Kenya Takes Steps To Enhance Intellectual Property Awareness 12/01/2016 by Justus Wanzala for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)NAIROBI, Kenya — The government of Kenya has inaugurated a board to steer the Kenya National Innovation Agency (KNIA), which is charged with increasing awareness of intellectual property rights among investors, universities, research institutions and the general public. The move comes as experts have offered gloomy views on the IP situation in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa. Kenya’s Education Cabinet Secretary Dr. Fred Matiang’i consulting with the Director National Commission for Science and Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI) Dr. Moses Rugutt at Laico Regency Hotel, Nairobi during the official opening of Science, Technology and Innovation whose theme was ‘Unleashing Innovation Clusters, Hubs and Parks as Drivers of Africa’s Transformation’, 2 December 2015 The board which was appointed by the immediate former Kenyan cabinet secretary for Education, Science and Technology, Jacob Kaimenyi, also has the responsibility of monitoring, forecasting and maintaining a database of the latest and future global technology. Reuben Marwanga, director of the School of Mechanical and Process Engineering, Kenya Technical University, will chair the board, whose secretariat is yet to be operational. The agency was formed through an Act of Parliament in 2013. Other objectives of the agency, which will operate under the Ministry of Education Science and Technology, include development in the areas of science, technology and innovation. Marwanga holds a PhD in industrial engineering and was appointed on 26 October 2015 to head the board. KNIA’s responsibility for creating awareness about intellectual property among Kenyans is also crucial because the board’s wider mandate includes creating synergies among different technological innovations, and incubation initiatives for diffusion of technology in Kenya. The appointments come at a time when there is a sharp focus on the state of intellectual property regime in Kenya. Expert assessment of the state of affairs for IP in Kenya paints a gloomy picture. Many experts are of the perception that much has to be done for the country to achieve desired results. According to Mosses Rugutt, chief executive officer, National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation, the IP regime in Kenya is not well developed. His revelation came while addressing a University Education Symposium hosted by the Commission for University Education through Thomson Reuters sponsorship on 7 December in Nairobi. Rugutt said universities applying for patents usually do not know their real (product) value. “We’ve directed that each university and research institution have a research management unit to offer guidance” said Rugutt. Those sentiments are underscored by Maurice Bol of Scinnovent Centre, a policy research organisation focusing on science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. While speaking about the trends in patenting innovations and technologies in Kenya, he noted that IP protection can enable universities generate revenue. Bol cited a recent study by the Scinnovent Centre which sought to investigate the industrial property landscape in Kenya. It found that although Kenya has seen some growth in terms of patent applications and grants, the contribution is still negligible, compared to the worldwide patent applications. According to the study, titled, “Stuck on the road to the market,” scores poorly in terms of harnessing its intellectual capital, fostering innovations, and commercialising its research products. He revealed that only 2,388 patents were filed in the period 1990 – 2013, with more than half of applications being filed by companies and not research centres and universities.The study obtained data from the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI). Bol proposed that intensive education and awareness on the criteria for protection under the various categories (patents, utility models and industrial designs) is required. He added that there is need for the institutional support to be provided for local applicants as well financial support for local inventors to obtain IP protection among other incentives. Chief, New Technologies And Innovation Section, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Mr Kasrim Nwuke speaks at Laico Regency Hotel Nairobi during the official opening of Science, Technology and Innovation Like Rugutt, Bol observes that it is time Kenyan universities put in place an IP policy. “Only one Kenyan institution of higher learning has an IP policy. Patents should also be considered the way publications do in promotion and remuneration of lecturers,” he noted. For his part, Zulfaqar Dhudia, an intellectual property specialist at Thomson Reuters, noted that Kenya has been losing out on intellectual property. “The country has a low IP awareness and the way it is generated is not sustainable. There is need for research institutions and universities to have innovation ambassadors to assess research to determine research products suitability for patent protection,” he told the forum. Dhudia reiterated the importance of IP to academia, noting that 60 percent of information required for academic research is found in patent literature. He lamented that Kenya has limited capacity in people who can provide patent drafting/application services. “Patent and IP protection should be qualitative in nature,” he added. As a solution to improvement of the intellectual property regime in Kenya, he suggested that the country ape South Africa, which has an intellectual property fund to assist public institutions with 50 percent of the cost of applying for patents. The funds, however, are not granted to individuals and private institutions. Chrispine Odhiambo, a private consultant on IP issues, said intellectual property has not been fully appreciated in Kenya. According to him the issue is not considered a priority due to poor enforcement. “We need to build awareness as well as increase funding to ensure local IP protection,” Odhiambo said at the Kenya Commission for University Education Symposium in Nairobi. He added that another reason why IP issues are ignored is because of the cumbersome, expensive and tedious process of applying for patents. According to him, the process should be made easier and affordable. “Innovations funds should be availed to young researchers to enable them register their innovations,” he stated. He said the situation in Kenya obtains is similar to what is happening in many African countries. “There is great potential in Africa but unfortunately knowledge harnessing is being done by outsiders,” he pointed out. He added IP offices are required in all research centres, innovation hubs and higher education institutions. Yet still, IP issues were given prominence during the second Senior Experts Dialogue on Science, Technology and Innovation and the African Transformation Agenda forum held in Nairobi on 2 December. WIPO Weighs In At the forum, whose theme was “Innovation Hubs, Clusters and Parks and Africa’s Transformation,” Joyce Banya from the World Intellectual Property Organization Regional Bureau’s Development Sector said science, technology and innovation cannot be divorced from intellectual property. IP is indispensable for transforming knowledge into assets, she said. Banya emphasised the need for developing of an institutional framework to support the protection of intellectual property, adding that most IP institutions in Africa are weak and thus need support. African countries, she said, need support to design national laws for effective exploitation of IP systems. “Intellectual property laws in place date back to 1950s. They have not been revised to suit modern times, especially patent laws,” said Banya. But as Kenya takes the first steps that could see awareness on intellectual property improve, lack of enough experts with knowledge of IP issues can undermine its noble initiative. Emannuel Sackey, chief examiner, African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO), concurred with Dhudia that lower generation of patents which has characterised Africa since 2003 is due to lack of IP experts. He said the situation has compelled them to focus on capacity building by offering a masters degree in intellectual property in Zimbabwe, and to soon establish a presence in East Africa at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. For Marwanga and the rest of the Kenya National Innovation Agency board membership, their work is cut out for them. 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