In a more to replace traditional manual IP applications across Africa, Microsoft 4Afrika today announced it’s handing over the source code for the online intellectual property (IP) registration system to IP authorities across Africa after trials with Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) June last year.
“Every country in Africa is committed to accelerating its economic growth and becoming globally competitive. Because we live in the information age, a critical aspect of achieving this is the monetisation of IP,” says Louis Otieno, Corporate Affairs Director of Microsoft 4Afrika. “We created the online registration system as a way to jump-start this process and help close the structural gap. To now ensure its sustainability, we look forward to seeing local IP authorities own the process and the technology, which will only require minor customisations on our end.”
The countries in the first batch include:Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, including Kenya.
The system was first developed and tested by Microsoft 4Afrika, through their IP Hub initiative and is now ready to be shared among the 18 authorities under the COMESA treaty. The move is expected to bolster science, technology and innovation programme among COMESA countries.
According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), resident applications for patents in various African countries are still low. In 2014, there were 752 patent applications in Egypt, 132 in Kenya, 14 in Zambia and only 5 in Rwanda, compared to over 280,000 in the U.S. and 19,000 in the United Kingdom. At the same time the registration of copyright in many African states has not taken off and this data is not taken into account in economic surveys.
IP protection, including patents, trademarks and copyrights, are essential for small businesses to get ahead of their competitors, generate investment and ultimately bring their ideas to market. However, many innovations in Africa do not come to fruition due to of lack of knowledge about, and red tape around, registering IP.
“When the registration process becomes more accessible, fast and reliable, it also becomes more attractive. With the online system, we hope to see the number of copyright and other IP applications rise in the coming years,” adds Louis.