In November 18, 1986, Lesotho became party to a convention establishing the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), a convention first signed at Stockholm on July 14, 1967 and amended on September 28, 1979. Currently with a membership of 191 countries, the main objectives of WIPO are to promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world through cooperation among States and to ensure administrative cooperation among the Unions.
The functions of this organisation are also among other things as stipulated in section 3 of the convention to; promote the development of measures designed to facilitate the efficient protection of intellectual property throughout the world and the harmonization of national legislation in this field; offer the maintenance of services facilitating the international protection of intellectual property and, where appropriate, providence of registration in this field and the publication of the data concerning the registrations; encourage the conclusion of international agreements designed to promote the protection of intellectual property.
Since its establishment, WIPO through the cooperation of its members has contributed immensely to the global protection of Intellectual Property by developing policies and systems that members have adopted in order to efficiently protect IP. For instance, there is the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) , a treaty that makes it possible to seek patent protection for an invention simultaneously in each of a large number of countries by filing an “international” patent application and such an application may be filed by anyone who is a national or resident of a PCT Contracting State.
Then there is the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs which allows applicants to register an industrial design by filing a single application with the International Bureau of WIPO, enabling design owners to protect their designs with minimum formalities in multiple countries or regions. The Hague Agreement also simplifies the management of an industrial design registration, since it is possible to record subsequent changes and to renew the international registration through a single procedural step. To cut the long story short, there is also the Madrid system, the Lisbon system, and many other systems and policies developed by the WIPO that can be found on its website.
In 2000, WIPO’s member states designated April 26 – the day on which the WIPO Convention came into force in 1970 – as World IP Day with the aim of increasing general understanding of IP and this is where the question in this article arises,whether or not this particular day is of any significance to the creatives in Lesotho. Every April 26th you see member states commemorating this day through various activities that are meant to rekindle their commitment to the protection of IP.
Every year April 26th since 2001 is given a theme by the organisation. In 2016 the theme was Digital Creativity: Culture Reimagined., 2017 ; Innovation – Improving Lives, and this year in 2018 the theme is Powering Change: Women in Innovation and Creativity. Lesotho being member to WIPO is supposedly taking part in all this yearly commemoration, but question is, is intellectual property protection changing lives of creatives in Lesotho, or owners of rights in this property? If no, then what Significance does April 26 have to them?
Since 1989, when the Copyright order and Industrial property Order were enacted, is there any meaningful progress to be celebrated on this day? Is the government , academia or even the private sector’s involvement towards raising awareness of Intellectual Property protection and promotion worth any celebration on this day?
It has been 31 years, 5 months and 5 days since Lesotho has become party to the Convention Establishing WIPO and is member to 47 other International IP related treaties, but Intellectual Property and its protection is still a foreign phenomenon in Lesotho, to enforcement agencies ( courts, police), to stakeholders ( creators, inventors, innovators) and to consumers of intellectual property works.
Not enough is being done to remedy this situation, because there is always an excuse why a radical promotion and awareness of IP cannot be made by the relevant custodians and administrators of IP in the country, and this has put Lesotho in a quagmire of excessive Intellectual Property rights infringement across all their different forms.
The outdated copyright law (Copyright Order of 1989) is failing to sufficiently answer the needs of creators of artistic, literary and scientific works and it requires more that just an amendment, but a repeal and a fresh enactment of a new and relevant one that will best address the needs of creatives in Lesotho, taking into consideration also the state of the infrastructure at the disposal, and international trends, i.e digital space.
If we are serious also about this change, then extraordinary measures need to be taken because we are currently far behind. The curriculum, in both tertiary and secondary level should be enhanced by including introductory courses to IP. This also means Teachers would have to be equipped in this regard also. Tertiary institutions need to level up and have IP policies in place that will assist in commercializing the hand-full of knowledge being disseminated there. The leaders in parliament need to be consistently educated on the fundamentals of IP and how its consideration is changing economies and lives of people for the better out there in the world.
The private sector needs to be sensitized on the importance of IP protection also, awareness of which will help contribute to more competitiveness in the market place of Lesotho. The relevant custodians and the administrators of IP Laws should also see to it that incentives by way of sponsorship or aid is given to professional within the country who are well vested in this field to produce books, articles, hold workshops, seminars and or any other IP educational and promotional initiatives that can be used in furtherance of this change.
There is so much that can be done, and as long as there is lack of political will to carry all these out, April 26 will just be like any other ordinary day to creatives and everybody in Lesotho. It will not have meaning and every attempt to promote it will either fail dismally or have no fruitful results in anyway whatsoever. We need more than just a one day awareness campaign, we need to see moves that will bring about continuous substantial change on Intellectual property protection and awareness in Lesotho.
Adv. Leisa Leisanyane
Business and Entertainment lawyer. LLM in Intellectual Property law candidate at Stellenbosch University. Co-founder of Leinn Inc.and Creative Insight. Legal advisor of Lesotho Music Rights Association and Junior Chamber of Commerce Lesotho.