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Concern over loopholes in intellectual property law

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An artist sketching. Loopholes in intellectual property law, ignorance in the creative industry and lack of mechanisms for enforcement are hindering the protection of intellectual rights in Rwanda. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

By Leonce Muvunyi and Jean-Pierre Afadhali

Posted  Sunday, February 12   2017 at  12:08

In Summary

  • Government fingered for failure to enforce the law protecting intellectual rights.
  • Many infringement cases are related to trademark and copyrights, which many have no regard for. There have been a number of high profile cases of regional companies accusing local businesses of infringing on their trademarks and copyrights.

Loopholes in intellectual property law, ignorance in the creative industry and lack of mechanisms for enforcement are hindering the protection of intellectual rights in Rwanda.

This has led to an increase in copyright infringement, trademark court cases and rising counterfeit products, which many blame on the failure by the government to enforce the law protecting rights.

Many infringement cases are related to trademark and copyrights, which many have no regard for. There have been a number of high profile cases of regional companies accusing local businesses of infringing on their trademarks and copyrights.

“There is a practice of small companies using established, successful brands to sell their products,” said Emmanuel Mugabe, a legal expert specialising in intellectual property rights.

According to Mr Mugabe, many new businesses are copying logos or creating slightly similar brands to confuse consumers and dupe them into buying their products or services.

He suggests trademark owners register their logos and brands with the World Intellectual Property Organisation, which boosts protection.

“This would make it easier to monitor the use of your trademark and when there is an infringement it is easy to follow up,” he said in an interview with Rwanda Today.

Emerging technologies

The Rwanda Society of Authors also say the law governing intellectual property lacks provisions for emerging technologies and new media.

“These new technologies didn’t exist when the law was formulated,” said Epa Binamungu, chairman of the society.

He said this is making it easier for counterfeiters to forge trademarks and logos because the intellectual property law has no provision to penalise them.
For instance, the growing fashion industry has been affected by gaps in the law.

“Many people are asking how they can protect their designs, yet we have no provisions in the law regarding fashion,” said Blaise Ruhima, the division manager of intellectual property at Rwanda Development Board (RDB).

Lawyers and experts on intellectual property met recently to discuss trends in enforcement of the law, infringement challenges and anti-counterfeiting strategies.

Francois Kanimba, Minister of Trade, Industry and East African Community Affairs said protecting intellectual property is a big challenge in developing countries.

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