Aleck Ncube, Intellectual property
IT is important for developing countries to better understand the role of Intellectual Property (IP) in development, both to inform public opinion and to equip governments with knowledge about the implications of policy reforms.
The long term objective is the establishment of a sound development base. The process involves different stakeholders coming together and developing a comprehensive policy on Intellectual Property.
The drafting of the National IP Policy falls within the framework of the development agenda of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), in which developing countries are encouraged to draw up nationally focused and development oriented Intellectual Property policies and strategies. The main objective is coming up with a nationally focused IP development strategy and plan for effective use of IP rights.
Zimbabwe has not been left out of this process, in the coming weeks, the country is set to launch its National IP Policy and implementation strategy. The Government in close cooperation with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) drafted a nationally focused IP Policy in line with the broad national development agenda to help promote the country’s economic growth as well as its social and cultural development objectives. The national IP Policy and strategy makes concrete proposals on specific needs-oriented activities and projects for implementation so as to enhance Zimbabwe’s capacity to create, protect and make strategic use of IP rights and assets as a tool for economic growth and development.
The national IP Policy and Strategy outlines policies and strategies to leverage IP value for economic, social and cultural development. The six key policy goals are: facilitate the use of IP rights for economic growth and development, the use of IP rights in science, technology, innovation and other sectors, facilitating the use of IP rights for rural development, facilitate the use of IP rights for growth and competitiveness of SMEs, facilitate the use of IP rights for social development and the use of IP rights for cultural development.
Strategies under each of these six policy goals were developed together with their respective implementation timelines. The strategy also identifies four key areas for IP capacity building. IP capacity building needs to be built to ensure a comprehensive development oriented IP regime, which provides opportunities for optimum economic, social and cultural benefits. Zimbabwe has crafted various policies ranging from the science, technology and innovation policy, cultural and trade policies. A national IP policy and strategy gives an array of opportunities for IP to help promote the country’s economic, social and cultural development.
The formulation of an IP Policy and strategy by the government is crucial in as far as the country’s development agenda is concerned. It offers the opportunity to mainstream IP strategy into the national development agenda. A number of steps have to be taken to revitalise the country’s IP system including the need for the IP policy and strategy to be largely driven by domestic development goals that balance IP rights implementation policies of regional, international, bilateral and multilateral trade agreements.
A development oriented IP strategy balances the development and exploitation of both brands and products through protection and management of national resources with distinct value, exploiting and keeping their IP value, and building business competitiveness for greater rewards through the use of IP instruments. The gap between the value of exports and imports will be narrowed by raising and keeping the IP value of the country’s exports with distinct value through a strategic branding campaign. There is need to raise the profile of IP higher to the Office of the President.
The Ministry of Justice and Legal and Parliamentary affairs focuses on the legal aspects of IP dealing with IP protection. Given the cross-cutting implications of IP rights, the Zimbabwean government has to ensure that the national IP Policy and Strategy promotes an across-the-board exploitation of IP rights. IP and IP rights assume an integral role in the national development process through contribution to economic growth as well as social and cultural development, the profile of IP rights ought to expand beyond the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs so that the economic, social and cultural exploitation of IP rights are overseen by other respective ministries. Economic exploitation of important country brands may be overseen by the Ministry of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion, Zimbabwe Investment Authority.
The ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development is also crucial in ensuring that Science, Technology and Innovation are infused with the National IP Policy and Strategy in order to foster value addition and import substitution. The National IP Policy and Strategy is cognisant of the importance of IP rights in the development of SMEs, which are a priority area in the country given their vital importance in terms of employment generation in particular, economic growth and development in general. IP rights protection, ownership and commercialisation among SMEs would not only enhance diffusion of technology and business processes but would also open up niche opportunities in regional and international markets. Licensing and franchising would also facilitate diffusion of not only local technologies but would also enhance access to appropriate foreign technology all of which would help build competiveness of the SMEs for growth and national development.
SMEs ought to take advantage of merchandising opportunities where known brands or product image is used to market other products and services. Science, technology, and innovation (STI) is crucial to national development and it is central to achieving the country’s development goals.
It is within this setting that the second Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policy together with its implementation plan were launched in June this 2012. The STI policy plan spelt out some IP rights protection measures to help achieve the six policy goals namely: 1) Strengthen capacity development in STI, 2) Learn and utilise emergent technologies to accelerate development, 3) Accelerate commercialisation of research results, 4) Search for scientific solutions to global environmental challenges, 5) Mobilise resources and popularise science and technology, 6) Foster international collaboration in STI. To complement the IP measures laid out in the second STI policy, the study presents some recommendations.
Aleck Ncube is an Intellectual Property scholar based in Bulawayo. Feedback on 0712374408 Skype: Matintas1 Twitter: @aleckncube Alternative E-mail: [email protected]