The Intellectual Property (IP) evolution in Uganda started in 1913 when a first patent was registered. The patent was registered under Britain's Patents, Designs and Trademarks Ordinance of 1912, a piece of legislation that Uganda inherited from the British IP system pre-independence.
Whereas there are different statutes of parliament that govern the different forms of IP, there has been an information gap among stakeholders in the IP community and poor enforcement of rights under the laws. The laws that govern IP rights in Uganda include the Trademarks Act 2010 and the regulations under it, the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act 2006 and its regulations, The Trade Secrets Act 2009 and the Industrial Property Act of 2014 and the regulations thereunder, which repealed the Patents Act Cap 216.
Uganda is a signatory to the international legal regime of IP administered by the World Intellectual Property Organisation.
Different bodies in Uganda are charged with enforcing IP rights, including the Uganda Registration Services Bureau, Collective Management Organisation, Uganda Communications Commission, Uganda National Bureau of Standards, the Customs and Exercise Department and the Judiciary. The existence of many role players who lack awareness and capacity has led to some challenges in enforcement of IP in Uganda. For example copyright infringement is not seen as theft by the infringing public and enforcement has been difficult, court processes are slow due to backlog so significant damage is done before injunctions are secured in cases of infringement , lack of capacity in patent and utility model rights thus taking a lot of time in registration as patents and utility models have to be taken to World Intellectual Property Organisation ( WIPO) or Africa Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) for examination.
On 27 May 2019, the Ugandan Cabinet approved the National Intellectual Property (IP) Policy, the major aim of which is to for stimulate innovation and creativity, attract foreign direct investment and close gaps in the enforcement of IP rights in Uganda.
The policy is formally defined as a set of measures formulated and implemented to encourage and facilitate effective creation development and management of IP assets. It describes approaches towards developing the infrastructure and capacities necessary for enabling inventors and creative industries to protect, develop and exploit their inventions and innovations.
IP includes ideas, inventions, discoveries, trade secrets, processes, programs, data, formulae, patents, copyrights, trademarks and designs, among others, which are common in works of musicians, poets and writers, etc.
According to Cabinet, a strong IP system will encourage economic growth due to advancement in technology. The policy is intended to support the establishment of comprehensive public and private institutional IP frameworks for administering, protecting, commercialising and enforcing rights, thus ensuring delivery of IP services to all stakeholders.
In respect of effective IP rights enforcement, the Cabinet has indicated this will be achieved through building collaborations and strengthening linkages between different IP administrative and enforcement entities. The policy facilitates more active and comprehensive promotion of Intellectual Property awareness through appropriate short training programmes.
It is also intended to generate effective and beneficial linkages between the national and international IP systems, as well as set IP policy direction in regional and international relations.
There is still a limited appreciation of the potential IP has to drive socio-economic development across sectors, from agriculture, trade and industry and science and technology to innovation, ICT, health, tourism, culture, the environment and labour. The Government of Uganda clearly recognises and understands the need to strengthen the national IP system through hands-on interventions, spearheaded by the National IP Policy, which seeks to integrate and mainstream IP into priority national development policies and strategies.
This is a step in the right direction in this era of technological advancement and should help awaken a positive expectation that a strong IP regime will enhance economic development and contribute towards the development and sustainable exploitation of human ingenuity and creativity.
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