Third Eye

Enforce intellectual property rights programmes

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2022 07:40 | By

The illicit economy continues to have a reverberating effect on various sectors, posing a threat to achievement of development goals. 

Statistics show that the total value of illicit trade was Sh726 billion in 2017 and Sh826 billion in 2018, a 14 per cent increase. In terms of their GDP share, this represents an increase from 8.9 per cent in 2017 to 9.3 per cent in 2018. 

The growth in international trade, advancement in technology and changes in trading methods have come with challenges that call for new strategies to effectively combat the trade.  

Over the years, Kenya has made strides in the fight against the vice, with the biggest win being the establishment of the Anti-Counterfeit Authority (ACA) in 2010. Additionally, the Government established the Inter-Agency Anti-Illicit Trade Executive Forum and Technical Working Group to strengthen interventions toward curbing the trade and facilitate exchange of information between agencies and enhance enforcement. 

Apart from ACA, different agencies, anchored on various laws, continue to collaborate to sustain the fight against counterfeiting and related forms of illicit trade. Some of these institutions include Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya Industrial Property Institute, Pest Control Products Board, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service, National Police Service, Kenya Copyright Board and Kenya Bureau of Standards, among others.  

Despite these efforts, illicit trade continues to be a threat to economic growth. The National Baseline Survey on Counterfeits and Illicit Trade found that the worst-hit sectors are Building, Mining and Construction (23pc), Energy, Electrical and Electronics (15pc), Textiles and Apparel (14pc), Plastic and Rubber and Metal and Allied sectors (9pc each). The five sectors accounted for 70pc of illicit trade in 16 manufacturing sectors in 2018. Complaints from the private sector and consumers were on counterfeiting, piracy, uncustomed goods and substandard goods. The leading form of illicit trade complaints received was counterfeit, which accounted for 71 percent of the total complaints received between 2016 and 2018. 

The impact of counterfeiting and other forms of illicit trade cannot be ignored. The vice has impacted the health of consumers who unknowingly consume counterfeited goods. It has also led to revenue loss for businesses and government, the decline in investments and job losses. 

Various stakeholders have observed that existing initiatives to combat counterfeiting have largely been reactive, with few complaints from a narrow spectrum of complainants being filed. They, therefore, agreed to take a more proactive approach, by embarking on voluntary recordation of intellectual property rights. This was through the Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) recordation programme for all imports, rolled out by ACA since February.  

Under the programme, ACA aims to develop a database of intellectual property information for goods to be imported into the country. Kenya is the second country in Africa to implement the IPR recordation plan after South Africa. Internationally, other countries in the Americas, Europe, Middle East and Asia have also implemented the programme. 

The US has a robust intellectual property enforcement programme. The US Customs and Border Protection enforces federally registered trademarks and copyrights that are recorded through the e-recordation programme, utilises automated risk-management systems and has the legal authority to detain, seize, forfeit and ultimately destroy IP infringing merchandise entering the country. 

Once implemented, the IPR Recordation Programme shall guarantee consumer health and safety while protecting local manufacturing entities from cheap counterfeit imports. It will spur both domestic and foreign investments.  

The recordation programme has come at an opportune time when Kenya is gearing up to trade under various agreements. As such, prioritising the fight against illicit trade shall enhance market access, increase investments and drive economic growth. 

— Writer is Head of Membership and Governance, KAM — [email protected]

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