By: Mpho Shelile

To encourage innovation and promote economic growth, Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) together with Lesotho Academy of Science and Technology (LAST) held a workshop at Victoria hotel on the 31st October. The workshop aimed to impart researchers of Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and South Africa about pioneering an IP (Intellectual Property).

Professor Timothy Thamae from the National University of Lesotho (NUL)indicated that Many Basotho innovations fall into the wrong hands due to lack of knowledge on intellectual property. “Conducting a comprehensive needs assessment to understand the specific intellectual property needs and challenges faced by our researchers educational Initiatives by developing educational programs and workshops need to raise awareness about intellectual property rights and protection among researchers. IP Collaborate with national and regional intellectual property offices to streamline the process for researchers to register patents, trademarks, and copyrights. Provide legal support and resources to help researchers navigate the complex world of intellectual property law.”

Professor Timothy stated that among other innovations created by the researchers of NUL MILCO shopping store is one they are proud of, taking us through the journey they travelled to opening the store he added that one major aspect was networking and Collaboration, “I believe that those can foster and build a strong network which can open doors to various business opportunities, including partnerships, joint ventures, new clients or customers, and potential markets. Collaborations often foster innovation and creativity, when individuals from diverse backgrounds and expertise come together, they can generate new ideas and solutions that may not have been possible in isolation. This can lead to breakthroughs and advancements in various fields”, He also stated that they had data and Resource Sharing by promoting data and resource sharing platforms that enable researchers to collaborate and exchange resources while respecting intellectual property rights.

He concluded that intellectual property is vital for promoting innovation, fostering economic growth, protecting individual and collective creativity, and ensuring a fair and orderly system for the exchange of knowledge and ideas. It helps strike a balance between the interests of creators and society as a whole, ultimately benefiting both.

Dr. Dikabo Mogodi on behalf of Botswana Academy of Science stressed that a lot of them as science researchers only do ground breaking researches but are never included in their work, stating that it is only right for them to learn more about intellectual proper by doing outreach and engagement with other universities, research institutions, and government agencies to promote the benefits of an IP program for African researchers. “We should monitor and evaluate our work by continuously assessing the impact of the program, gather feedback, and adjust the program as needed, and also invest in building the capacity of researchers to manage their intellectual property, negotiate contracts, and engage in technology transfer”, she concluded by stating that they need to develop clear, transparent, and researcher-friendly intellectual property policies at academic and research institutions to encourage innovation.

Representative from University of South Africa (UNISA) Mr. Ayanda stated they should conduct public awareness campaigns to inform the general public and businesses about the importance of respecting intellectual property rights. “I would advise collaboration with international organizations, universities, and research institutions to bring in expertise and resources to support the program, by taking these steps, an IP program for African researchers can help protect their intellectual property, encourage innovation, and contribute to the development of a knowledge-based economy on the continent. It can also facilitate the transfer of technology and knowledge into practical solutions that benefit society as a whole.”

He concluded by advising the government of Lesotho to take intellectual property seriously, “intellectual property is the cornerstone of innovation and creativity in our modern world. It’s the shield that protects the fruits of our intellect and encourages continued progress. As we’ve explored the intricacies of intellectual property rights, it’s clear that the landscape is ever-evolving. The implications of these changes affect businesses, artists, inventors, and society as a whole. As we move forward, staying informed, adapting to new challenges, and advocating for balanced IP policies will be essential. Remember, the protection of your own intellectual property is not just a legal matter; it’s a strategy for securing the future of your ideas and innovations. What does the future hold for intellectual property, and how will you contribute to shaping it? Only time will tell, but it’s a story we all play a part in writing.”

The government of the Kingdom of Lesotho made a deliberate decision to develop a NIPPS, which would serve as a blueprint in transforming Intellectual property from being a technical topic to being a tool that help innovators and creators in Lesotho to bring their ideas to life. The policy also guides that existing intellectual property laws are revised and new laws are enacted taking into account the goals and objectives of national and sectorial development policies, the need for balance between the interest of the right holders and the general public, as well as national IP treaties to which the country is a party. The policy goals include; facilitating the integration of IP into the national and sectorial policies; strengthening the national IP legal and institutional framework, and connection with the international IP System. It is a catalyst for creating jobs, attracting investments, supporting enterprises and entrepreneurs as well as fostering growth and development of countries. However, without a clear policy direction, IP cannot achieve these objectives.