Sunday May 5 2013

Anti-Counterfeit Bill should benefit consumers not only the manufacturers

By Joachim Bibuli

The move from an industrially-based economy to a knowledge based one has given rise to calls for strict control and regulation of intellectual property with proponents arguing that it is key to promoting innovation and growth in trade.

Big Multinational Companies mainly pharmaceuticals and governments world over have raised the concerns over the problem of intellectual property infringement with counterfeiting being singled out as one of the biggest challenges.

In an effort to curtail this practice, entities like the European Commission have sought to include intellectual property provisions in trade agreements with developing countries while other countries like Uganda have sought to stifle this practice by enacting laws like the Anti Counterfeit Bill.

This Bill seeks to among others; prohibit trade in counterfeit goods that infringes upon protected intellectual property rights and to require intellectual property rights to cover only copyright and trademarks. Basing on the description of the Bill, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it intends to protect patents, copyright and trademarks, issues that are catered for in the existing intellectual property legislation.

Only the framers of this Bill know why these are being placed outside the well established and comprehensive legal framework governing intellectual property in Uganda. Such a law largely has the interests of Multinational companies at heart and not the consumers or the end users of these products.

A mistake always made by anti counterfeit campaigners is the assumption that counterfeits are often substandard and of poor quality and yet some counterfeits may be of similar standard with the original copy. It is ironic that even some of the legitimate products fall short of the performance standards set by standard agencies like Unbs.
The solution to counterfeits lies not in a new piece of legislation but in enhancing quality testing of products and market surveillance and strengthening existing provisions littered in numerous laws such as the Food and Drugs Act, Cap 271, The Sale of Goods Act (Cap 82) , Unbs Act (Cap 327),National Drug policy and Authority Act (Cap 206) and Public Health Act (Cap 281) among others.

Intellectual property enforcement should remain a civil function that requires the involvement of the owner as has always been rather than transfer the burden of enforcement to the state as the Bill seeks to do.
Joachim Bibuli,