Experts call for autonomous Intellectual Property office

The Rwandan government is being advised to create an independent, standalone office responsible for managing all Intellectual Property (IP) matters to help innovators benefit from their inventions.

The advice is one of the recommendations given to the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MINICOM) yesterday at a workshop organised by the ministry to collect ideas that will be used in designing the country’s next Intellectual Property Policy.

With the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) currently in charge of intellectual property registration while different ministries are also in charge of regulating innovation in different sectors, experts recommended that Rwanda’s IP regulators and promoters remain scattered.

They recommended that a specialised body be set up in the future to coordinate and manage all IP matters.

Nadine Bwiza, the Chief Executive Officer of the Rwandan Society of Authors (RSAU), a collective management organisation for artists, said that setting up an independent body in charge of promoting intellectual property will be critical for raising awareness about innovators’ rights and help address their challenges.

“Setting up the institution is a good idea because it can help us to have one contact person to report to in case we want certain issues to be resolved,” she said.

Grégoire Hategekimana, a lawyer and legal consultant with Ishyo Arts Centre in Kigali, said that one specialised body to take care of intellectual property issues will help address the issues of lack of coordination that are currently found in the IP sector.

“The centre can help people work in a more organised way. With that centre in place, people can have one contact person to go to in case they have issues and the centre can help to promote innovators,” he said in an interview with The New Times.

Officials at MINICOM say that the country’s existing IP policy needs to be revised in order to better promote and protect innovation that is crucial for driving a knowledge-based economy.

The Minister for Trade and Industry, Vincent Munyeshyaka, said that the country’s next IP policy should emphasise the need to have one single institution that coordinates IP policies as well as one independent body in charge of implementing the policy.

He welcomed the idea of setting up a standalone IP office in the country, arguing that the office has to be a specialised institution that needs to be separated from other institutions.

“We need to have one-stop-centre office. This is a very specialised institution and mixing it with institutions with other agendas is not a good idea for Rwanda,” he said.

The proposed IP policy seeks to revise the existing intellectual property policy which was adopted by the Government in 2009.

Officials at the ministry said that the revised policy will expand the current policy framework for the protection of intellectual property rights in Rwanda and provide the basis for a stronger institutional framework to manage the field.


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