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It was in response to Isaac’s post on Afro-IP that this blogger put forth the idea of setting up a bona fide association for intellectual property practitioners and professionals in Kenya. Many of us may have pondered upon this very topic in the past but to-date nothing seems to have materialised.

In the past weeks, there is renewed buzz around establishing such an IP Association, tentatively christened as Kenya Association of Intellectual Property Practitioners (KAIPP).

Within Africa, the only other national IP Association is in South Africa. Established in 1952, the South African Institute of Intellectual Property Law (SAIIPL) is an association representing “some 164 patent attorneys, patent agents and trade mark practitioners in South Africa who specialise in the field of Intellectual Property Law”. According to its official site, SAIIPL states that:-

“It [SAIIPL] is widely regarded as the custodian of South Africa’s intellectual property rights, and comprises practicing attorneys, academics, practitioners in businesses and in general, people interested in the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights. The members of the SAIIPL represent the majority of national and international businesses who have built their businesses on brands, innovation and technology, and who protect their interests through our country’s intellectual property laws.”

SAIIPL has four types of memberships: Fellow, Associate, Student and Ordinary. It is important to note that unlike Kenya, South Africa has an institutionalised system of IP qualifications. The first is the Patent Attorneys qualification which is a statutory qualification under control of the Patent Examination Board. There is also the Trade Mark Practitioners qualification is offered by SAIIPL to provide proficiency in trade marks and related fields. An Attorney with this qualification is entitled to Fellowship of SAIIPL. A quick browse through SAIIPL’s membership list reveals that the whos-who of South African trademark and patent lawyers are on the list including Prof. Owen Dean (@ipchair), Darren Olivier (@afroIP) as well as this blogger’s former classmate, Jeremy Speres (@jeremysperes), among many others.

Inevitably, if KAIPP decides to go the SAIIPL route then its membership will consist exclusively of lawyers/legal academics, especially those Advocates who have been registered to practice before the Kenya Industrial Property Institute as Patent/Trademark Agents.

However, there is a possibility that KAIPP will opt to be more inclusive in its membership and mandate. KAIPP could choose to be a common platform for everyone and anyone who deal with intellectual property laws and is concerned with raising awareness of IP and protection of IP rights, as envisaged by the Constitution of Kenya in Article 11, 40(5) and 69. Such a national IP association could borrow a leaf from other similar groupings throughout the commonwealth including: Intellectual Property Society of Australia and New Zealand Inc (IPSANZ) and Intellectual Property Association of Bangladesh (IPAB), among others.

All in all, whether it is called KAIPP or AKIPP or IPAK, the crucial factor will the impact of such an association. This blogger would be pleased to have an association that becomes the custodian of IP in Kenya through concerted activities aimed at assisting innovators and creators access IP protection, collaborating with government in IP awareness creation and sensitisation, mentoring IP enthusiasts, encouraging diversification and specialisation in IP practice, spearheading legislative and policy reform around IP as well as providing quality pro-bono IP services, among other things.

Only time will tell what direction and shape the renewed clamour for a national IP association will take.