UGANDA CELEBRATES THE WORLD INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY DAY

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The world is once again celebrating the World Intellectual Property Day which is celebrated every year on April 26 with the aim of understanding the role that Intellectual Property plays in encouraging innovation and creativity. The celebration this year was meant to coincide with the launch of the National IP Policy, 2019 had it not been for the COVID-19 lockdown. The year’s theme “Innovate for a Green Future” aligns well with Uganda’s Vision 2020 that aspires to enhance green principles such as resource efficiency, equity and social inclusiveness, low emissions and sustainable economic growth.

This green growth aspiration also presents an innovative growth path that simultaneously generates inclusive economic development and environment sustainability theme, which further support the role that intellectual property can play in encouraging innovation geared towards the protection of our environment.

Innovation & Creativity

Impact Today we are living in an ever changing global community, with rapid changes and technological advances. These advances are being fuelled through innovation and creativity. For any organization to survive, innovation and creativity is crucial in keeping up with market trends. However innovation can have both a positive and negative impact on the society at large. On the one hand innovation encourages growth and productivity hence it eases our way of life and our standards of living as a society. But innovation should never only look at the benefits for individuals and societies but should also take into account creating a society where the present and future society will enjoy the best quality of life and all living organisms can live together harmoniously. Therefore there is a need to strike a balance. Innovation should not only focus on finding new ways of doing things but should also consider how to do things right.

Environment matters

Across the world, the need to act to preserve the environment is growing as the impact of climate change is being felt in form of earthquakes, floods, droughts, storms, etc. The climate global crisis is very daunting and it needs each and every individual to get involved in order to tackle the negative impact of this environment mismanagement. There is therefore a need to put in place systems at the national, organizational and individual levels that promote and encourage transition into a future that promotes protection of the environment.

Today, many businesses and governments are aware that climate change is a problem that affects the entire world. They are doing everything possible to slow down or even stop the degradation completely. Therefore, many creations are being geared towards eco-friendly innovations. This is also in line with the fact that there is a growing demand among consumers for eco-friendly products.

Intellectual property versus innovation

Since innovation and intellectual property are intertwined, the intellectual property system plays a big role in encouraging and promoting innovation for a better environment. Looking at Patents for example, patents and utility models offer protection to inventions. Innovators are granted patent rights to their inventions but in exchange, a patent holder is expected to disclose all the information regarding the working of an invention.

This was witnessed recently when in a bid to help keep alive patients with the Coronavirus, Makerere University School of Public Health developed the COVID-19 ventilator prototype designed to assist with simulated respiration. The university was granted patent rights with a condition for full disclosure. This is all patent information that is available to the public though patent publications. This information can be accessed in order to develop or improve on new technology that is geared towards eco-friendly innovations.

There are other different technologies that have already been developed supporting the transition to eco-friendly technology such as the move to LED and CFL bulbs, solar and wind harvesting technologies, biodegradable plastic. These are all resources that are available to the public that can be adopted by different entities and researchers to encourage development of eco-friendly technology. All this is achieved through patent licensing and technology transfer agreements, non-commercial licenses among others.

Intellectual property supports eco-friendly technology

Many innovators have also taken on the idea of producing designs that reduce energy usage and protect the environment, such as products made from recycled bottles, plant based packaging as alternative to plastics and polythene bags. Design rights can be used by individuals to protect to their design innovations. The conceptualization of the Kiira EV motor vehicle project is one such example. Initiated by Makerere University, and later Government of Uganda through Kiira Motors Corporation, this innovative research project aims at applying contemporary technologies to develop sustainable transportation solutions for Uganda and Africa.

This initiative has resulted in the development of hybrid public transport vehicle-(Omni-bus), and establishment of Centre of Excellence in Transportation Research. Other local Ugandan companies are also making products using recycled material. For example Oribags Innovations Ltd is making paper bags to support the packaging industry, while others are making briquettes to combat the destruction of forests to make charcoal. Most of these initiatives have resulted in Uganda’s ecoinnovations being honored globally.

Trademarks are equally important. They are source identifier used by companies and individuals to establish and strengthen their reputation on the market as champions and protectors of the environment. This will in turn speak to the consumers and inform them that the brand is eco- friendly. This has in turn encouraged the consumption of eco-friendly products.

Copyright through literary and artistic works can be used to promote and encourage the consumption and move towards eco friendly ways of living and to remind people what is at stake if we don’t change our ways and protect the environment. This can be done through movies, books, music songs, etc.

Technology and innovation therefore, should stop being geared toward things that lead to environmental degradation instead it should focus more on climate friendly technology in order to support a green future. Laws, regulations, policies, commitments and choices we make should be geared towards encouraging, rewarding and supporting new techniques that promote protection of the environment and intellectual property rights are some of the avenues that can be utilized to achieve this. Already, URSB has so far set up 28 Technology and Innovation Support Centres (TISCs) to enable access to patent information that stimulates local innovation.

As the National Intellectual Property office, URSB takes great pride in all innovations and creations developed with protection and sustainability of the environment taking centre stage. These eco-friendly products are helping keep our environment safe, clean and green in line with this year’s IP day theme of ‘innovate for a green future’. The recently passed National Intellectual Property Policy by Cabinet will further cement the generation, protection, promotion and commercialization of IP especially in the area of green technology.

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