MINICOM to step up efforts to protect intellectual property
Despite the existence of policies and laws regarding protection of intellectual property, the ministry of trade and industry argues that intellectual property is still at the mercy of pirates.
In a 2-day workshop last week, the ministry and participants who included artists, public officials and civil society delegation exchanged ideas on mechanisms they should opt for in promoting awareness on intellectual property. The aim is to help artists to draw benefit from their work.
“As long as artists are not aware of their rights and how to protect them, we will continue to have this problem”, noticed Francois Kanimba, the Minister of Trade and Industry. “It is considered a crime to infringe on a person’s intellectual property, but in developing countries we are sorely lacking in the enforcement of this law.”
Narcisse Raphael Mitali, commonly known as Natty Dread, complained his work has always been pirated and therefore applauded the initiative taken by MINICOM and the government of Rwanda as it will help artists to develop.
“You can never hope to get any benefits when your art becomes the property of everyone without your knowledge,” he pointed out.
A lack of protection of intellectual property is a nuisance not only for individuals but also for the country as a whole when it comes to its traditions. “African countries are rich in traditional knowledge,” explained Getachew Mengistie, intellectual property consultant from the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO). “The trouble is that not enough is done to identify that unique knowledge and to protect it.”
This results in the misappropriation of cultural traditions like the costumes, objects like the Rwandan basket ‘agaseke’ and some agricultural products that other individuals use without the permission, knowledge or even acknowledgement of the owners of the culture and producers.
“That is when you find our countries robbed of the profit they could make from their national heritage and traditions,” Mengistie warned.
In reply, Francois Kanimba remarked that efforts will be stepped up to sensitize Rwandans more on the importance of intellectual property and ways to protect it. As for the intellectual property of the country as a whole, MINICOM will conduct research to identify the traditions that are part of the national heritage so they can be protected against low-quality and falsified copies on the market.
“It’s not just a legal issue; intellectual property is the engine of our development, so it should be at the center of it,” Kanimba pointed out.