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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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