Botswana, officially the Republic of Botswana is an African country bordering Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The geographical position of Botswana is both an advantage due to its strategic location for commercial purposes and a disadvantage, considering the enormous opportunities for the smuggling of counterfeiting products and services.
In Botswana, Industrial Property rights are protected through the Industrial Property Act (2010) and the rights covered under this act include trademarks, patents, utility models, industrial designs, geographical indications, traditional knowledge, and integrated circuits.
The Companies and Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA), formerly the Registrar of Companies and Intellectual Property (ROCIP), is the entity responsible for the grant of such rights and was established by an act of parliament in 2011 (Companies and Intellectual Property Authority Act, (Cap. 42:13) to promote and enable the full protection of the rights of investors and right holders obtained under the Companies Act, Registration of Business Names Act, Industrial Property Act and Copyright and Neighboring Rights Act. CIPA is now a parastatal body under the parent Ministry of Trade and Industry.
Under the theme “Harnessing IP for Economic Transformation”, a programme designed for the IP system to foster innovation for economic transformation under the country’s vision 2036, President Mokgweetsi Masisi formally launched the country’s first-ever National Intellectual Property Policy (BIPP), on November 15, 2022.
Transition to a knowledge-based economy
Botswana's IP policy is emerging as a transition from being a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based economy (setting aside the contribution of minerals, which is also likely to decrease in the future) and emphasising a vision linked to science, technology, innovation, and creativity. Hence Botswana is putting in place mechanisms for the economic use of diverse IP assets to ascertain and sustain competitiveness.
Thus, the government recognises the need to have an overarching integrated national IP policy framework that will ensure that IP is integrated into the economic policies of Botswana as well as the necessity of appropriate awareness, education and training for all agencies and departments involved in IP enforcement—creating a favourable environment for investment.
It is expected that in 2036 a development of competitive and sustainable knowledge-based industries will be reached. The National Vision 2036 anticipates that Botswana will have diversified its economy by making use of science, technology, and innovation.
Considering that Botswana has outstanding IP potential it has sought to develop IP policies based on six pillars:
The development of innovations brings not only an internal contribution but also an external scenario of commercial exploitation. This is because the benefits of IP commercialisation include the promotion of domestic and foreign investments, apart from the increase of economic efficiency and the productivity of the companies.
Botswana Intellectual Property Policy
The (BIPP 2022) appears to fulfil this purpose. The document in which the BIPP is launched comprises three chapters:
To achieve this goal, Botswana has been reviewing its IP laws related to the domestication of international conventions, treaties, protocols, and agreements. It is within the framework of international bodies, of which Botswana is a member, such as WIPO, WTO, ARIPO, AU and SADC that IP issues are discussed such as the TRIPs agreement and leverage the market access opportunities provided by many trade agreements. To this end, the government intends to create solid structures that allow for more effective and professional negotiations, capable of reaching multilateral agreements. Furthermore, they will bridge the gaps by institutionalizing economic diplomacy.
One of the biggest challenges has to do with the gaps in governance. The institutional structures have a key role in the implementation of the policy. CIPA will be leading the implementation of the policy as it is mandated with authority on IP matters in Botswana. Additionally, there are plans for the creation of an IPP Coordinating Committee (chaired by the Permanent Secretary (PS) of MTI, with PS of Ministry of Communications, Knowledge, and Technology as deputy chairman and CIPA.
The BIPP is composed of the following institutional structure (image below):
There are also plans to create new institutions such as the Botswana Association of IP Owners (a platform of IP owners from all sectors) and the Botswana Open Innovation Forum, for sharing experiences platform to reduce duplication of efforts.
The BIPP and its implementation plan have been developed as dynamic instruments to ensure the continued relevance and effectiveness of the policy measure and will be reviewed on intervals of five (5) years or as and when the economic environment dictates.
The launching of the BIPP is being seen as very positive and its successful implementation will enable Botswana to use its IP potential towards being a knowledge-based economy and to diversify Botswana’s economy to create prosperity.
This is a co-published article, which was originally published in the World Intellectual Property Review (WIPR).