AN intellectual property is a property in all features the term ‘property’ stands for.
The features which include owning, transferring, offering rights and obligations, violation of rights, remedying in violations are also available in the case of an intellectual property.
The tasks of preservation and protection of property rights are with both the owner of the property rights and the law enforcement agencies (LEAs).
The LEAs carry out their functions of preserving and protecting property rights by adopting prevention and cure methods.
The prevention method is the technique of modern proactive policing that flourishes on the idea that crime should be prevented from taking place in the first place by capacity building and raising social awareness.
This method is made quite useful regarding intellectual property related matters in western countries.
In Zimbabwe, the LEAs’ achievement in proactive policing in the field of intellectual property is not visible although they have a commendable performance in responding to any complaint concerning intellectual property violation.
There is generally lack of awareness among the LEAs and this is partly due to the country’s general economic situation.
Like other property rights, intellectual property rights are also rights enjoyed by private individuals or institutions, the end result of their violation or infringement may also affect the public and state affairs. For example, a fake medicine made by an unlicenced company may cause serious harm to public health, or a gross violation of trademark standards may erect a barrier against foreign direct investment in the country.
The LEAs, as part of state machinery are set to protect intellectual property rights by preventing intellectual property theft.
In performing their duties, the LEAs in other jurisdictions take on the methods of modern proactive policing which focuses on preventing the crime before it happens rather than remedying afterwards.
In addition, intellectual property rights are a kind of stimulus to the creativity of people and this significantly boosts the country’s economic prospects by preserving the rights and engaging and attracting more people into creative works as well as boosting research and development.
Zimbabwe as a member of the international community and as a country that provides a creative environment is firmly committed to assure the intellectual property of creators and inventors is fully protected by ensuring a strong regulatory framework.
As the role of LEAs are to prevent intellectual property theft, discovering and seizure of counterfeit goods, a clear knowledge of national intellectual property regime will help them in their operations. Currently, the agencies respond to a breach of intellectual property only after a complaint is lodged, but the changing nature and the threat of the crime will require, in future, surveillance and taking preemptive action before the crime is committed.
To deal with the multitude modes of intellectual property violations effectively, the members and officers of the LEAs in other jurisdictions usually take special training in intellectual property.
The reason behind the special training is the unconventional character of the intellectual property crimes that are different from any other crimes that the agencies habitually deal with.
Furthermore, as part of the proactive policing, the LEAs are involved with different outreach programmes including awareness-raising initiatives.
This outreach programme which aims to educate and make people aware is largely dependent on its ability to aptly choose the targeted audiences.
In the case of Zimbabwe, if we can make people understand and appreciate the value of intellectual property and motivate their own sense of creativity by rewarding them in some way, we can successfully instill in them, an appreciation of what intellectual property is and why it is important.
This sensitisation will eventually contribute in the reduction of crime in the society at large.
The initiatives to be taken by the LEAs can be divided into two parts:
1. Awareness within Agencies.
2. Public awareness-raising initiatives taken by the agencies.
As intellectual property related crimes are increasing in the country and trans-national threats to intellectual property theft are posing national security risk, the capabilities of the LEAs should also be developed to deal with these crimes.
Members of the LEAs who work directly with intellectual property related issues and other members in general should be educated in intellectual property matters.
They should have a clear understanding of national and international intellectual property laws, and how rights in intellectual property are created and protected through copyright, patent, trademark, and other related rights.
As part of awareness building, the LEAs must arrange periodic training programs aimed at educating their officials in intellectual property.
These training programs may be conducted by internal instructors or with the help from external resource persons.
Additionally, these training programmes can be organised jointly with other public and private authorities to share their experience and expertise in an inter-agency basis.
The agencies may initiate public outreach programmes specifically aiming at intellectual property issues. These initiatives may use standard communication tools such as: campaign, brochure/guides, competitions, exhibitions, helpline, essay competitions, media coverage, school visits, social media etc. The increasing appeal of social media as an effective communication tool can be used by the LEAs to create and grow public awareness in intellectual property issues.
To create awareness about intellectual property crimes, our LEAs can publish information regarding intellectual property rights cases on their website, and the statistics on intellectual property related crimes in a different category rather than “other” category which render it impossible to get any clear picture.
By providing sufficient information of intellectual property as a different category either in office records or in the website, the LEAs can vitally improve their policing consistent with government’s promise to e-governance and citizen’s right to access to information.
In addition, the LEAs must bear in mind that intellectual property rights which are private rights and if these rights are infringed then it will affect the public and state affairs.
In order to ensure effective intellectual property rights regime, the LEAs should adopt the methods of developing intellectual property rights awareness as part of modern proactive policing.