Intellectual Property protection in Africa

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Why it is Important for Asian Companies to Protect Intellectual Property in Africa?

Asian companies are shifting from manufacturing to high-tech research and product development. Consequently, Asian companies are now important innovators who generate valuable intellectual property which can be commercially exploited, and that is why intellectual property protection in Africa is so important.

The African market presents an ideal opportunity for innovating Asian companies. Intellectual property protection in Africa is recognised and revered. It is considered an essential business asset which secures a business monopoly in the market. Companies generating IP and bringing that IP to Africa are seen to propel the local economies forward, creating jobs and improving the lives of Africans.

The relatively high cost of IP litigation for locals means that owning patents or trade marks, for example, serves as a strong deterrent for would-be infringers. When it comes to high-tech, it is often difficult for locals to compete by reverse engineering and/or manufacturing high-tech products. These deterrents are important for Asian companies entering the African market, particularly where a strong market presence is not yet established.

In some cases, competitors can be other foreign companies (not locals) seeking entry to the African market. Although such market penetration may be sought with a competing product, there have been instances where one company’s IP was copied in African jurisdictions where IP protection was not sought by the original IP owner. This meant that the IP was exploited by a competitor in African countries without any remuneration to the original IP proprietor.

If the IP owner is not interested in Intellectual property protection in Africa, the opportunity for licensing IP to local parties or even other foreign parties remains. The relatively low cost of obtaining Intellectual Property protection in Africa, in comparison to other jurisdictions, and the potential for foreign exploitation of IP in Africa, means IP protection in Africa should be a serious consideration.  For these reasons, it is important for Asian companies to protect their IP across the African continent.

Smit & Van Wyk can assist with filing Intellectual Property in Africa.