Kenya In Drive To Get Artisans, Designers To Embrace IP 13/09/2016 by Maina Waruru 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 — At a market stall in Kariokor some 300 metres from Kenya’s capital Nairobi city centre, Stephen Musyoka is busy at work making covers for handwoven baskets, a traditional sisal fibre shopping basket known as Kiondo made by older women from different communities in Kenya. Women making Kiondo, a traditional Kenyan basket whose patent remains mystery. Photo Courtesy Craftafrika. While it is common knowledge that Kiondo is a Kenyan product produced not just by artists by ordinary women as well, it is widely believed in Kenya that the product was patented in Tokyo, Japan by some entrepreneur, something that is both shrouded in myth and controversy. “I do not care if the basket was patented in Japan or not, all I know is that making covers for the basket gives me an income. In fact, I do not understand all this talk about patents or what they are all about,” Musyoka, told Intellectual Property Watch, his homemade needle in hand as he joins pieces of leather together to make the baskets. Musyoka, like the tens of artisans and creators working at the popular market frequented by foreign tourists, displays little knowledge of intricacies surrounding patents. His statement also captures the widespread apathy and ignorance about intellectual property rights and patents among Kenya’s artefacts makers and designers, who drive this multimillion dollar export-oriented industry. “There is widespread ignorance about IP issues among innovators in the craft and design industry and many people think patenting their creations is either a waste of time or is very expensive,” said Kenneth Ndua, an innovator and social entrepreneur. “There is a lot of art and design work that needs to be protected in Kenya but people do not have reliable information about patents while others have little faith in it believing that either way their work would still be stolen,” he added. Information on IP available to this sector is mostly anecdotal and cannot be relied on to make sound decisions on patents, Ndua said. It is because of this realisation the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) is partnering with non-profit body CraftAfrika, which is commencing a one-year pilot project to catalyse the uptake of IP rights within the artisan and designer sector by addressing the “gaps in the learning and application process.” Under the initiative, CraftAfrika hopes to demonstrate the potential of IP as a business asset in the sector, and create an opportunity for practical understanding and application of the concept. The group seeks to support at least 10 artisans and designers through successful completion of an intellectual property cycle from conception to “monetisation”. “The resulting narratives from this process will form the basis of case studies – content that can be utilised as a point of reference by the larger community to demonstrate not only the process but the value of intellectual property in the artisan and design sector, the group says. The group lists other objectives, such as providing documented evidence of process, points of reference and case studies, and to boost innovator confidence in the sector. A study carried out by the organisation in the country in 2012 showed 42 percent of those polled did not understand IP with a further 38 percent stating it was too expensive with no guarantees on return on investment. A further 14 percent stated it was not an immediate priority, while 6 percent gave no reason when asked why they had not taken conclusive action towards registering their IP, an indication of serious indifference towards the concept. Under the new initiative, named “IP at Work,” selected artisans and designers working on garden/outdoor furniture and accessories, rugs, storage, lighting, table top accessories, jewellery, fashion, soft furnishings, gift items, toys, indoor furniture, wall decoration, bath and body products and accessories will be trained. According to Ndua, some artisans believe that their work would still be stolen even if they patented it while others assumed that registering a patent in Kenya was expensive, while others did not appreciate the value of IP. “Artisans produce a lot of masterpiece work but they think the process of patenting is complicated or has little value and as a result a lot works are stolen and patented abroad,” said the innovator, who has trained other innovators on IP issues. Contrary to popular belief among creators in Kenya, Kenneth says that registering a patent is not expensive, costing less than US$100 to obtain registration and with an additional cost of about US$ 10 each year. All one needs is to pay a small fee to a lawyer to draft an IP protection document and file a patent protection document with the Kenya Intellectual Property Institute (KIPI). He identifies lack of training on IP issues as one of the major reasons for apathy, saying that technical training institutions in the country do not have IP in their curriculum. “Technical institutions and even universities concentrate on teaching technologies placing little importance on IP, while on the other hand students often learn to pass exams and look for jobs,” observed the winner of 2016 Grand Africa Canada innovation award. Strathmore University, a Nairobi-based private institution partners with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to train innovators on IP issues. Others in Kenya who have partnered with WIPO for dissemination of IP knowledge are the Kenya Climate Innovation Centre (KCIC), the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and ICT Innovation Hub (IHUB). Kenyan artwork, according to Nairobi businesswoman Joyce Njeru, is a multimillion dollar sector, raking in tens of millions of dollars for the country each year from exports in Europe. The sector employs not less than half a million people both directly and indirectly, said the trader. She exhibits Kenyan artworks in summer exhibitions throughout Europe and North America. The artefacts are most sought after and exporters make good sales from beadwork, carvings, embroidery, such as Maasai community body accessories popular worldwide. Image Credits: Craftafrika 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) Related Maina Waruru may be reached at email@example.com."Kenya In Drive To Get Artisans, Designers To Embrace IP" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.