Recently, Zimbabwe launched its first national Intellectual Property Policy and Implementation Strategy [2018-2022] (“the Policy”). The Policy was drafted with the assistance of WIPO, and involved interface meetings and workshops with various stakeholders.
In reviewing the policy and implementation strategy our team has published the following observations regarding its objective and roll-out.
The Policy acknowledges the important role that Intellectual Property Rights (“IPRs”) play in cultural, economic and social development. It also recognises the fact that Zimbabwe has impressive IP potential, which can be harnessed to develop its economy. The utilisation of this potential has, in the past, been substandard. This has been attributed to a lack of understanding and knowledge regarding IP and IPRs. Consequently, it has not been able to fully benefit from the exploitation of its IP assets. Part of this challenge has been as a result of the absence of an IP policy to guide and give direction as to how Zimbabwe can economically exploit IP into the development plans of the country. It is therefore prudent that appropriate measures and strategies are put in place to ensure that IPRs are efficiently protected and used to enhance such development.
The Policy’s overall objective is ensuring that the entire Intellectual Property governance framework, such as diverse laws and regulations, strategies, action plans, treaties, protocols, practices etc., leverages Zimbabwe’s IP potential for inclusive and sustainable economic growth and development. The specific objectives which the Policy seeks to effectively pursue include:
- Raising and consolidating IP awareness amongst the general public;
- Informing stakeholders about the economic benefits of IP;
- Enhancing IP knowledge and professional skills capacities;
- Encouraging the mobilisation of IP through acquisitions and own creations;
- Protecting IP;
- Inspiring the commercialisation of IP; and
- Enhancing IP trading mediation capacities.
Core sectors which the Policy focuses on are: Agriculture; industry; health; education, training and professional skills development; environment; culture; trade; tourism and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). These sectors have been prioritised as they contribute to the growth of the economy. Summarised below are the key issues which the Policy will focus on in each sector:
Since Agriculture is the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy, it is important to ensure that correct measures are put in place to protect the IP-related issues applicable in this sector. Accordingly, the Policy will focus on Geographical indications, Plant Breeders Rights, Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Biodiversity. These protection systems should be leveraged to ensure that the agricultural sector in Zimbabwe thrives.
In the case of the Industrial sector, the Policy will seek to, amongst other things, strengthen the management of Intellectual Property Systems and develop IP portfolios. In addition, through a functional innovation system, it will promote interactions between innovators and researchers on the one hand, and the industry on the other.
Quality medicines, which have saved and improved the lives of many, have been entering the market as a result of the strategic use of Intellectual Property. The Policy will therefore promote access to medicines at affordable prices through the exploitation of the TRIPs flexibilities, and research and development in the area of pharmaceuticals.
Education, training and professional skills development
Since IP knowledge in Zimbabwe is limited, the Policy will ensure that local capacities are developed to provide specialised IP knowledge and professional IP skills on a practical level.
In correspondence with international undertakings to which Zimbabwe is a signatory, the Policy will pursue the effective implementation of The Convention on Biodiversity and The Nagoya Protocol. This will ensure that the process of harnessing IPRs for socio-economic transformation does not conflict with the preservation of Zimbabwe’s environment for current and future generations.
Zimbabwe’s cultural heritage and geographic indicators will be protected and leveraged as central and integral elements of the country’s IP assets portfolio.
Since the country has been exporting most of its products (such as diamonds and platinum) as unprocessed raw materials, the growth of the economy has suffered due to the small returns obtained from these unprocessed and semi-processed products. Zimbabwe has therefore found itself in a position where it exports most of the products in raw form (realising very little profit) and then imports the finished products at a higher cost. The Policy will therefore seek to correct this by applying rigorous border measures which will protect economic entities operating in the national market (whether they are locally or internationally owned business). This, in turn, will create a beneficial investment environment.
