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Wednesday, 02 October 2019 09:25

Uganda delegation attends 2019 WIPO Conference


Uganda delegation led by the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Hon. Maj Gen. Kahinda Otafiire joined other delegates from the World Intellectual Property’s  192 member states to consider a range of work on issues related to Intellectual Property, the bedrock for economic policy in a globalized, technology-driven world.

Decisions taken by Member State delegates at the WIPO Assemblies bolster the global intellectual property (IP) framework, the future of innovation and creativity and WIPO’s role in promoting the economic, social & cultural development of all countries.

The Uganda delegation emphasized that in a globalized economy, WIPO will continue to play an important role in achieving balanced rules of intellectual property protection, and noted that Uganda will continue to invest in the use of IP to realize the national development goals.


Source: Bemanya Twebaze (via LinkedIn)


Published: Oct. 2 2019

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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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By Bemanya Twebaze


The use of marks or symbols as a means to identify the source of goods is an old tradition which is attributed to the evolution of trademarks or branding. In today’s dynamic and competitive business environment, branding is not just about putting out symbols, logos and names on various media platforms. It is a gradual process of building an emotional attachment with customers in the market place. 

A business enterprise needs to provide consumers with a memorable positive impression and impactful experience in its brand communication. How a business positions itself in the market place determines its brand value. Branding should be one of the core aspects of a business strategy in order to achieve a competitive edge. The fact that brands create value for a business, they are essential intangible assets which must be protected from infringement.

It is very important to note that until a brand is registered as a trademark, you cannot be certain of ownership. Using an unregistered trademark makes it more susceptible to trademark violation. Although violation is actionable in court, it is more cumbersome to prove unregistered marks than in a case of infringement of a registered trademark.

For a business to avoid costly litigation, it is advisable to register its trademark. This enables adequate control and ownership of a brand to a business. Trademark registration also helps protect one’s business against counterfeits and also compels a business owner to create quality products that reflect the business brand and ensure customer loyalty. 

In Uganda’s economy, trademark registration comes in handy for startups of small and medium enterprises. According to a research done by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and published in August 2018, SME’s account for 90% of the private sector. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been identified as the engine of growth of the Ugandan economy spread across all sectors such as the service sector, commerce and trade, manufacturing among others. 

Despite their major role in our country’s economy, there are a number of barriers which affect SMEs in doing business including lack of knowledge of opportunities in foreign markets and lack of funds. Part of the problem could also be limited to awareness about the Trademark system amongst the SME’s.

Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) in an effort to mitigate some of the barriers which hamper the growth of SMEs has since engaged small, medium and large players in business through collaboration with Uganda Manufacturers Associations (UMA), Kampala City Trader's Association (KACITA), Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Limited (UWEAL), Uganda Small Scale Industries Association (USSIA) among others, with focus on formalization of businesses through trademark registration. Previously the Trademarks register was filled largely by foreign applications, but during financial years 2016/2017- 2017/2018 we have seen an increase in the number of trademarks registered by local businesses.

In a bid to enlighten business on the value of registering their trademarks, URSB held a sensitization workshop that attracted over 180 participants from SMEs creating awareness on the value of branding and managing their Intellectual Property assets as a tool to enhance the competitiveness of their businesses. For SMEs striving to curve a niche in the market, protection of intellectual property assets like trademarks must inform the business strategy yet businesses have been slow to exploit this. 

Trademark registration is done at URSB through a simplified process that can be accessed on various information dissemination platforms. Local businesses need to critically work on addressing protection of their brands to safeguard their trade marks. Distinction of one’s business from the competition is that unique identifier that customers need to see. 


The writer is the Registrar General  / Twitter @BemanyaT


Published: April 5, 2019

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GENEVA - Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Hon. Maj. Gen. (RTD). Kahinda Otafiire, has told the 2017 General Assembly of the World Intellectual Property Organization that protection of Traditional Knowledge and the country’s genetic resources, from misappropriation, is a key ingredient of Uganda’s  National Intellectual Property strategy for promoting creativity and innovation amongst its indigenous peoples and local communities to promote access to alternative health care, food security, preservation of biodiversity and sustainable development.” Hon Otafiire who is leading Uganda’s delegation to the Assemblies, emphasized the contribution of Traditional knowledge systems to the social and economic development of Uganda.

Member States of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and its decision-making bodies are meeting this week, in Geneva Switzerland, from 02 – 11 October 2017, with the hope of reaching a decision to convene a high-level meeting (diplomatic conference) to conclude a potential international instrument(s) or Treaty, in 2019 aimed at preventing the misappropriation of genetic resources, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions. African countries are primary beneficiaries of this treaty. This is because the modern intellectual property system does not, neither adequately protect traditional knowledge systems nor local inventions based on genetic resources/traditional cultural artifacts/materials.

In his statement, Hon Otafiire told the Assembly that a potential treaty to protect genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore, at the international level is a priority issue for Uganda in the WIPO. Traditional knowledge systems in Uganda have long been used to ensure access to alternative medicines (e.g. herbalists), promote sustainable agricultural production and conserve the environment. He concluded by urging Member States to negotiate in a transparent and cooperative manner and with good faith to ensure that a diplomatic conference to negotiate a treaty to prevent misappropriation of Genetic resources in 2019.

The WIPO has been a key development partner for Uganda in the field of intellectual property undertaking technical assistance activities to encourage innovation and protection of intellectual property including; technical support to Uganda in upgrading and maintenance of the Intellectual Property Automated System (IPAS); training and capacity building for human resources; support in the form a regional workshop on intellectual property and Traditional Knowledge for economic development.

WIPO member states have a daunting task to negotiate the renewal of the mandate of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC), which expired in June 2017. The IGC has always held a renewable two-year mandate since it commenced text based negotiations in 2009.  It will be particularly important for African countries, as key demanders for protection of genetic resources and traditional knowledge to ensure that the General Assembly agrees to convene a diplomatic conference to conclude a treaty in 2019. 

The WIPO General Assembly will also decide, among other things: approving the program and budget of the organization for the 2018/2019 biennium; on furthering discussions for potential treaties to protect broadcasting organizations (the Broadcast Treaty), and; simplifying the international applications for industrial designs - the Design Law Treaty (DLT).

In other discussions, the WIPO General Assembly will discuss reports from various committees. At the WIPO General Assembly each committee reports on its activities over the past year. Of particular importance to Uganda and other developing countries is the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP) as well as the Committee on the law of Patents. The committee is responsible for implementation of the 2007 WIPO Development Agenda by ensuring that development aspects are streamlined in all WIPO’s work including the Programme and budget. The last session of the Committee tasked the organization to ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals are fully streamlined in WIPO’s activities. 

In a related development, On Monday 02 October 2017, several officers were elected to various offices. Uganda’s Mr. Bemanya Twebaze, the Registrar General of Uganda Registration Service Bureau, was elected the President of the Paris Union Assembly, and Ambassador Christopher Onyanga Aparr, Permanent Representative  of Uganda to the United Nations Office in Geneva, has been serving as the Second Vice Chairman of the Coordination Committee. 


Source: Uganda Mission to the United Nations, Geneva | Published: October 5 2017


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