Intellectual property can be referred to as creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs and symbols, names and images used in commerce. This includes books, codes, music, paintings, photographs and many more. Basically, it’s anything that you have created and that’s unique to you. Intellectual property is a valuable asset that people, especially in developing countries, are coming to realize its significance.
One of the most famous intellectual property cases of our time was the Facebook case where
Mark Zuckerberg was accused of sealing the concept. Long story short, he won the case but was ordered to pay a 65-million-dollar settlement to the claimants because of the many technicalities of intellectual property laws. While this is a great example of how intellectual property works, there have been other absurd ones like when Kylie Jenner trademarked her viral phrase “rise and shine”.
In Kenya, intellectual property is still in its development stages. There are a number of laws to
protect different forms of intellectual property as well as boards to govern these laws. However, with the advancement of technology, these laws don’t seem to work in our favour. Kenya was once caught up in a row with a group of Japanese people who attempted to patent the Kiondo. Though Kenya won the case, the group was still awarded a process patent which allowed them to develop the baskets based on the invention they came up with. Such cases were a wakeup call to enact more comprehensive laws that covers every aspect of intellectual property. As such, the Intellectual Property Bill was proposed early this year and is awaiting enactment.
Another case of Copyright infringement in the Kenyan context was when Photographer Mwarv sued Bonfire Adventures for using his image without consent. Previously, he had sued Easy Taxi and Land Rover over the same, cases which were settled out of court.
Being that as Kenyans, we are quite creative and the risk of having your intellectual property stolen are high. Therefore, it’s necessary to safeguard these inventions with the laws that have been put in place.
Here are some of the ways in which you can protect your intellectual property in Kenya.
1. Know Your Rights
Intellectual property moves fast and your creation is subject to plagiarism as soon as you publish it. Therefore, if you’re created something you, you should register it as soon as possible. This grants you exclusive rights to the creation. Additionally, courts rely on the date the invention was copyrighted, trademarked or patented to determine if you have a case. By delaying, someone could beat you to the punch and you risk losing ownership your creative work.
Copyrights protect some of the most common forms of intellectual property such as movies,
music, videos, paintings etc. All copyrightable works have to be reduced to material form and the author has to prove that its their original work. They’re protected under the Copyright Act and governed by the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO). Copyrights last for a lifetime and 50 years after the death of the owner.
To copyright work in Kenya, you should get the registration form from the KECOBO website or
their offices at 5th Floor NHIF Building – Community on Ngong Road. After filling the forms, they must be commissioned by a Commissioner of Oath. Attach two original copies of your work to the forms then deposit the prescribed fee of Ksh. 1,000 in KECOBO’s bank account or M-PESA account. If you’re paying through M-PESA, the account name will be R/TITLE OF
COPYRIGHT WORK. After that, present the message or deposit slip to the KECOBO reception
who’ll then forward it to the board for approval. The Certificate Of Registration will be issued
after 5-7 days if you’re verified to be the original creator.
Every business, company or brand has a unique design and name that identifies them. These are protected under trademark laws. If another business creates something similar or one that’s likely to confuse the consumers, they’ll have infringed on your rights and are liable to pay for any damages. Trademarks are especially important if you’re in the entertainment and fashion industry. They generally last for 10 years and are renewable after that.
Trademark laws are provided under the Trademarks Act and is governed by Kenya Industrial
Property Institute. To trademark your brand’s identity, start by applying for a search to ensure
the trademark can be registered and that it’s not already trademarked. Once approved, you’ll start the application process by filling in the trademark forms as required. It will then be examined by the registrar of trademarks and if valid, your application will be advertised on KIPI’s journal for 60 days to allow the public to rise any objections if any. If there are no objections, your application will be approved and you’ll be granted the trademark.
Patents cover more complex inventions mainly in the scientific community like mathematic
equations, computer codes and medical formulas. These inventions have to be extremely unique meaning you’re the only one to possibly come up with it. They also have to have utility value.
Patents are governed by the Kenya Industrial Property Institute. They last for 20 years and are
renewable after expiry. You’re required to fill a request form in triplicate and attach a clear description of your invention, a claim that limits the protection such as a similar technology to a previous invention, a drawing of the invention, and an abstract summarizing the invention and its uses.
2. Watermark Your Content
A simple way to protect your intellectual property rights is to watermark your content. If you
produce videos and share them online, they might get duplicated or misused. The watermark lets people know the rightful owner even someone else uses it as their own. You can include your name, logo, URL, or social media handles as proof of ownership.
3. Have A Copyright Policy
Generally, copyright infringement is when someone uses content belonging to someone else
without crediting them. Copyright laws protect some content like artwork, blog posts, and photos whether or not they have been registered. However, automatic copyright protection isn’t fool-proof and it’s tedious to register every photo you take. As such, you can create your own policy that stipulates the extent which you allow people to use your work. You should also include a copyright symbol simply to let people know that it’s your intellectual property.
4. Keep It To Yourself
Be picky about who you tell your ideas to especially in the tech and creative industry. Don’t go
sharing your work with everybody. If you want to brainstorm about an idea, have every person
included in the discussion sign non-disclosure agreements that protect your idea. This will
prevent them from speaking about it in public hence they can’t replicate it.
5. Send A Cease And Desist Letter
If your intellectual property is used illegally, you can send a cease and desist letter to the
offender asking them to stop using it or you’re take legal action. Make sure to be clear about who you are and which property you’re claiming. In the event that the person using your intellectual property does not abide by the letter, sue them for infringing your rights.