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Module III: Managing Intellectual Property
Workshop participants broke into small groups by country (or in some cases grouped by close sub-region) in order to assess national patent laws. Their reports are summarized below, although the information should not be considered authoritative since in many cases, as the participants themselves noted, they were not experts in their nations’ patent laws.
Group One: Niger, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire
In these countries there are no national patent laws per se, only artists’ rights. Patenting law is handled through OAPI, for which there are national offices. Applications and decisions are handled at the national level. There are also no laws for protection of new plant varieties. The problems identified were seen as common among the three nations, and include a lack of information on patenting; no controls on genetic research; low awareness of genetic research; and a lack of incentives for scientists.
Group Two: Liberia
The Liberians were uncertain as to whether patent laws existed; they were not aware of any. However, they reported that patenting is certainly uncommon, and that the culture of innovation in Liberia is such that results tend to get published rather than protected.
Group Three: Ghana
There is a patent office and a copyright office in Ghana. Ghana’s 1982 patent law is based on international treaties, and the country is a signatory to several major treaties. There is currently no national law on plant varieties, but steps are being taken to adopt UPOV. Problems identified include a lack of public awareness of patent benefits (innovations occur but are generally not patented); seed rights are seen as a particularly difficult issue as the country does not wish to restrict its farmers; monitoring and enforcement of property rights is difficult in the predominantly rural communities; and accessing data on patents and patent law is problematic. The group called for more education, including seminars and workshops on patent benefits for scientists and engineers, as well as the teaching of IPR laws at universities (not just law schools); the development of a sui generis regime to address protection of traditional knowledge; and other systematic efforts to document and protect traditional knowledge.
Group Four: Sierra Leone and The Gambia
National laws for patents exist but are archaic and need updating. The Gambia has a new copyright law currently under formulation; neither country has plant breeders’ rights. Problems identified include a low level of awareness of IPR issues in all sectors of society; a lack of local legislation to operationalize treaties to which the countries are a party; and a lack of skilled personnel in the field of patent law. The group called for an awareness-raising effort among policymakers, capacity-building among IPR specialists, legislation to ensure compliance with treaties, and membership for their nations in ARIPO.
Group Five: Nigeria
There are four or five different statutes relating to IPR (for patents, trademarks, copyrights, etc.), administered through various offices, and the country is a party to major international treaties. Problems identified include: old, decentralized, and unnecessarily complicated IPR rules and procedures; exclusion of plants from protection; lack of adequate policy framework for overall strategic planning; lack of IPR awareness in all sectors; and a lack of trained manpower. Suggested solutions included training programs for the legislature focusing on the importance of patent law; an overall review and harmonization of existing laws (by skilled, well-informed reviewers); and the establishment of a centralized administrative body for IPR.
During this session it was also suggested that countries considering the adoption of UPOV should make sure to familiarize themselves with the OAU document on protection of breeders’ rights, which attempts to avoid perceived problems with the 1991 UPOV Act, and protects traditional knowledge and communities.