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Judges gather in Swakopmund to devise regional intelectual property strategy

Judges gather in Swakopmund to devise regional intelectual property strategy

By Adolf Kaure.

Bemanya Twebaze, the Director General of the regional Intelectual Property organisation, ARIPO, says that it is necessary to raise Intellectual Proporty (IP) awareness to the wider society so that IP enforcement can be effective.

He made these remarks at the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) and the Intellectual Property Rights and Innovation in Africa (AfrIPI) Judges’ Colloquium on Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights in Africa, which recently concluded in Swakopmund.

Various judges and lawyers that handle Intellectual Property (IP) matters in ARIPO Member and Observer States gathered to share experiences and information on IP matters to develop and strengthen IP law in Africa.

“IP infringement in the developing world is perpetrated by ‘innocent’ people who are usually incredulous and surprised to learn that they are committing a crime.”

“IP laws were designed for the public benefit as well as for the benefit of the IP rightsholders – and so is enforcement,” said Twebaze.

The colloquium was held in partnership with the Namibian government, represented by the Business Intellectual Property Authority (BIPA) and the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training (OPDAT) International Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (ICHIP) Africa Program.

The participating states in the Colloquium include Botswana, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Eswatini, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zanzibar, and Zimbabwe.

According to Twebaze, the lack of specialized courts for Intellectual Property infringement in some countries does not help the situation. The significance of the judiciary in the enforcement of intellectual property rights cannot be overemphasized.”

“Your expertise means that disputes can be handled coherently based on past experience so courts do not request to expedite decisions on IP disputes, especially on applications for provisional measures to prevent or stop further infringement of IP rights,” he said.

According to recent statistics by the World Health Organization (WHO), 42% of all counterfeit medicines that were reported to the organization between 2013 and 2017 were identified in Africa.

It is also estimated that each year in Sub-Sahara Africa, 116,000 people lose their lives as a result of using substandard and fake anti-malaria drugs.

Global trade in counterfeit goods is estimated to be worth over US$200 billion annually.

“Further to the foregoing, we have found out that these problems continue to fester because of little cooperation between authorities within and amongst African states; advances in technology and the online marketplace; corruption and bribery; porous borders as well as advances in trade links and investment between Africa and other continents.”

The Colloquium also served as a platform for AfrIPI to discuss the case-law database with the judges and lawyers to ensure that the database remains updated, relevant, and valuable as a source of law in the field of IP.

Speaking as guest of honour, the Minister of Justice, Hon Yvonne Duasab said that the protection of IP rights is key to promoting innovation, as it incentivizes not only innovators, but domestic and foreign investors to invest time and resources into research and development.

This, she said is due to intellectual property being a modern contributor to economic growth and development in Africa, having become a powerful commodity and digital currency, particularly for the digital economy.

“It is common cause that strong IP protection not only protects the creators of IP but also enables businesses to leverage their IP assets, which can lead to job creation, foreign investment, and overall economic growth.”

“However, we must concede that IP enforcement in Africa has been weak, leading to a range of negative consequences, including lost revenue, reduced innovation and increased economic vulnerability.”

“Therefore, it is important for all stakeholders to collaborate and work to ensuring effective IP protection and enforcement, which will contribute to create a conducive business environment that drives innovation and investment.”


The estabishment of the Business and Intellectual Property Authority (BIPA) in 2016 was a significant stride made by Namibia to create a condusive environment for IP rightsholders, users and innovators, especially in recognizing the value of IP protection as a driver of economic growth and development.

The importance of IP case law, which is key in informing IP holders and users on the enforceability of the IP rights granted or registered by ARIPO, was a central theme discussed by the Colloquium.

In addition, the Colloquium provided a platform for existing initiatives to advance IP adjudication in Africa, like the Africa Regional IP Benchbook Project co-facilitated by ARIPO and the ICHIP Africa Program

In Namibia, a comprehensive legal framework has been put in place to protect intellectual property rights.

This framework includes the Industrial Property Act of 2012, that deals with patents, trademark, utility model and industrial design registration and protection, while the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Protection Act of 1994 ventures into the protection of creative industries, notably at that time, the first legal protection for computer software.

Despite these frameworks being put in place, Duasab maintained that more needs to be done to enforce them.

During the workshop, which concluded on 5 May, a network of judges was created by the Colloquium to continue the exchange of cases and developments in IP matters in the region.

Lawyers and judges from ARIPO member states attended the Colloquim on Intelectual Property rights and enforcement in Swakopmund. (Photograph by Adolf Kaure)


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