Among the challenges of the ever-growing tech and creative communities in Africa is the reliance on secrecy, or even trust, as opposed using established legal safeguards to protect their intellectual property. As a result, the products or innovations of these communities are often prone to exploitation or are not monetized at all.
To further drive this point home, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) reports that only 383 resident patent applications were filed either through the Patent Cooperation Treaty procedure or through KIPI in the 2009-2012 period. 683 similar were filed in Egypt; 608 in South Africa and 53 in the Ivory Coast. This sharply contrasts with the large numbers of applications filed in developed countries such as the USA whose residents filed 983,421 applications in the same period.
It is in appreciation of this situation that on June 26, software and tech mega-firm Microsoft launched a portal aiming to create an IP protection culture in Africa by offering developers and independent software vendors with the skills and tools necessary to develop, protect and profit from their innovations. Dubbed the Microsoft 4Afrika Intellectual Property Hub, the portal will pilot in Kenya over the next two years before being handed over to the government. There are plans to roll out similar portals in other African countries as well.
“The Microsoft 4Afrika innovation goal is to bring to market and help African startups monetize their innovations and ideas, and allow them to make the right connection with investors,” said Louis Otieno, director for Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft 4Afrika. “Protecting intellectual property ultimately leads to wealth creation and economic growth, and encourages development of knowledge-based industries. We designed the IP Hub to play a critical role in empowering African innovators and spurring this growth.”
To learn more about the hub and to sign up for member ship, visit the IP Hub website.