In 2016, Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) with support from TradeMark East Africa commissioned a study on intellectual property (IP) rights with a specific focus on the legal framework for trade marks and anti-counterfeiting within the East African Community (EAC) region. The study’s main objective was to propose an enforceable legal framework which effectively combats the production, importation or exportation and distribution of counterfeit or illicit goods in general within the EAC region. The study was intended to take stock of the latest IP rights regime within the EAC region, highlight challenges within the current regimes and propose appropriate measures to address these challenges in order to enhance integration within the EAC region. The study was completed in 2017 and was launched during an interagency forum organised by Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA) in collaboration with KAM.

The KAM study makes several recommendations for action to be taken at two levels namely national level and regional level. At the national level, the study recommends autonomous national IP offices, setting up of anti-counterfeit agencies, raising awareness on IP rights and illicit trade, training of persons in the IP sector, legal reforms of IP legislation, forging inter-agency partnerships/collaborations and using alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms to resolve IP rights disputes. At the regional level, the study recommends various actions including legislative reforms in EAC, increasing regional collaborations, establishing regional IP institutions, creating a EAC regional mark and developing a EAC regional harmonisation action plan for IP rights in the region.

The regional level actions are perhaps the most interesting to consider given the on-going efforts at integration between regional and continental economic blocs. It is noted that at the EAC level, there is no policy or law on IP notwithstanding the provisions of the EAC Common Market Protocol that require the Council of Ministers to issue directives for cooperation in the administration, management and enforcement of IP rights. To-date no such directives have been issued. In the meantime, the draft EAC Anti-Counterfeit Bill process appears to have stalled. This stalling has been attributed to ‘among other factors, a lack of evidence-based supporting material.’

Therefore the study proposes that the following be developed: an EAC IP Policy, an EAC IP Law, Model EAC IP Laws for partner states to benchmark with, and an EAC Anti-Counterfeit Law. These proposed laws could either be prepared as Bills for enactment by the East African Legislative Assembly or as policy documents that would then guide the development of laws governing IP.