On Thursday, Microsoft Corp. unveiled an online Intellectual P(IP) portal called the Microsoft 4Afrika IP Hub, in an effort to create an IP protection culture in Africa.
The IP Hub will offer developers and independent software vendors the skills and tools necessary to develop, protect and monetize their innovations. The portal will pilot in Kenya for two years, after which it will be handed over to the local government with similar pilots being rolled out to other African countries.
Most small businesses in Africa are relying on secrecy instead of using established copyright, trademark, trade name and patent programs to protect their valuable IP, making it vulnerable to exploitation. At the same time, worthy innovations miss out on the opportunity to be realized for the African continent, stifling its technology advancement and development of the knowledge economy. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), only 383 resident patent applications were filed in Kenya through the Patent Cooperation Treaty procedure or with the national patent office between 2009 and 2012. Similarly, only 683 resident patent applications were filed in Egypt; 608 in South Africa; and a mere 53 resident patent applications were filed by resident inventors in the Ivory Coast. In contrast, approximately 268,000 resident patents were filed in the United States during the same period.
Innovators must have proof of ownership to be able to market or sell their innovation. Many do not know this, and for those that do, the process of filing IP protection can be long, manual and intimidating. The IP Hub will streamline and digitize the process, while educating young innovators about the importance of IP protection, and assisting them to enforce their ownership against third parties.
“Most African innovators function on the premise that the idea is theirs until someone else takes it to market, or duplicates it. As Africa’s innovation continues to flourish, the future remains uncertain if these promising ideas are not supported and protected properly,” said Louis Otieno, director for Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft 4Afrika.
With the introduction of this new system, the ultimate goal for Kenya Copyright Board(KECOBO), is for it to be fully functional so as to replace the manual system of IP registration in kenya which is takes much more time.
To learn more about the IP Hub and sign up for membership, users can go to www.iphub.co.ke