[AfrICANN-discuss] New Rwanda IP Policy Taps Information For
annerachel at gmail.com
Tue Jun 8 17:45:11 SAST 2010
Intellectual Property Watch
*8 June 2010*
New Rwanda IP Policy Taps Information For Development By Kaitlin
Mara<http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog/author/kaitlin/>@ 4:33 pm
“Information is the lifeblood of development,” says the government of Rwanda
in a recently-adopted intellectual property policy, part of the country’s
comprehensive development strategy. The new policy attempts to integrate
Rwanda into the international IP system while simultaneously safeguarding
the freedom it needs to drive its own innovation system.
There are several specific characteristics of Rwanda’s innovation system
that needed to be addressed with the formulation of the law, says the text
of the new Rwandan intellectual property policy, available
The policy provides the rationale, objectives and context for
Rwanda’s adoption of new policy for IP rights. The country also passed a new
IP law. A copy of the IP law text is now available
in Rwanda’s three major languages.
These characteristics include: few resources dedicated to innovation, a
“system dominated by minor and/or incremental innovations,” small firms not
always stable over the long-term needed for research and development,
reliance on informal practices and government support rather than the
private sector, and outside dominance of key innovation sectors.
The goal with the new intellectual property policy, then, was to stimulate
local investment. It is a “future-oriented” policy, Christoph Spennemann of
the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said in an interview
with *Intellectual Property Watch*. UNCTAD provided technical assistance to
Rwanda in the drafting of the new policy, as did the International Centre
for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD).
And today, Rwanda submitted to the World Trade Organization its priority
needs for technical and financial cooperation. Least developed countries
have been invited to do this in the lead-up to their deadline for
implementing the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual
Property Rights (TRIPS), currently set for 2013. Sierra Leone, Uganda and
Bangladesh have previously
needs assessments to the TRIPS Council.
The new policy focuses on making use of key resources, access to
technologies for local innovators, rewards for the kind of incremental
innovation that is most prevalent in the nation, and long-term
It has six major policy objectives. It aims to increase technological
literacy and skills; promote innovation, including incremental innovation;
and increase access to existing technologies; increase access to IP-based
goods and services, especially those related to agriculture and health, and
including through the use of IP system flexibilities. It also will
facilitate investment in creative activities, including through effective
use of IP rights to ensure compensation to inventors and the elimination of
unfair competition; and increase the protection of traditional knowledge and
equitable and fair access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing.
The development of a special law on traditional knowledge and genetic
resources is mandated by the IP law, according to the law. Consultations
with national stakeholders and experts are planned to help draft this
The process of drafting the policy began with requests for technical
assistance from the Rwandan Ministry of Trade and Industry – which handles
the country’s IP law – to UNCTAD and to the International Centre for Trade
and Sustainable Development.
At a stakeholder meeting held in Kigali, Rwanda in September 2008, it became
clear that traditional knowledge, folklore and handicrafts were considered
important areas for the IP policy. UNCTAD and ICTSD then undertook a
fact-finding mission, culminating in a national
workshop<http://ictsd.org/downloads/2009/03/programme2.pdf>[pdf] on a
needs assessment prepared by UNCTAD and ICTSD and on a draft IP
policy for the country. This took place in March 2009.
On 24 March 2010, the draft policy was approved by the Rwandan Cabinet.
UNCTAD and ICTSD are also carrying out similar technical assistance
programmes in Uganda and Cambodia.
Implementing the New Law
The first stage in implementing the new policy is the creation of a Rwanda
Development and Intellectual Property Forum, a collaboration of government
ministries, universities and research institutions with the private sector
and nongovernmental groups. Other aspects of implementation will follow from
there, according to a timeline appended to the policy.
There are several unique aspects of Rwanda’s IP policy.
One way to incentivise incremental innovation detailed in the law is through
the use of “petty patents” or “utility model certificates.” These provide
for a shorter exclusivity period and do not have the requirement (or have a
very low threshold requirement) for ‘inventive step’ that is normally a
critical part of a patent application, the UNCTAD intellectual property team
explained to *Intellectual Property Watch*.
Utility model certificates also tend to be registered rather than examined,
making them useful in a system where there are few patent examiners, they
said. These utility models “may provide the most important avenue for using
IP to support development,” says the IP policy.
Pharmaceutical products will be exempt from patentability at least until
2016, to take advantage of the flexibilities in TRIPS for least developed
countries. Research exemptions are also given, to both public and private
sector institutions for both public and commercial use.
Educational institutions and libraries are given exceptions in copyright to
make copies for archiving and teaching purposes. Free reproduction is also
allowed when a work is specifically intended for translation into an
accessible format for visually impaired people.
Even with its new IP law in place, Rwanda plans not to build its examination
capacity but rather to join the African Regional Intellectual Property
Organization (ARIPO) and make use of its examination, according to the
The new policy also reflects thought on how best to incentivise technology
transfer in a least developed country context. Low-income countries “are
simply not players in the transfer of technology by licensing,” says the
policy, citing a statistic that 96.7 percent of royalty flows related to
technology licensing happen in high-income countries, with the remainder
happening mostly in middle income countries.
Foreign direct investment is therefore potentially a better way for
technology to move into low income countries, the policy says. But here,
too, investments have been declining in recent years in Sub-Saharan Africa,
the policy says. Rwanda intends to be “at the vanguard of reversing this
trend and ensuring that together with FDI comes technology.”
On IP enforcement, the new policy takes seriously three principles from
TRIPS: that IP rights are private and it is not the responsibility of the
state to enforce them (but rather to provide the means through which private
entities may do so); that national differences should be accounted for in
implementing TRIPS; and that treaties should be interpreted in a way that is
loyal to their object and purpose. In the case of TRIPS, this purpose and
objective is to “contribute to technological innovation [and] the transfer
and dissemination of technology.”
Enforcement measures, says the policy, “applied reasonably and in a balanced
way, have benefits for local inventors, innovators and creative
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