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Over 1,800 Rwandan inventors have registered for intellectual property protection in the country between 2010 and 2012 since the regulation was enacted in 2008, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), Registrar General, Louise Kanyonga, announced yesterday.

She was speaking at yesterday’s opening of an intellectual property workshop organised by the Africa Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) in partnership with RDB in Kigali.

Kanyonga urged more citizens to register their innovations to have their property protected by the government.

“If you look at the trend since 2008 when we started to register (innovations), there is an increase in the number of people, but most of them register trademarks and copyrights but not the modern ones like patents, utility models, and even geographical models that we are discussing today,” she explained.

She cited lack of public awareness as one of the challenges, noting that many people believe that intellectual property is complicated and only belongs to big companies and Western nations.

“All of us are capable of coming up with an original idea,” she said. “Another challenge is changing people’s perception in order to allow us to protect them,”

She said RDB is working closely with the Ministry of Trade and Industry to develop a clear action plan to promote intellectual property in the country.

Themed “Sub-Regional Workshop on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) arising for the Use of Genetic Resources”, the workshop also aimed at sharing expertise in this field with focus on the benefits arising from the utilisation of genetic resources in a fair and equitable way taking into account all rights.

The workshop has attracted participants from Burundi, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, Rwanda and Sudan.

Rwanda became a signatory to the Nagoya Protocol that aims to protect genetic resources and a country’s knowledge.

Earlier, in her opening remarks, Kanyonga explained that it was necessary to regulate access to shared genetic resources and ensure a fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilization.

“This workshop presents a great opportunity for us as member states to discuss issues of mutual interest within the region. No matter how much we do at the national level, whether it is research or development, it is never enough,” she stated.

“In a spirit of true cooperation, we in this region of the world must join in an action-oriented effort to solve the sometimes complex issues around the use of Genetic Resources.”

Emmanuel Sackey, ARIPO’s Senior Chief Examiner, noted that Rwanda is strategically placed in terms of resources and well placed to enforce intellectual property protection. He added that Africa as a continent has a lot of potential in the Intellectual property domain, hence the need for it to do more.

He appealed to the government to join the Banjul Protocol, which he said has few members, to deals in the registration of trademarks and service marks.

ARIPO is an African-based organisation established to pool resources from within member countries to avoid duplication of financial and human resources. It has a total of 18 member states.