Saturday, 17 September 2016

IP in Africa: a golden opportunity to make an impact?

Thanks to Managing Intellectual Property, support for intellectual property education in Africa has been given quite an airing this week. The journal's blog carried this feature by Kingsley Egbuonu on how a treasure trove of over 800 IP practitioner and text books found their way from Holborn, London, to Africa University, Zimbabwe, where the WIPO/ARIPO IP masters programme is held. 

Despite its vast size, reserves of valuable raw materials and potential for growth, Africa is regrettably remote from almost every sort of large-scale intellectual property activity. Indeed, even mythical creatures such as trolls and unicorns have featured more regularly on this weblog than the so-called Dark Continent, though it is teeming with youthful vigour, creativity and enthusiasm.

This blog team is delighted that so many intellectual property tomes have found their way to a destination where such resources are in short supply -- but books, of and by themselves, do not constitute an education.  Without regular contact and exchanges of ideas at governmental, corporate and personal levels, all the literature in the world will change nothing. 

The importance of establishing ongoing input into the way our African colleagues perceive and use intellectual property rights is not limited to routine commercial and legal matters like registration, licensing or infringement.  It extends to the aspects of IP that don't get so much publicity since they feature little or not at all in statutes, law reports, case notes and journal articles. Here we refer to topics such as portfolio management and strategic IP planning, due diligence, securitisation, tax-efficient royalty planning and, since we are now in the 21st century, the use of IP analytics in assembling and interpreting the information that is necessary or at least helpful in doing so much of this.

Where IP practice is not as extensive or as conceptually entrenched as it now is in the Americas, Europe and much of the Asia-Pacific zone, the printed literature we send and the ideas we raise may at least be received by colleagues whose minds are still open, who can conceive of doing things differently and who may be more amenable to the many advantages that can be obtained by combining publicly available patent and other IP data with the powerful software that permits its interpretation and visualisation.

If you have any books that you would like to donate to law libraries in Africa, please contact Kingsley Egbuonu

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