Rwanda’s innovations are increasing as reflected in the growing number of registered Intellectual Properties for protection in various sectors of economy.
Official data shows local and foreigners are registering their inventions and creations as patents, trademarks, and copyrights.
On the global innovation Index, Rwanda is still low as shown by its ranking, in 2014 it was 102 while in 2018 it was 99. Most of the registered Intellectual Properties are in the industrial property category.
Innovations and inventions boost a country’s economy and industrialisation as IP owners turn their technical, creative inventions into profitable projects and businesses.
Intellectual property rights mean the rights given to persons over their creative ideas, usually giving the creator an exclusive right over the use of their creation for a certain period of time.
That’s why officials are encouraging Rwandans to innovate and create more and register their intellectual property for protections. In Rwanda IP registration is relatively new in comparison to developed economies, but it is important for economy’s growth.
Despite passing a law on Intellectual Property and adopting a policy aimed at promoting intellectual property rights; there are still gaps in the registration and law implementation resulting in court cases and implementing challenges.
The main objective of IP law was to contribute to the promotion of technological innovation and to the transfer and dissemination of technology, to the mutual advantage of producers and users of technological knowledge and in a manner conducive to social and economic welfare of population and to a balance of rights.
Additionally in 2009, Rwanda adopted an Intellectual Property policy that governs and promotes technological innovation in various sectors, knowledge transfer and technical invention to boost social, economic development.
While the country passed a law and adopted a policy to promote and protect Intellectual Property rights, there are still challenges in law enforcement.
For instance the implementation of collective management that would allow artists with copyrighted creations to earn royalties from their work failed due to gaps in the project that is now being revised to make it applicable.
There is a lot to be done by discussing laws to protect IP rights with all players and policymaker’s plus raising awareness among creatives to reach a common understanding. In addition to that, there have been a number of court cases involving international and regional companies operating in Rwanda over IP related disputes over trademark ownership.
Some court cases raised questions over the registration process that could have had loopholes resulting in conflicts and hindering businesses in the country.
Given the importance of innovation and Intellectual property rights protection in the country’s economy, officials and all stakeholders should cooperate to address gaps, discuss challenges they face and agree on enforcement procedures that will benefit both parties.