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The Law of the Mind

Everyone has created or has a friend or a friend of a friend who has created or invented something. These inventions and creations would otherwise be referred to as intellectual property. 

Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, these include; inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; symbols, names, and images used in commerce. The law awards these individuals rights, these rights give the creator an exclusive right over the use of his/her creation for a certain period.

Intellectual property rights are categorised into two areas;
i) Copyright and rights related to copyright 
ii) Industrial Property

Credit: Unsplash

Intellectual Property is the oil of the 21st century.

Mark Getty

A. Copyright and rights related to copyright

If you have ever bought a book from a book store, the term copyright may not be new to you. It is usually embedded in the first leaflet of every literary work. However copyright is not limited to books alone, but any artistic work can be protected under copyright.

In simple terms, a copyright is a set of exclusive rights granted by a state to the creator of original work or their assignee for a limited period in exchange for public disclosure of the work. This right includes the right to copy, distribute and adapt the work. Copyright owners can license or permanently transfer or assign their exclusive rights to others. Copyright protects owners of rights in artistic works from those who may ‘copy.’

A created work is automatically protected by copyright as soon as it exists. However, there are conditions to this. The work must be original ( it must have been developed independently by its creator) and it must be expressed.

Once a piece of work is not original then there is no ground for it to be protected under copyright law. The word ‘original’ does not in this connection mean that the work must be the expression of original or inventive thought. but according to University of London Press Ltd Vs University Tutorial Press Ltd [1916] 2 Ch 601 UK, originality in copyright law does not require that the work be unique and novel but means that the author must have exercised some level of sufficient skill and labour.

Copyright protection in Uganda is governed by the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act, of 2006 and the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Regulations of 2010.

Credit: Diala Law

B. Industrial property

The purpose of industrial property law is to protect inventions and industrial or commercial creative work.  Industrial property can be separated into two parts;
i) The first part is characterised as the protection of distinctive signs, in particular trademarks (which distinguish the goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings) and geographical indications. A trademark identifies the brand owner of a particular product or service. 

The protection of such distinctive signs aims to stimulate and ensure fair competition and to protect consumers, by enabling them to make informed choices between various goods and services. The protection may last indefinitely, provided they sign in question continues to be distinctive. The perfect example of this can be the distinction between Pepsi and Cocacola.

ii) The second part of industrial property is protected primarily to stimulate innovation, design, and the creation of technology. In this category fall invention (protected by patents), industrial designs, and trade secrets. If you have ever been curious about the KFC chicken recipe, it would ideally fall under trade secrets in industrial property.

 A perfect example of this happened in 2013 when Century Bottling Company Limited (Coca-cola) filed a suit against Harris International, Riham Company over a trademark infringement. The dispute arose after Riham used a 500 ml Riham cola bottle shaped similar to Coca-Cola’s contour bottle, which is a registered trademark in Uganda. It was cited that the imitation would confuse the minds of consumers leading them to think that Riham is associated with coca-cola. The Coca-cola company, therefore, is the holder of the contour bottle shape. An imitation of it amounted to an infringement of their trademark. 

Credit: Mierespaza

So the question is what is your mind coming up with? What ideas or inventions have you dreamt up? And most especially how are you going to protect it?