The Policy also recognises the need to strengthen the manufacturing capacity of the country’s manufacturing industry so that value can be added to raw materials which are exported. The IP system will enable this through mechanisms such as licensing arrangements and technology transfer.
The thrust of the policy will be to increase international competitiveness of Zimbabwean industry and products through the application of science, technology and innovation. IP is a key enabler of innovation and creativity, as well as an incentive for investing in research and development.
With tourist numbers rising in the first quarter of 2018, it is no wonder that the emphasis of the Policy will be to leverage certain IP assets to promote competitiveness through increased tourist activities in the national market. These IP assets include certification marks, geographical indications, indigenous knowledge systems, service marks and destination branding. Essentially, these IP assets can be used to promote the quality of relevant local tourist industry services, rurally-focused and agri-driven tourism, the learning of different cultures, and to distinctively position their market offer.
SMEs – small and medium scale enterprises
SMEs contribute significantly to the economy in Zimbabwe as they generate employment and contribute to the economic growth and development of the country. The Policy will therefore focus on appropriate legislation targeting Utility Models, Collective marks and Geographic Indicators.
The Policy also defines the concepts of ‘intellectual property’ and ‘IPRs’ and places specific emphasis on the need to protect trade secrets and traditional knowledge.
The vision of the Policy is to transform the country into a globally competitive one, with a dynamic Intellectual Property System that propels creativeness and innovativeness or inventiveness, and effectively guides the promotion, acquisition and commercialisation of Intellectual Property for sustainable economic growth and development.
Six key considerations which guide the generation of strategies for the implementation of the Policy include: the enhancement of domestic capacities to generate IP, the promotion of the acquisition of IP, the promotion of commercial exploitation of IP, putting in place reliable IP laws and regulations and enforcement mechanisms, regional and global appreciation and supporting the industrial transformation of the economy.
Actions to be taken to implement this Policy include:
- Raising and consolidating IP awareness among the people of Zimbabwe. The measures taken to achieve this goal will form part of an outreach programme targeting the general public, specific stakeholder groups and key stakeholders in the public and private sectors, as well as the civil society.
- Consolidating IP literacy and professional skills. To enable the economy to generate its own IP, a competitive pool of local IP experts needs to be systematically built and sustained. This can be achieved through introducing individual courses and integrated programmes on IP matters in the curriculum of domestic and education and training institutions.
- Enhancing the IP domestic governance framework through bridging the gaps, providing comprehensive protection of Zimbabwe’s IP concerns and interests, and ensuring that competition is not stifled by the application of IPRs.
- Enhancing domestic fiscal capacities to finance IP generation and commercialisation. In this case, the Government of Zimbabwe will mobilise and provide incentives to various financial institutions. In addition, a round table of relevant stakeholders will be organised by the Government to assess the situation and devise a practical IP finance system that will assist and nurture creativity and encourage innovation and inventiveness.
- Developing an integrated IP economy in the country by taking measures which will promote IP entrepreneurship and develop the IP market.
- Enhancing domestic institutional capacities for IP administration. Here the Government needs to strengthen the national IP office, establish a system for IP management at tertiary institutions and the private sector, institutionalise a mechanism for licensing control and establish a model national licensing system, establish Technology and Innovation Support Centres and a strategy for the promotion and communication of intellectual property activities.
It is refreshing to see how the Policy acknowledges IP as a strategic asset for promoting innovation and technological development and will prove to be a most useful tool in guiding the country’s efforts to leverage IP for sustainable economic growth and development.
A comprehensive action plan, results-based monitoring and evaluation framework and indicative budget will now need to be designed in order for the Policy to be deemed complete and ready for implementation. We will be monitoring the implementation of the policy in earnest.
Adams & Adams, through our Associate Office, is available to provide any assistance in securing protection for trade marks, designs and patents, and any advice regarding copyright law in Zimbabwe. For further updates, information and queries on copyright law, trade mark, patent and design filings in Zimbabwe, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org