Namibia’s new copyright law to offer more protection…as draft bill addresses gaps in existing IP legislation

Home National Namibia’s new copyright law to offer more protection…as draft bill addresses gaps in existing IP legislation
Namibia’s new copyright  law to offer more protection…as draft bill addresses gaps in existing IP legislation

The absence of adequate Intellectual Property (IP) legislation in many African countries often results in volatile market conditions that ultimately negatively impact investments. In fact, research data has shown a direct correlation between strong IP rights and economic development. One of the major challenges is that many African countries are not appropriately signed up to global protocols protecting IP rights, making Africa the fastest-growing market for counterfeit goods in the world.

However, the Business and Intellectual Property Authority (BIPA), in collaboration with the trade and industrialisation ministry, is currently reviewing and amending Namibia’s Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Protection Act (1994) to ensure the new legislation is more responsive to the needs of the creative industry and provides more protection. “The draft Copyright Bill is at an advance stage in the law-making process, and the new amendments will address gaps in the current law in as far as it relates to infringements of rights and the enforcements by rights holders,” explained BIPA spokesperson Ockert Jansen. Responding to questions from New Era, he stated that IP remains a key and critical contributor towards the Namibian economy. As such, local businesses should realise that just by the very virtue of their existence and through trading and building goodwill with their brands, they are building IP assets known as trademarks. “Business owners, corporates and product developers should not allow their businesses and/or products to grow without protecting the IP that is attached to their brands. It is important to own your mark and protect your brand,” Jansen urged. In terms of Namibia’s IP legislation, the right to a specific IP vests in the one that registers it first. 

“Of course, you want to make sure that people do not infringe on your IP assets, and that is why you should protect it with BIPA. Not protecting your IP may cause you to
incur major financial losses now and in the future,” he cautioned. 

He added: “Namibia has been lauded as having one of the best Industrial Property Laws in Africa. In addition, Namibia is signatory to most of the international treaties, protocols and agreements on Intellectual Property and because of this, it strengthens our commitment to the cause of IP protection and enforcement in the country and globally”. 

Last week, Jansen, along with about 80 delegates from across the continent, attended the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation’s (Aripo’s) first-ever communications training on its regional intellectual property rights system, which took place in Harare, Zimbabwe. Aripo has for over 40 years been leading efforts to expand IP protection systems in Africa. 

Aripo, comprising a partnership of governments, continues to advocate for higher levels of IP rights protection and promotion in Africa for businesses and innovation as well as creativity to thrive on the continent. Aripo, which has 19 member states throughout Africa, offers streamlined and simplified IP application procedures which are affordable, fast and user- friendly. Through Aripo, a single IP application is enacted in several designated states while the organisation provides a supplementary route to existing national routes for international IP filings. Some of Aripo’s existing protocols include the Harare Protocol (patents and industrial designs, including utility models), the Banjul Protocol (marks), the Swakopmund Protocol (protection of traditional knowledge and expressions of folklore) and the Kampala Protocol (voluntary registration of copyrights and related items). 

Meanwhile, analysts are questioning how the African Free Trade Agreement will deal with IP rights. The question is whether the free trade legislation will follow the Aripo model, the African Organisation of Intellectual Property (OAPI) regional model, or a hybrid IP model to allow respective African countries to manage their IP legislation and cooperate with other countries in terms of non-binding IP recommendations.  Aripo provides for regional registration and administration of IP rights through a central office, while permitting member states to guard their national IP law and IP offices, which simplifies IP rights protection for applicants who wish to invest in the region. Unlike in Aripo, IP registration in OAPI automatically extends to all member states of OAPI, with a single law covering all member states. As such, it is not possible to have IP protection in only some of OAPI’s member states. Ideally, the chosen IP model should meet the continental free trade objectives and the specific needs of each country.