IP bodies consider proposal to merge them into one

Kenya

Discussions to merge Kenya’s IP bodies into one are underway.

This year chief officers from the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO), the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) and the Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA) have begun to discuss the government’s 2013 proposal (which was facilitated by the appointed presidential taskforce on parastatal reforms) to merge them into one body called the Kenya Intellectual Property Office.

The presidential taskforce on parastatal reforms was created on July 23 2013 by Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta. The taskforce's mandate was to investigate and analyse policies, management and governance of Kenya’s parastatals, with a view to transforming them to enhance national development.

The taskforce, pursuant to its mandate to advance national development, took a period of six weeks to review reform initiatives in various countries, including South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, China, Nigeria and the United Kingdom. In its findings, the taskforce stated that the government-owned entities in these countries have played - and continue to play - significant and strategic roles in the development of their respective economies.

From the findings outlined, the taskforce then released a report with 15 key recommendations aimed at transforming the management of the various government-owned entities, for the purposes of achieving their key mandate, which is national development.

The first approach of the taskforce in pushing its national development agenda was to redefine government entities, as a means to transform their operations and performance, which would in turn generate value for money, as well as reducing their dependence on the Exchequer.

The re-definition of government entities in the report led to the creation of four categories of government entities, as follows:

  • State corporations - these corporations are entities that could be solely or jointly owned for commercial purposes. Therefore, they will be incorporated and managed under the Companies Act, Chapter 486
  • State agencies - these agencies, established by the government, are geared towards public service delivery, such as regulation. These agencies shall include:
    • executive agencies;
    • independent regulatory agencies; and
    • research institutions, public universities, tertiary education and training institutions.
  • County corporations - these corporations are established by county government(s) for commercial purposes. 
  • County agencies - these agencies are incorporated by county governments and their role is to undertake a specific county government strategy in delivering public service.

The proposed merger of KIPI, KECOBO and ACA will fall under the ambit of executive agencies, which are broadly defined as state agencies.

The taskforce based its decision to merge the IP bodies on the fact that each of these institutions sits in each others’ board of directors, and that the functions undertaken by the three agencies complement each other. These reasons reflected the findings made by the taskforce regarding the government entities of the countries mentioned above, where IP bodies have been merged into one.

With the merger of the IP bodies, the aim of the taskforce to is to promote and protect intellectual property.

The proposed timeline to merge the bodies was December 2013. This has not yet taken place. However, with the ongoing discussions between KECOBO, KIPI and ACA, it is expected that further developments will occur in this regard in the course of 2014.

Arguably, to kill two birds with one stone, the merger of KECOBO, KIPI and ACA would work best if the Kenya Companies Registry was also included. This is because some trade names accepted by the Companies Registry have already been registered by KIPI, and vice versa.

John Syekei, Judy Chebet and Krystal Muindi, Coulson Harney Advocates, Nairobi

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