How Kenya Industrial Property Institute Protects Creatives

Mr. Sylvance A. Sange, Acting Managing Director, Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI)

Mr. Sylvance A. Sange, Acting Managing Director, Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) discusses how the institution protects the creative industry in Kenya.  Here below is an abridged version of the conversation with Edge Magazine.

EM: Give us a brief introduction on KIPI and its mandate?

Sange: Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) is the State Corporation under the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives, which was established on 2nd May 2002 upon the coming into force of the Industrial Property Act 2001.

Previously the Institute existed as Kenya Industrial Property Office (KIPO), which was established in February 1990 after enactment of the Industrial Property Act CAP 509 of the Laws of Kenya.

The Institute’s core functions are:-

(i) Examine applications for and grant industrial property rights for:-

-Patents for inventions;

-Utility Models for innovations;

-Industrial Designs for aesthetic features of products; and

-Trade and Service Marks for source identification of goods and services.

(ii) Provide technological (IP) information to the public;

(iii) Promote inventiveness and innovativeness in Kenya;

(iv) Screen technology transfer agreements and licenses; and

(v) Organise and conduct training, competition and awards in IP.

It is, therefore, in charge of implementing two Acts- the Industrial Property Act, which deals with Patents, Utility Models and Industrial Designs, and the Trademarks Act Cap 506, which deals with registration of Trade and Service marks.

EM: How do you work with inventors to protect their creation?

Sange: The key issue is awareness.  Intellectual property offers a variety of forms of protection for different subject matter and creatives, innovators and researchers need to know both what form of protection is available in their area of interest as well as how to make use of it.  Likewise, innovators need to know that not all ideas and innovations qualify for protection under our laws, especially while they are still at an abstract stage.

Local innovators should be ready to take the necessary steps to protect their assets by contacting KIPI on issues related to trade marks, industrial designs, utility models and patents or to seek help from other relevant bodies for other forms of IP.  In this regard, we already work with many institutions of higher learning as well as individual innovators, including young ones, to educate them on the whole process.

There is a growing awareness regarding the importance of protecting intellectual property rights with the number of local businesses coming forward, for instance, to register their brands, steadily growing.  However, the economic potential is not fully appreciated by local businesses.

As KIPI, we have instituted a number of initiatives aimed at creating awareness and encouraging local entrepreneurs to protect their rights. Besides building our human resource capacity through recruitment of staff with necessary skills and training all our employees to empower them, we have also made efforts to enlighten the public by interacting with them through:-

  1. a) Informing through the media like we are doing in this article;
  2. b) Shows, exhibitions & trade fairs, county investment conferences;
  3. c) Seminars, workshops and conferences;
  4. d) Industrial visits;
  5. e) Students’ science congresses;
  6. f) Publications and brochures;

(g)      An online presence at and the use of social media;

EM: What is the benefit of protecting an invention or trade mark?

 Sange:  Like any other form of property, intellectual property can be immensely valuable to its owners as well as to the economy at large if well protected and harnessed.

Individual owners have the option of utilizing the intellectual property that they create themselves, licensing it out to others in exchange for royalties or selling (assigning) their rights to other entities at a fee.  Owners, therefore, need to determine for themselves the appropriate strategy that they will adopt.  In such instances, the monetary benefit derived will depend on the value attached to the intellectual property by the market.

The economy, on the other hand, will benefit as a result of the enhanced competitiveness of the products and services being offered to consumers.  More competitive industries mean more jobs.   Increased efficiency in production as a result of new processes should also lead to lower costs, which can then be passed on to consumers.  Consumers thus benefit from a wider selection of goods and services of better quality being offered at a lower price.

As a country, Kenya appreciates the value of IP and this is why it has developed a vibrant and comprehensive legal and institutional framework to protect, facilitate and promote intellectual property rights.

By so doing, we provide an enabling environment for individuals, research organisations and businesses to invest their resources –time, money and human capital – to develop new innovations and inventions because they are sure they will be safeguarded.

EM: In case of a dispute for a creation/invention or trade mark, how can one settle?

 Sange:  There is a growing awareness regarding the importance of protecting intellectual property rights with the number of local businesses coming forward, for instance, to register their brands, steadily growing. With this increased awareness, there has been an equally growing realisation among many IP rights owners on the need to protect their rights, including taking legal action whenever they deem third parties have infringed on them.

The Courts are the right forum for enforcement of IP rights. KIPI is only mandated to grant IP rights. It is the duty of the IP owner to police the market and take necessary action to enforce their rights through the courts or other bodies such as:

  • The Industrial Property Tribunal (for patents, industrial designs and utility model rights),
  • The Anti Counterfeit Agency; and
  • The Department of Weights and measures (false trade description).

It should also be noted the term “intellectual property” is a broad terminology for the following types of rights:

  1. Patent rights that deals with protection of inventions. Patents are granted by KIPI under the Industrial Property Act, 2001;
  1. Utility Model rights that deals with protection of innovations. Utility model rights are granted by KIPI under the Industrial Property Act 2001;
  1. Industrial design rights that deal with protection of shapes and ornamental aspects of products of industry. Designs are granted by KIPI under the Industrial Property Act 2001;
  1. This is a recognition certificate given by an employer to an employee where the employee provides a solution to a specific problem within the company;
  1. Trade Mark rights that relate to signs and symbols for distinguishing goods and services of different enterprises. Trademarks are registered by KIPI under the Trade Marks Act;
  1. Copy rights and related rights, administered by the Kenya Copyright

Board (KECOBO) under the Copyright Act 2001, and also by collective management organizations (CMOs) such the Music Copyright Society (MCSK), KOPIKEN and performers ‘ rights society of Kenya (PRISK);

  1. Plant Breeders rights administered by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS); and
  1. Trade secrets/confidential information. A trade secret is Company’s information that is not generally known to the public and confers economic benefit on its holder and of which the owner has taken measures to keep it secret. An example is the Coca-Cola recipe. If a trade secret is stolen or acquired through illegal means, the owner can seek remedy in Court.

It should be noted that while copyright protection is given automatically upon the copyright work being reduced to material form, for patents, designs, trademarks and plant breeders rights ownership is acquired through registration.

EM: Any emerging trend in the industry?

Sange: In this era of the information age, IP protection has become complex in the fields of:-

  • Biotechnology;
  • Image rights particularly in the area of IP and sports; and
  • Genetic engineering.