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The cost of protecting intellectual property

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Acquiring and retaining intellectual property rights is a process that requires the development of the idea into a tangible product. PHOTO / Shutterstock

In 2018, two university students Mark Achuka and a colleague came up with an idea- to start a programme on a local TV station that would teach the public Swahili language.
 After visiting local TV stations, they realised they needed to write a compelling proposal to sell the idea.

 “We wrote a proposal on how the programme would run, how it could be conducted and how it could attract sponsors then we hit the street, after several days one station manager was interested and gave it to the audience,” Mr Achuka explains.

 Adding; “He gave us his time, out of excitement we gave all the details. Later, he promised to get in touch. After a week, he got in touch and told us it was a good idea but the station would not be able to fund the initial costs.”

 A month later, that programme aired on the same TV station they had visited. Mr Achuka and his friends were disappointed, but there was nothing they could do.

 Many talented people have had their ideas ‘stolen,’ and without legal protection, it is challenging to seek recourse.
 Talent can manifest in art, music, literary works, and videos. When these creations are misappropriated, often referred to as piracy, it is ethically unjustifiable, yet some find it convenient.

“I found my works manipulated. The first thing I realised was that characters’ names were changed but the story remained the same,” Ignatius Bwana, a poet, says. 

 Adding; “There was serious manipulation of the pictures and pages, probably Artificial Intelligence (AI) was used to make it worse. It was done by someone outside the country so it was hard to follow up.”

 Mr Bwana says that in the comment section, people were asking how they could download for free while the pirate was asking for Shs5,000 to allow access to all his literary works.

 Where to go
 Mr Hood Lubowa, the digital rights and engagement officer at Oxfam says it is good to first register the manuscript with Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) and get all the necessary documents there.

 “Then upon presenting the idea to the TV Station or any others place you would like to, always endeavour to tell them of the registration status of the idea,” he explains, adding; “Avoid leaving them with the entire document or recording or manuscript. This makes their work easy especially if they want to manipulate it.”

 He also advises that you can leave them a short summary or demo for their reference. That in many ways forces them to reach out to you for unpacking the entire idea.

 He also advises that if it has already been used, you then have to take the matter to court. But remember proving that you are the actual owner will be difficult in such a situation. 
Under copyright, ideas are not protected or under contract too it is always hard if there’s no express written contract.

  “Using your example, it means the idea you bring is not your property protected under the Copyright and Neighboring Rights Act; so the TV programme once aired, you can’t claim rights over the idea,” he says.

 Mr Busingye adds: “If you are employed by that TV station, the presumption is that it is the property of the station unless there is an agreement to the contrary.

 Copyright protection begins when an original work is fixed in a tangible form. This can be anything from recording dance steps in a video to putting music notes on paper.
 Mr Busingye adds; “An idea isn’t tangible, but most protected works are tangible.”
 Mr Steven Baryevuga, senior communications and media relations officer at URSB, explains that with advancement of technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), internet of things, big data analytics have also provided a rich avenue for the manipulation of talent.

 Most developing countries in which Uganda falls are not coping up quickly. But all creative works can be protected depending on the type of Intellectual Property.

 “IP has trademarks, Copyright and Neighbouring rights, patents, utility models, geographical indications and industrial designs; a process can be protected as a patent if it is new, novel and industrial applicable also,” he says.

 Mr Baryevuga further explains that each IP has its procedure of registration or protection and costs.

 According to URSB, the applicant submits a patent application form, a local applicant pays Shs100,000 and foreign applicant $100, the application is taken through a substantive examination at Shs150,000 for local applicant and $150 foreign applicant.

 Grant of a patent is Shs90,000 local applicant and $100; where the grant has to be advertised in the Uganda Gazette.

“There is a maintenance fee which must be paid annually for the life of a patent, which is 20 years. A process cannot be protected under copyright; a patent can be protected for 20 years while a utility model is protected for 10 years,” he explains.

 Mr Baryevuga further explains that once the duration of protection expires, the process falls into the public domain, meaning it is freely available for use.

 Dr Chris Baryomunsi, the Minister for ICT and National Guidance, says these technologies are good but need to be backed up by laws and legislation.