The Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development still faces challenges to efficiently carry out services on intellectual property, despite expanding the mandate on intellectual property rights protection to an autonomous body.
The main contributing factor to this challenge is the lack of a patent lawyer to handle the registration of patents, forcing the process to be handled in neighbouring South Africa, leading to inefficiency.
Speaking to The Villager, Silas Newaka, Innovation Marketplace Officer at Namibian Business Innovation Institute (NBII), said the it is difficult for institutions to register their patents due to the expenses that come with copyright registrations, which is roughly about N$500 000 per patent.
“Institutions such as University of Namibia (Unam) and the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) struggle to register their patents, because we do not do the registrations in Namibia. BIPA should lobby for institutions to offer accredited courses for patent lawyers in the country. Currently there is none. We do not even have a curriculum for patent lawyers,” Newaka stressed.
Newaka said the lack of awareness on intellectual property right protection is the main culprit for slow innovation in the country. “People simply do not know that their intellectual properties can be protected by law. It is an impeding factor for innovation in Namibia as some people do not share their ideas because they are afraid it is going to be stolen.”
BIPA could not be reached for comment by the time of going to print. The functions of registration of business and industrial property are being taken away from the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development while copyright registration is being removed from the Ministry of Information and Communication and will be handed over to the Business and Intellectual Property Authority (BIPA), which is already up and running.
BIPA also recently came under fire for its lack of efficiency from Democratic Turnhalle Alliance of Namibia (DTA) politician, Elma Dienda during a National Assembly session. The politician and Member of Parliament (MP) said that BIPA must move away from the manual system of data collection and move towards an efficient computerised database where information is properly backed up.
Dienda said that although the idea of a one-stop shop is welcoming, rotating the same ‘inefficient’ people will not serve as improvement for intellectual property. Dienda said the majority of the population is not aware that traditional music, paintings, etc. also serve as intellectual property and that they need to register it in order to safeguard their ownership over it.
“This begs the question; how does combining the functions of three existing directorates into one agency and then filling that agency with the same staff from those very same directorate improve the overall efficiency of business and industrial property registrations? Combining two poorly run companies into one will not automatically lead to the newly formed one being more efficient. The solution to inefficiency and poor service delivery in government cannot be merely to create public enterprise after public enterprise to outsource the function to,” the firebrand politician said.