A Challenge for Law Schools in Kenya to Take IP Seriously

IPKenya would like to begin by echoing Article 40 (6) of the Constitution of Kenya which states:

“The State shall support, promote and protect of the intellectual property rights of the people of Kenya”

This post is a call for a different interpretation of this article that puts us, intellectual property scholars and students, at the heart of it’s implementation.

It’s no secret that “the State” (in this case, our IP offices and other government agencies that deal in IP-related areas) is over-stretched, under-funded and ill-equipped as it takes on the daunting task of addressing all the issues faced in the changing world of Intellectual Property and relate these to the needs of society, IP holders and consumers.

Attend any forum, workshop or meeting in Kenya where IP is discussed and you will notice how every participant is quick to blame the IP Offices for piracy and counterfeiting due to what they term as “poor” policing and enforcement of IP rights within the country. While this may be true in principle, we conveniently choose to ignore the reality facing these IP Offices. The public servants working in the IP offices are never more than 100 in number and yet they are expected to serve a country of close to 50 million inhabitants. These public servants are required to attend to the day-to-day administration of the secretariat; receive complaints; carry out investigations; conduct raids; make arrests; prosecute cases in court; conduct awareness campaigns, training workshops, forums and seminars; liaise with government stakeholders and private entities, examine/verify applications for IP registration or filing; give IP advice to members of the public; assist members of the public in preparing certain applications for IP registration/filing; periodically review existing IP laws to ensure they are in up to date and relevant to changing times; register/file IP applications; deal with IP-related correspondences from members of the public; attend all local, regional and international conferences on IP; represent Kenya in high-level negotiations and formulation of IP instruments and policies, among many more.

Isn’t it high time we took some of this load of our IP Offices’ shoulders? Isn’t it time we stepped up and joined in since we all share the same desire for a balanced development of intellectual property law and policy in Kenya? Instead of always whining that the IP Offices are not doing enough to reduce piracy and fight counterfeiting, why not be part of the solution for a change?

The challenge before us is to find ways of supporting, promoting and protecting IP in Kenya. IPKenya believes that our law schools are a good place to start.

SUPPORT OF IP: Primarily through sustained scholarship, research, teaching and training in all areas of IP.

PROMOTION OF IP: Creating IP awareness and furthering the application and development of IP law in a wide variety of fields including business, science, engineering, commerce, law, banking, entrepreneurship and the arts.

PROTECTION OF IP: Ensuring that the development of IP laws and policy both domestically, regionally and internationally are in Kenya’s best interests.

In an ideal situation, IPKenya argues that IP Offices’ responsibilities should primarily be administration and enforcement of the various IP laws and policies in Kenya. However, IP Offices currently find themselves taking on more and more roles and are too thinly spread in as far as addressing their key statutory mandates. Hence the need for our law schools to rise to the occasion and assist IP Offices and the government as a whole so as to play a more meaningful role in the support, promotion and protection of the IP of the people of Kenya.

In this regard, IPKenya urges Kenyan law schools to borrow a leaf from our neighbours in South Africa:

University of Cape Town (UCT), Faculty of Law, Intellectual Property Law and Policy Research Unit:

 

Stellenbosch University (SU), Faculty of Law, Anton Mostert Chair of Intellectual Property:

 

Dear readers, what are your thoughts on this?

 

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5 thoughts on “A Challenge for Law Schools in Kenya to Take IP Seriously

  1. Ask and Ye Shall Receive! Strathmore Law School (SLS) is forming CIPIT, the Center for Intellectual Property and Information Technology law. We will meet the needs of Kenya’s innovative sectors (including ICT but also others) for understanding, acquiring, and using all varieties of IP. Our goal is not to promote IP for IP’s sake, but rather to promote wise use of IP in every aspect of commerce. Contact me (on Twitter at #iruten) or SLS for more details!
    Isaac Rutenberg (Director, CIPIT)

  2. Chief, Your views are pertinent. Compared to Uganda’s 4 IP lawyers in the registry, KIPI is far better off! In my view, the aspects of sensitisation, registration, and enforcement need to be seperated in order to give appropriate support to each area. There also needs to be inter institutional collaboration with other agencies, so that KIPI’s work is made lighter and more efficient.

  3. How very prophetic of you! Now we have CIPIT at Strathmore Law and I’m sure the other Law Schools will follow suit.

    You’re doing a commendable job with this blog. Kudos!

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