In principle, the Ugandan law protects intellectual property rights.
OPINION | INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
By Robert Ssuuna
After a long day of Study, I Click YouTube to catch my favourite stand-up comedian Tr. Mpamire. After watching a few videos, the next video reads "Hon: Bobi Wine Asomeseza Moze Radio Nabayimbi Abalala!!!!!" Implying "Hon: Bobi wine educates Moze Radio and other artists" published by Rokani Media. At first sight, this must be the usual Kamwokya -Bukoto East Sermon. But watching on, it dawns on me, no political rally nor a congratulatory party for the artist turned politician, matters at hand are pertinent. A group of Ugandan artists /performers are in an unusually formal meeting (no sounds of music), discussing challenges relating to their position, their performance but most importantly their enragement about the relevance of the Uganda's Performing Arts Rights Society (UPRS). The grievances relate to protection of intellectual property rights and balancing both the rights of producers and consumers of music products.
The above issues are not only peculiar to artists or performers. A few years ago, The Coca-Cola Company Limited and Harris International makers of Riham Cola had case of brand infringement settled out of court after arbitral proceedings in the commercial court of Uganda. On the streets, counterfeit products are openly sold ranging from international clothing lines, to electronics, computer software, pharmaceuticals and agricultural inputs.
Economically, these are sources of economic survival for nationals but at the same time they affect those who deal in genuine products and become a disincentive to innovation into new lines on top of discouraging foreign direct investment. To the extreme they are a threat to plant and human health! Economists will argue, that the purchasing power of Ugandans has not risen to a level that can enable us afford genuine products! Is it an issue of political economy? Legal and regulatory framework? Laxity of Stakeholders? No direct answer!
In principle, the Ugandan law protects intellectual property rights. Uganda is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization, a global specialized UN body responsible for encouraging creative activity and to promote the protection of intellectual property. From the link http://www.wipo.int/wipolex/en/profile.jsp?code=UG various laws pertaining IP protection in Uganda are reflected. At the Domestic Level, the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) provides a standardized process for registering each type of intellectual property and allows investors to enforce their rights through the court system, but enforcement remains weak.
Other Agencies include, the Uganda's Commercial Court responsible for hearing intellectual property and trademark cases, The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) standards regulation, the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and the Uganda Police Force (UPF) among others. Therefore missing ingredients are;
Embrace protection of IP first by appreciating that its purpose is not the exclusive benefit or advantage of individuals or corporations, but of the public or community at large through the activities of inventors and creators.
Formulate an Integrated-IP policy: The fragmented IP laws and policies need strategic in-depth analysis and consolidation to inform design of an Integrated IP policy. For instance, the tourism sector for Uganda has various IP components embedded especially such as Traditional Knowledge, Traditional Cultural Expressions and Eco-tourism.
Stakeholder Alliances: Often, IP rights concerns arise amongst actors in the private sector, it is paramount that actors in the private sector supported by the Government form alliances. One such example is the interaction between traditional herbalists and contemporary medicine by THETA Uganda. The alliances, help generate momentum and increased bargaining power to advocate and shape public policy.
The writer is a graduate student of international trade law and trade policy at the Trade Policy Training Centre (TRAPCA)-Arusha Tanzania and Lund University (Sweden). Email: email@example.com.