National intellectual property policy will stimulate commercial growth

The value of IP is founded in its contribution towards the development and sustainable exploitation of human ingenuity and creativity The value of IP is founded in its contribution towards the development and sustainable exploitation of human ingenuity and creativity


By Bemanya Twebaze


Uganda’s success in the knowledge-based economy is critically dependent on effective mechanisms for nurturing innovation and creativity.

On May 27, Cabinet approved the National Intellectual Property Policy to establish an appropriate infrastructure that supports innovation and creativity, develop human capital for the IP value chain, and enhance the utilisation of the IP system.

The value of IP is founded in its contribution towards the development and sustainable exploitation of human ingenuity and creativity.

Trademarks, geographical indications, industrial designs, patents, copyright, and trade secrets can all significantly contribute to enhancing innovation and creativity. The Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) is the National Intellectual Property Office of Uganda and is the office in charge of administering the intellectual property laws.


IP for development

The history of intellectual property (IP) in Uganda dates back to pre-independence when the country inherited the British IP System. For example, the first trademark was registered in 1913 under Britain’s Patents, Designs and Trademarks Ordinance of 1912.

Since then we have witnessed growth in IP registrations and grants through various IP legislations (The Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act 2006, The Trade Secrets Protection Act 2009, The Trademarks Act No.17 of 2010, The Geographical Indications Act 2013, and The Industrial Property Act 2014).

While significant progress has been made in the generation and protection of IP assets, very little has been done with respect to the commercialisation of IP assets. The level of commercialisation of literary works, audio-visual works (e.g. films and music), visual and creative arts through copyright and related IP assets in creative and cultural industries is also disproportionately low.

The extent to which the IP assets are currently exploited in both public and private sectors remains highly constrained, in spite of the Government of Uganda acknowledging intellectual property (IP) as an essential prerequisite for sustainable development.


Business growth through IP

The relevance of IP in promoting sustainable wealth creation, employment creation, and inclusive growth is ingrained in the increasing relevance of IP to key sectors of the national economy, such as agriculture, trade, and industry, science, technology and innovation, ICT, health, tourism, culture, environment and labour. The role of IP in “transforming Ugandan society from a peasant to a modern and prosperous country” is rooted in these dynamic sectors of the economy involving knowledge-intensive activities that are contributing to accelerated scientific, technological, innovative and creative advances.

As Uganda transitions towards a knowledge-based economy, these and other sectors will all progressively depend on access to and use of IP to generate wealth and social good. The more IP becomes central to socio-economic development and wealth creation, the more it will be elevated as a strategic micro and macro-economic tool for inclusive growth.


National IP policy benefits

The core purpose of this National Intellectual Property (IP) Policy is to provide direction on short, medium and long-term activities and interventions that will enable IP stakeholders effectively work together towards creating, protecting and commercially exploiting research results, innovations, new technologies, and creative works.

The policy, therefore, directs the process of mainstreaming the integration of IP into priority national development policies, strategies, and plans, for purposes of contributing to the accelerated realisation of national development goals. The policy will encourage both public and private sectors to recognise and harness the value of IP for the benefit of all Ugandans.

The realisation of Uganda’s Vision 2040 and the Second National Development Plan (NDPII) remains a crucial target. The policy will catalyse transition from an agrarian to a knowledge-based economy; promote IP as a tool for all-inclusive transformation of academia, creative, informal, public and private sectors of the national economy. The policy has a number of strategies to facilitate the enhancement of innovation and creativity, productivity and competitiveness; knowledge-based skills capacity building, technology transfer, and development as well as wealth and employment creation across all sectors of the national economy.

The policy is, therefore, positioned to provide an enabling environment for stimulating innovation and creativity. This will be through the provision of appropriate infrastructure, technological equipment, technology transfer initiatives, funding, and skills development


Public-private partnerships growth

With the national IP Policy in place, creation of comprehensive public and private institutional IP frameworks for administration, protection, commercialization, and enforcement of IP rights, ensuring delivery of quality IP services to all stakeholders will be easy.

It will also act as a guide for adequate IP legislation that encourages increased innovation and creativity; safeguard the equitable balance of the interests of IP right owners, end-users and the general public. The policy will thus provide a conducive environment for effective IP rights enforcement.

Investment into human resource development to encompass teaching of IP across different levels of education, as well as exposure into IP generation skills is a highlight of the Policy.

Academia and research &development institutions, creative industries, individuals, and other elements of the public and private sector stand to benefit from various incentives through this Policy through the promotion of research and development.


The writer is the Registrar General of the Uganda Registration Services Bureau


Published: September 5 2019

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