World Intellectual Property Day in Mombasa; My Take Home
Yesterday the 26th of April 2015 we marked the 15th World Intellectual Property Day all over the world. Two celebrations were held in Kenya; one in Nairobi and Mombasa on the 25th of April. Mombasa hosted this event for the first time and it was graciously hosted by the French college and cultural center Alliance Française de Mombasa.
Despite the rain, the event was attended by 17 representatives of some of the major associations representing the creative industries in the Coast Province. Kikao IP & JGIP Consultants being based in Nairobi sought to engage, educate and share our experiences to help shape and guide the upcoming and vibrant creative industries in Mombasa.
Some of the insightful comments and experiences shared were quite eye opening and pose as food for thought. In the creative industries we reiterate that gentleman agreements are not agreements at all and are in fact detrimental to any person’s social capital. It is a wrong assumption that lawyers are enemies in the process of enhancing one’s art for economic gain. It is in fact on the contrary, the lawyers are an important part in the commercialization of intellectual property. One of the participants Ahmed, the Executive Director of M-Power and a proponent of open source stated that one of the challenges the creative individuals face is lack of credible and honest business men and venture capitalists. As a result it contributes greatly to stifling of innovation and creativity. It sounds like a shared problem across the country and perhaps the world but he emphasized that it is worse in Mombasa after having being exposed to the Nairobi environment.
The same challenge was reiterated by Issah, a film producer in the region as he shared how he had a similar experience only that in his instance, he had a contract which he was never provided a copy of for his file and information.
There is a presence of association is the Coastal province but they are yet to gain the importance they deserve largely because very few believe in the system of association. It sounds cliché but the power in numbers is important if a group of persons are to lobby for their interests to be taken into account by any business or government entity. Hollywood associations like the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and Writers Guild of America can attest to the power of numbers. It is my plea that creative individuals at the Coast join the existing associations in their relevant area of art. There is so much more than lobbying these associations can achieve for their members. Some of which include access to legal advice and services,enhancing business atmosphere through engaging relevant business entities and partners for effective collaboration and growth of the creative industries and establishing vetting processes to identify legitimate businesses and business persons in the areas of interest to an association.
Another major challenge cited was the lack of devolution of government offices in charge of intellectual property registration; Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) and the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO). Crystal, a musician based in Mombasa once traveled all the way to Nairobi to register her first album. However, she was not accorded full disclosure of information when she came to do so. As a result, she had to travel back to get the KECOBO stickers in order to be able to sell her album in Mombasa. Information that was not relayed to her during her first trip. This would have definitely been avoided if KECOBO had a Mombasa branch office.
As a result of the lack of devolved government offices, the costs of registration of intellectual property now become higher because the local legal counsels in Mombasa have to liaise with their counterparts in Nairobi as well as incur postage or courier bills resulting to multiple costs which are transferred to the client who appreciates the value of intellectual property. This is not encouraging and in my humble opinion I am certain it contributes to low registrations of IP by those not conducting business in the capital city and as a result the importance of registration prejudiced.
Unfortunately the same applies when it comes to business registrations. For one to simply register a business name or a company it takes a longer time because of the back and forth that must happen between the Mombasa office and the Nairobi office. With technology in this day and age, this should be a problem of the past. One of the lawyers present at the event stated that even with the presence of the Huduma Centers that were created last year, improvement is yet to be seen. I do hope the situation will improve soon. This is not an ideal environment for business minds and entities to invest out of Nairobi. It is imperative that something should be done.
Addressing the lack of education forums, this is definitely not the last of the IP sensitization forums that will be held in Mombasa and its environs. It is also important that the stakeholders in the creative industries to mobilize themselves for similar events and invite interested parties to share and impart their knowledge to help grow the creative industries outside Nairobi.
As we try to contemplate the way forward to curb the challenges highlighted, it is important to be equipped with wit too. For example, if a contracting party claims not to have a photocopier to make a copy of the agreement you are about to sign, you can make a copy for yourself across the street. If they refuse, it is not a deal worth risking. What you will lose is far much greater than just failing to get a copy of the contract.
Happy World Intellectual Property Day 2015!!!
See previous posts on Top Ailments in the Creative Industries on previous discussions to addressing the challenge hindering the growth of creative industries in Kenya.
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Very true Liz. We need to have more forums like those especially here in Malindi and beyond on the forgotten Northern Coastal Corridor stretching all the way to Lamu and filled with talented, ambitious and passionate creative minds.