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Gambia awaits intellectual property policy and strategy document

Apr 25, 2012, 1:10 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

The Gambia will soon have its own intellectual property policy and strategy documents, as preparations are at an advanced stage for final completion of this crucial documents that will not only boost the economy, but also protect the country against piracy of trademark.

It was against this backdrop that the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) along with its sister organization, African Regional intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO), in strong partnership with the Gambia government through the Ministry of Justice is currently engaging players in the intellectual property and copyright sector at a two-day forum on the above areas at the Kairaba Beach Hotel in Kololi.

It brought together experts in copyright and intellectual property, academics, lawyers, security officers, writers, artists, musicians as well as representatives of the media to discuss the formulation of an intellectual property policy and strategy for The Gambia.

The forum will provide an important platform for participants from The Gambia to share views on varying issues in the field of Intellectual property, as well as afford them the opportunity to review the preliminary findings and recommendations of experts by key stakeholders and partners.

“It will be an opportunity to understand the country’s vision and priorities, to sensitize stakeholders on how best to leverage intellectual property for economic development.

“Most importantly, this will be an opportune time for stakeholders and partners to have a consensus on the targets, timeframe for the implementation of the intellectual property policy and strategy.” Mr. G.H. Sibanda, director-general of ARIPO based in Harare, Zimbabwe, told the expert meeting yesterday in Banjul.

According to the Gambian Justice minister, whose statement was read on his behalf by the Fisheries and Water Resources minister, Dr. Momodou Tangara, intellectual property has great potential to contribute to the economic advancement of a nation and its people, because every nation has people with abundant mental resources.

Minister Tangara also informed the gathering that: “the importance of intellectual property in this modern age of knowledge-based economy cannot be overemphasized. In this day and age, the progress of a society is no longer solely dependent on the favours of nature such as the amount of gold, silver or crude oil found within a state’s territorial jurisdiction.”

Instead, Minister Tangara added that the development of societies and states are increasingly driven by the knowledge and skills of its people, and the ability to harness and exploit this knowledge and human resources.

He believes that when those mental resources are nurtured, harnessed and protected from misuse by others, the owners of such resources have a greater incentive to increase productivity, adding that this will inevitably lead to improvement in their economic well-being and, consequently, to overall economic development.

However, he noted that the willingness to engage in efforts geared towards invention and innovation is underpinned by the existence of two factors namely, investment in research and the guarantee that economic benefits will accrue from the research through an efficient intellectual property protection system.

In the Gambia, Minister Tangara went on; we have had intellectual property laws in existence right from pre independence era, but unfortunately these laws were not underlined by identifiable policy objectives. Thus the development of intellectual property landscape in The Gambia has been rather piece-meal and ad hoc.

The ARIPO Director General further highlighted in his statement that his organization has an important function and mandate to promote, develop and harmonized intellectual property in Africa.

Sibanda believes their mandate can only be achieved if member states of the organization have appropriate IP infrastructure and frameworks.

He said The Gambia is very active and staunch member of ARIPO.

For the representative of the Director General of WIPO, Mrs. Francoise Wege, deputy director Regional Bureau for Africa, her office was encouraged by the recent interest and commitment shown by the Gambia government in promoting the use of intellectual property as a tool for development.

She said the forum offers the platform for bringing again intellectual property closer to focus, and looking at intellectual property from a practical point of view.

Mrs Wege recalled that one of WIPO’s strategic goals is to ensure that member countries make effective use of intellectual property (IP), in ways that are appropriate, productive and logically related to national development objectives.

In doing so, she told the forum, WIPO seeks to build countries’ capacity to increase their intellectual property assets, which will contribute to engineering development and sustainable growth.

Three IP and copyright experts are engaging the participants, namely Mr. Bernard Bosumprah, former admistrator, Ghana Copyright Administration; Mr. Ron Marchant former controller general of the UK intellectual property office and Mr. Getachew Mengistie, former director general of the Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office.