Intellectual Property Rights and the Protection of Africa's Traditional Knowledge

Intellectual Property Rights and the Protection of Africa's Traditional Knowledge

Benjamin Enahoro Assay (Delta State Polytechnic – Ogwashi-Uku, Nigeria)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2095-5.ch007
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This chapter examines the media, intellectual property rights and the protection of Africa's traditional knowledge in the digital age. It reviews literature on intellectual property, intellectual property rights, the various forms of intellectual property rights and the misappropriation and infringement on intellectual property rights, traditional knowledge, and media in digital age. The chapter provides perspectives on the issues and controversies on the non-protection of traditional knowledge within the existing frameworks of IP system and rules. It points out that the products of Africa's traditional knowledge are in dire need of protection against global competitors and therefore urges African governments to take advantage of the IP rules to negotiate with industrialized countries for the protection of their products. The chapter called for the enactment of tougher legislations to halt the menace of counterfeiting and digital piracy and deliberate use of the media to promote the products. It also made some recommendations that would help Africa defend its IP.
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Globalization, an economic phenomenon, resulting in trade and business, has made the task of properly handling intellectual property rights on the international scene a sine quan non. The protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPRs) have therefore become a topical issue within the context of international law and trade in most developed and developing countries of the world.

In a general sense, intellectual property rights are property rights in something intangible that protect innovations and reward innovative activity (US Council for International Business, 1985, p. 3). IPRs comprise a bundle of rights focusing on the physical manifestations of intellectual activity in a field of human endeavour. Intellectual property rights are concerned with the expression of an idea for an invention, the details of which have been worked out and which takes the form of a product or process that can be applied industrially (Kameri-Mbote, 2005, p. 1).

In the protection and enforcement of these rights, it is worrisome to note that there is a wide disparity in the level of progress recorded between the rest of the world and Africa. While the rest of the world have moved steps ahead in protecting what is known as the intangible value of its production, African governments are yet to take determined steps to secure IP rights for their countries’ products; which are created through traditional knowledge; and therefore qualify as African brands.

African governments have over the years failed to vigorously pursue the enforcement of agreed IP rights and take full advantage of negotiated flexibilities in the emerging global rules on intellectual property. This largely explains why the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the laws in individual African countries on trade marks, patents and copyright have no practical effect on the continent. Amid the growing deliberate neglect of strict enforcement of IP rules, they have continued to encourage counterfeiting and piracy of products. Almost everything (electronics and softwares; shoes and perfumes; films and music; books, phones and watches) in the continent is pirated, and these pirated products keep the informal sector going but stymied the growth of most African countries economy.

The counterfeit trade is well organized and is booming as the producers of the real fakes are ever willing to copy the latest collections within days of their launching. The International Anti-counterfeiting Coalition estimates that the cross border trade in counterfeit products will have a value of $1.8trn in 2015. Youths in almost every African capital are deeply involved in the pirated goods business (Gappa, 2015, p. 24). Africans are the end users and the middlemen in the counterfeit trade. Aside from local music and DVDs, they are usually not the creators of the products.

In every society where they exist, the media serve as sources of information and ideas for the large number of people consuming their messages. They are central in the provision of ideas and images which people use to interpret and understand a great deal of their everyday experience. The provision of information and education through the media is essential to efforts to create awareness of intellectual property rights issues and their relation to socio-economic development.

The challenges the lack of protection and enforcement of IP rights pose to African economies is enormous, but this chapter carries an optimistic note that the continent stands a lot to benefit if it decides to strictly enforce national laws on copyright, patent and trademarks and defend its intellectual property.

This chapter thus examines the media, intellectual property rights and the protection of Africa’s traditional knowledge in the digital age. The objectives of the discussion are as follows:

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