The National Intellectual Property Policy, launched in Malawi in May 2019, is part of the Malawian government’s Growth and Development Strategy III, which has identified industrialisation and the structural transformation of the economy as a key priority area essential to maintaining long-term growth and economic development. The Policy acknowledges that intellectual property has effectively been side-lined from the national development agenda since Malawi’s independence, recognises that intellectual property is a catalyst for technologic advancement, economic growth and national development and provides a framework to foster the generation, protection and exploitation of intellectual property.
While Malawi does have intellectual property laws, these laws (with the exception of the “new” Trademarks Act no. 28 of 2017 and Copyright Act no. 26 of 2016) were inherited from its former colonial power, the United Kingdom, and are outdated. Intellectual property is also administered by two separate institutions – industrial property (which includes patents, designs and trade marks) is administered by the Department of the Registrar General which falls under the Ministry of Justice while copyright is administered by the Copyright Society of Malawi which falls under the Ministry responsible for Culture.
The Policy aims to address the deficiencies created by these outdated intellectual property laws and the antiquated institutions that administer and manage them, as well as the lack of deliberate and coordinated policies aimed at leveraging the intellectual property system as a tool for stimulating the generation, protection and commercialisation of intellectual property assets (and thereby encouraging innovation and creativity for economic growth and development and enhancing entrepreneurship and business competitiveness).
The Policy identifies five priority areas, being:
- An effective institutional framework for modernising the administration of intellectual property rights. The Policy envisages the creation of a modern unified and autonomous agency responsible for the administration and management of intellectual property in Malawi;
- The generation and protection of intellectual property assets. The Policy acknowledges that the output of locally generated intellectual property rights is extremely low and envisages the stimulation of locally generated intellectual property rights through the provision of various types of incentives and funding;
- The effective exploitation and commercialisation of intellectual property assets. The Policy envisages, amongst other things, the creation of innovation centres or units as well as support structures for micro, small and medium enterprises;
- An effective and balanced legal regime for intellectual property rights. Here, the Policy envisages a review of Patent, Copyright and Design legislation, the preparation of legislation and strategies for the protection and exploitation of traditional knowledge, genetic resources and expressions of folklore originating from Malawi as well as the implementation of the international agreements (such as TRIPS, etc) to promote the national interest;
- Intellectual property awareness creation and capacity building. The Policy envisages the teaching of intellectual property at school and tertiary level, the establishment of an Institute of Intellectual Property Attorneys, the development of capacity for intellectual property enforcement and dispute resolution as well as the coordination of intellectual property enforcement activities, etc.
The Policy also identifies various stakeholders that are responsible for the implementation of each of these priority areas and provides times frames for the implementation thereof as well as a monitoring and evaluation plan.
The Policy certainly looks good on paper. It is our hope that it unfolds as planned.
For more information or assistance regarding intellectual property rights in this jurisdiction, e-mail email@example.com
Amina Suliman | Senior Associate