IP Rights in Kenya: Secrets to healthy business competition

Intellectual property rights (IP rights) involve protection of trademarks, copyrights, patents, industrial designs, and geographical indications among others. Kenyan economy is growing very fast and expanding its scope to include ecommerce and digital space. Protection under IP rights enables the business owner to enjoy monopoly and subject of the IP rights to the exclusion of others. IP rights protection is vital when starting a business because it protects the innovative and creative capacity of the founder and enhance healthy competition in the business environment. Protection of IP rights promote consumer welfare in relation to goods and services where they apply. The promotion of consumer welfare is done through granting of exclusive rights to the proprietors or
entities that founded and expressed the business idea being protected. IP rights protection links the consumer and the manufacturer whereby the consumer can easily identify and associate products with their respective owners. Kenyan law recognize and protect IP rights starting with the Constitution and the relevant statutes for each category of IP rights. The IP laws in Kenya also establish institutional frameworks such as Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) and Kenya copyright Board (KECOBO), which are tasked with the mandate to register and protect various IP rights in all business sectors. Entrepreneurs should therefore first register their patens for scientific innovations or trademark their brand names, logos and slogans before starting the business. First person or entity to successfully lodge documents for registration gains priority in enforcing IP rights protection to the exclusion of others. An entrepreneur should first register the expression of Idea for protection before sharing it with anyone in written form. The importance of registration is that the proprietor acquires exclusive ownership rights and such expression of idea can only be replicated by any other person with permission and license of the founder. – Column by Boaz Bwire

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