KIGALI - Judges and lawyers from the East African Community, USA and other African countries, are meeting in Kigali to discuss the role of the judiciary in the enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) within the region.
While officially opening the three-day conference, the Chief Justice, Aloysie Cyanzayire, observed the significance of enforcing property rights, saying that it is of great economic value.
“Today IP-related commerce is worth an estimated US$ 300 billion worldwide, while some 80 percent of corporate values of the several hundred largest global companies are represented by intangible assets,” she said.
Cyanzayire noted that if laws are properly enforced, this would encourage innovativeness which would enhance the development of the countries.
Recently, Rwanda enacted a law on intellectual property, a move that the Chief Justice said is aimed at strengthening these rights in the country.
“This new law encompasses extensive provisions on enforcement and provides a wide range of powers to the judiciary, police and customs authorities to enforce these rights,” she said.
In an interview, the US Ambassador, Stuart Symington, pointed out that intellectual property rights are fundamental, especially to a growing economy like that of Rwanda.
“When a country is developing economically, you have to protect your ideas because the essence of IP is to preserve the values of those ideas, especially like artists,” Symington said.
Stephen Gardener from the Commercial Law Development Programme in the USA, acknowledged that Africa is still faced with challenges caused by lack of strong IP rights protection measures.
He said that a clear roadmap needs to be set to overcome these challenges.
Trade and Industry Minister, Francois Kanimba, noted that it should not be the exclusive duty of the government to protect these rights, calling for partnership with stakeholders to fight counterfeit products that might even cause harm to health.
Intore Massamba is one of the local artists whose intellectual property rights are infringed by counterfeiters.
“We put in a lot of effort to compose songs, but it hurts when someone plagiarises my work. For example, we pay a lot of money to Rwandan Revenue Authority, but they don’t protect our songs,” Massamba decried.