By Perpetua Mwangi* and Chrispin Bosire*
“The World can be happy that scientific resources have been mobilized so quickly without capitulating to false IP claims…”
On 29th March 2020, The Ministry of Health (“MoH”) indicated that the government had initiated plans to manufacture Protective Personal Equipment (“PPE”) materials locally for self-sustainability. This pronouncement intimated the possibility of enhancing local manufacturing capacity. The government’s intervention followed the interim guidance issued by World Health Organization (“WHO”) on the 27th of February 2020 on the rational use of PPEs.
Disruptions in the global supply chain of PPE, particularly for medical masks and respirators; gowns and goggles calls for a local intervention. This is perhaps to guard against the potential outcome of an overrun of COVID 19 patients in Kenya, likely to overwhelm our medical systems.
Rivatex East Africa Limited and Kitui County Textile Center (“Kicotec”), among other local manufacturing companies, have been earmarked to start the manufacturing of PPEs for Kenyans. Several aspects of local manufacturing affect Intellectual Property Rights inter alia Patents, Trademarks, Trade secrets, Utility Models and Industrial designs, which ought to be leveraged for strategic advantage in product development.
Patents create monopolies for rights holders thereby putting them in a strong position to set prices. Such prices have made the required products costly hence inaccessible. The monopoly contributes to the inaccessibility of medicines. Remission of royalties and removal of restrictions on generic competition, leads to affordable medicines through reduced prices, sometimes by 99%.
Trademarks are source identifiers which influence consumer decisions. A trade secret is confidential information that gives a company an economic advantage over its competitors and is often a product of internal research and development. Utility models are patent-like as they protect innovations through a cheaper and easier to obtain and maintain process. They have a shorter grant lag, less stringent than patent requirements and a shorter protection period as registration expires at the end of the tenth year after the date of filing and is not be renewable.
Industrial designs are concerned with the appearance of a product as they protect the ornamental, or aesthetic aspect of a useful article that can be reproduced in large quantities. They are particularly important as we continue to see articles such as face masks and other PPEs appealing to the eye and feel.Continue reading