Be Careful What You Wish For: Now That Kenya's Been Pushed To Recognize IP, It's Starting To Protect More

from the look-at-that dept

IP maximalists should be careful what they wish for. As we noted in China, where after years of diplomatic pressure, China's "crackdowns" on IP infringement seems to have hurt foreign companies, it looks like something similar may soon happen in Kenya. Last year we discussed how Kenya had been pressured into an anti-counterfeiting treaty (similar to ACTA) that was leading to problems where legitimate generic drugs were being destroyed. However, Amelia Andersdotter alerts us to the news that Kenya's new proposed constitution includes a special section saying that "the state shall support, promote and protect the intellectual property rights of the people of Kenya."

What's that going to mean in practice? Well, a Kenyan lawyer's discussion of the new section of the constitution suggests that this is not about creating incentives for greater creation or innovation. No, instead, it's about trying to put a price tag on anyone else building off of Kenyan culture:
This provision seeks to ensure that Kenyan communities are protected from exploitation and the loss of elements of their cultural heritage to the wider world. Examples of such loss include the patenting of the kiondo -- a hand-woven bag made from sisal with leather trimmings, originating in Kenya and mostly associated with the Kamba and Kikuyu communities -- by an unknown Japanese entity; and the attempted registration of the word 'kikoi' as a trademark by a company in the United Kingdom. A kikoi is a traditional cloth garment mainly found in East African countries such as Kenya and Tanzania and is used as a wrap by women.
Really? So Kenya wants to patent a design of a traditional bag so that no other country can make it? That's not intellectual property, whose purpose is to create incentives for new creativity and innovation. It's blatant protectionism against foreign competition. And then taking control over a word used in a totally different country? Again, that has nothing to do with creativity or innovation. So, now that the western world has pushed Kenya to "recognize" intellectual property, rather than understanding the actual purpose of intellectual property, it seems to be embedding the concept into its constitution in a manner that has nothing, whatsoever, to do with encouraging innovation or creativity.

Filed Under: intellectual property, kenya, protectionism

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    Mr. LemurBoy (profile), 6 Jul 2010 @ 8:03am

    I can't tell this from the article... does this mean that Kenya wants to prevent non-Kenyans from even making kiondo or kikoi, or does it just want to keep people from patenting / trademarking it so that no one can claim exclusive rights? The former would seem rather restrictive, while the latter would seem to be championing the public domain of Kenya, and that I could understand.

    It does say on the ILO site that "There is no specific ownership claim of the original weaving idea by any individual or community." so if the law is written properly, it could be beneficial.

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