Intellectual property governance in Africa
Intellectual property (IP) matters – which generally cover patents, copyrights and related matters, industrial designs, trademarks, geographical indications (GIs), utility models, trade secrets, and plant breeders’ rights – have become increasingly important, economically and politically, in developing countries. Accordingly, laws (and policies) have been developed to safeguard the rights of owners and public interests in accessing inventions as well as to encourage innovation and creativity.
The willingness to protect and strengthen IP rights stems from the fact that it is believed to play a crucial role in social, economic and technological development. However, debate exists as to whether IP protection actually does promote development. Some countries (mostly developed economies) advocate for strong IP laws based on the presumption that they stimulate innovation and economic growth, while other countries (mostly developing economies) counter the argument by pointing out that strong IP laws give developed countries an unfair competitive advantage and create onerous costs for poor (both developed and developing) countries in accessing medicines or technologies invented in developed countries.
This working paper provides a general summary of the existing international and regional frameworks governing IP that are of relevance to Africa. The aim is to cover the recognised standards on IP with a view to determining African countries’ binding – or legally enforceable – rights and obligations at both global and regional levels. The paper also seeks to reveal some of the opportunities or potential benefits available for African countries in the current global and regional IP frameworks.
Readers are encouraged to quote and reproduce this material for educational, non-profit purposes, provided the source is acknowledged. All views and opinions expressed remain solely those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the views of tralac.
* A user account is required to download these files. Registration to the tralac website is free of charge and for monitoring purposes only.