Intellectual property rights are rights granted to exclusive use of creative ideas. This allows creators to claim ownership and profit from their ideas. Protection of intellectual property rights can often be overlooked when setting up a business. Many businesses often fail to or postpone protection of their brand, business ideas and/or processes due to lack of awareness or cost.
With the accelerated rate of development of technology, it is becoming more important for creators to seek protection for their intellectual property. Intellectual property is now considered a commercial asset capable of generating significant revenue, and in most cases, specifically for technology companies, it is the main objective around which companies are incorporated and eventually scale up.
In Kenya, there are different types of intellectual property namely:
- Trademarks: refers to a sign used to distinguish the goods or services of one person or organization from those of others in the market place. It can be in a word, a symbol, a design, or a combination of these.
- Copyrights: are used to protect the expression of creative ideas, and gives ownership and the rights to use and distribute the expression of creative ideas. Examples of the expression of creative ideas include books, video, motion pictures, musical compositions and computer programs.
- Patents: are used to protect an invention, a product, or a process that provides a solution to a specific problem in the field of technology. It should be new, innovative, useful and no prior use.
- Industrial designs: According to industrial property Act 2001, an industrial design is defined as “any composition of lines or colors or any three-dimensional form whether or not associated with lines or colors, provided that such composition or form gives a special appearance to a product of industry or handicraft and can serve as pattern for a product of industry or handicraft”. An industrial design is concerned only with the outward appearance (eye appeal) of articles as defined by their shape, configuration, pattern or ornament. An industrial design DOES NOT protect the method of construction or the function of the article.
- Utility Models: refer to any form, configuration or disposition of element of some appliance, utensil, tool, electrical and electronic circuitry, instrument, handicraft mechanism or other object or any part of the same allowing a better or different functioning, use, or manufacture of the subject matter or that gives some utility, advantage, environmental benefit, saving or technical effect not available in Kenya before.
- Traditional Knowledge: This is a new type of intellectual property that has been introduced to specifically address protection of traditional knowledge associated with indigenous and local communities practicing traditional lifestyles and their traditional cultural expressions.
How to Protect your intellectual property in Kenya
In Kenya, you can protect intellectual property through registration. Trademarks, patents, Industrial designs, utility models and traditional knowledge can be registered through application with the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI). Copyrights are registered through application with the Kenya Copyright Board.
Why is it important to protect your intellectual property?
As mentioned, intellectual property is rapidly becoming a marketable and profitable asset for most businesses. There are several advantages and benefits to be gained from protecting intellectual property:
- Proof of ownership: Given that all forms of intellectual property are intangible assets they may be difficult to protect. Following successful registration of most intellectual property the owner is issued a certificate of registration as proof of ownership and control. This allows the owner to assert their legal right to use and distribute without any risk of infringement.
- Valuable asset to the company: With proof of ownership established, owners of intellectual property, specifically technology business es can allocate value to their intellectual property which in turn increases the valuation of a company.
- Commercial asset that can gain revenue: In most cases, different forms of intellectual property can be distributed through licensing for a fee respectively a royalty, which creates an opportunity to generate reincurring income. In addition, business use their intellectual property as a marketing tool to create brand awareness and brand association with their products with the goal of increasing sales revenues.
- Assertion of right in case of infringement: where there is an alleged infringement of intellectual property rights and a business would like to assert their right of ownership, a claim of infringement is easier proved where there has been registration of the intellectual property and there is proof of such ownership.
How can we help
At Agema Analysts, we advise companies on various forms of intellectual property rights, help ventures to develop effective and prudent brand strategies across markets and advise on robust IP rights protection mechanism meeting clients’ immediate, midterm and long-term needs. Please get in touch with our advisor Elizabeth Omol for further consultation.