protection' (June 23, 2010) The Journal of World Intellectual Property, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 40-74, 2010, available here 

Caroline B Ncube

Caroline B Ncube

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7 July 2014 at 13:02 delete

Dr. Ncube,
Thanks for the inquiry. Other than rumors, I have not heard any updates on the progress on the IP Policy in Kenya. Indeed two consultative meetings were held in 2012, although one of the meetings was so poorly attended that it was decided (at the meeting) to reschedule. The process is being supported (i.e., funded) by WIPO although I have also not heard any updates from WIPO.
On the issue of the IP Association, progress has been slow, but not absent. The Ethiopian IP association has gone farther, and we look to them as a model!

29 July 2014 at 11:23 delete

Thanks Isaac!Do keep us posted if anything concrete happens.