Intellectual Property Rights in Africa

What are intellectual property rights?

According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), Intellectual Property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs, symbols, names and images used in commerce.

Intellectual property rights are like any other human rights; they are accorded to persons over their minds creations and the creator earns exclusive rights over the use of their creation for a certain period of time, taking into account the fine-tuned balance that has to be found between the legitimate interests of the creator and user.

The Universal Declaration on human rights provides for the right to benefit from the protection of moral and material interests resulting from authorship of scientific, literary or artistic products.

Online IP rights are protected by law through copyrights, trademarks and patents, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefits from their creations.  The IP system aims to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation flourish. IP rights have been affected by the development of the Internet, mainly through the digitisation of knowledge and information, as well as through new possibilities for data manipulation. New technologies also pose a challenge to IP rights due to the peculiar linkage between domain names and trademarks. The protection of knowledge and ideas, through IP rights, has become one of the dominating issues in the international Internet governance debates. Some argue that knowledge and ideas are key resources in the global economy and thus IP rights protection is a catalyst to economic, social and cultural development. According to WIPO (2014), no African nation was among the top 20 countries for patent applications.

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