#TellACABoss Online Debate: Balancing Protection of Public Health and Intellectual Property in Kenya

counterfeit-drugs

This blogger has inadvertently stirred a heated debate on social media involving health activists who are actively engaging the government to review Kenya’s Anti-Counterfeit Act. This blogger alerted the twitter accounts of Aids Law Project (ALP), the Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA) and the CEO of ACA to an article published on the CIPIT blog by Paul Ogendi – Deputy Director at ALP. In this article ALP raised concerns on the goverment’s implementation of the High Court’s judgment in Patricia Asero Ochieng & 2 Others vs Attorney General. This landmark decision declared the Anti-Counterfeit Act unconstitutional because of its provisions affecting access to essential medicines including generics. In his twitter response, Stephen Mallowah the ACA CEO stated as follows:-

These responses by the ACA sparked off a spirited twitter campaign under the hashtag #TellACABoss where various health activists reaffirmed that the constitutional rights of people living with and affected by HIV, TB and Malaria remain threatened unless the Anti-Counterfeit Act is reviewed particularly section 2 which defines “counterfeit”.

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IP Kenya Blog ‘Favourably Received’ by Oxford University Press Journal of Intellectual Property Law and Practice

OUP JIPLP Vol. 8 No. 10 October 2013 Cover

Exactly a month ago, the renowned blogger, IPKat a.k.a Prof Jeremy Phillips invited the online intellectual property (IP) fraternity to review a number of IP blogs and Twitter accounts from around the world. This blogger was alerted that IP Kenya was among the blogs selected for review. In the call for reviews, IPKenya is described as an “often challenging blog”.

Taken positively, this is a definitely a huge nod of approval. With this great privilege, there are also great expectations to keep the blogging momentum going, diversify the IP subject matter discussed in the blog articles, sharpen the IP analysis presented on the blog while making it all seem effortless like IPKat does.

This blogger is both humbled and happy to be the only other blog from Africa that continues to receive such positive attention and looks forward to the challenges that lay ahead.

Kenyan Cattle Herdsboy Seeks Petty Patent Protection for “Lion Lights” Invention

turere-1-600x397 by WildlifeDirect

For those who may not know, IPKenya’s friend Dr Isaac Rutenberg is the voice behind a series of blog articles over at the Afro-IP blog dubbed “Diary of A Patent Lawyer in Kenya”. In his latest entry, he explains that he was “helping a 14-year old Kenyan attempt to secure IP rights after he had designed a system useful in rearing domestic livestock as well as in wildlife conservation.” He further discloses: “At our inventor’s [the 14-year old Kenyan’s] request, and with the guidance of a local wildlife conservation group, we prepared and filed a Utility Model Certificate application.”

This blogger is strongly convinced that the Utility Model (UM) application in question is in respect of the “Lion Lights” invention by young Richard Turere and supported by WildlifeDirect, in particular CEO, Dr. Paula Kahumbu.

Earlier this year, the Daily Nation published a story about a 13 year old boy Richard Turere: “the young Maasai boy who figured out how to scare off lions by irritating them with flash lights.” According to WildlifeDirect, a local wildlife conservation group, Turere was discovered while the group was working on a project to find new ways to reduce human lion conflict in the Kitengela area just south of the Nairobi National Park in Kenya.

Turere’s invention was born out of a necessity to protect his family’s cattle herd from carnivorous predators, especially lions since they lived right on the edge of the Nairobi National Park. Turere is said to have used his knowledge of lions’ fear of flashing lights to devise an automated lighting system made up of torch bulbs, a box, switches, an old car battery and a solar panel. According to reports, Turere’s lights are “designed to flicker on and off intermittently, thus tricking the lions into believing that someone was moving around carrying a flashlight”.

Lion Lights Invention Richard Turere Wildlife Direct

It is reported that “since Turere rigged up his “Lion Lights,” his family has not lost any livestock to the wild beasts, to the great delight of his father and astonishment of his neighbours.” This invention has become very popular and “around 75 “Lion Light” systems have so far been rigged up around Kenya”. With the support of WildlifeDirect, Turere has presented his invention at the well known TED Conference in 2013 and obtained a scholarship to one of Kenya’s top private preparatory schools.

Comment:

Right off the bat, this blogger was pleased with some of the the comments in the original Daily Nation story about Lion Lights where a couple of ordinary Kenyans wondered whether Turere had obtained patent protection for his invention.

Lion Lights Invention DN comments

These comments demonstrate an increased awareness of intellectual property, its value and the importance of securing IP rights.

Secondly, I salute Dr Rutenberg and his team over at CIPIT for the good work they are doing in helping Kenyans like Turere to identify, understand, protect and promote their IP rights using the various IP systems available in Kenya.

A Kenyan Perspective of South Africa’s Draft National Policy on Intellectual Property

South_africa_parliament1

As many IP enthusiasts may have heard, South Africa has recently published a Draft National Policy on Intellectual Property (IP) (hereafter the Policy). Within the Kenyan context, this blogger has previously questioned the need for a national IP policy particularly in light of the recognition given to IP in the Constitution. However, for the purposes of this post, the policy provides a good basis for a comparative analysis of the state of IP in both South Africa and Kenya as well as possible recommendations to strengthen IP laws.

In the area of patents, Kenya’s IP office undertakes both formal and substantive examinations of patent applications whereas in South Africa, the Policy recommends the establishment of a substantive of a substantive search and examination of patents to address issue of “weak” vs “strong” patents. The policy’s recommendation to amend South African patent law to include pre-and post-opposition would also be instructive to Kenya.

Read the rest of this article here.