IP (Intellectual Property) Laws in Kenya

Let’s iron out the kinks, yes? Time and again I see comments on the ‘risk’ contestants take to apply for KCB Lions’ Den and appear in the Den as they fully disclose their ideas and intellectual property.


First, let’s all celebrate the fact that the revised constitution pays more mind to intellectual property laws compared to its previous version. When you apply for KCB Lions’ Den, you are taken through the motions of protecting your brainchild. Severally, you have heard the Lions ask if a contestant has patented their concept/execution. Here’s what you need to know about IP laws in present day Kenya.


The World Intellectual Property Organization defines IP as creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. Simply put, it’s ideas that are meant for commercial value.


IP laws come in many forms and clauses that help you protect your IP from replication and financial benefit by a party that isn’t deemed the cradle of the idea/invention.


Copyright laws – In this world of content creation, ‘copyright laws are laws that decide one’s right to copy.’ They protect the expression of an idea. If you have an idea, you are advised to put it down in a tangible execution such as writing, art, scripts, software etc. Dating this expression will protect your IP before anyone else claims it. In Kenya, you will part with Kshs1K to get it through the Kenya Copyright Board. Application period takes a week. You will then be presented with a copyright certificate which will grant you ownership of the IP for your… get this: entire life and a bonus 50 years after you’re… well… gone. Such a good deal right?


Trademark – This especially goes out to people with companies. This IP law gives you unique right to a brand name, a logo, a phrase, brand guidelines. The certificate is issued by the Kenya Industrial Property Institute which charges from Kshs10K and will take 6months to apply. This trademark lasts 10yrs – after they lapse, you renew the application.


Patent – No, the KCB Lions’ aren’t just throwing words around. This is another IP law. When an idea/creation is so brilliantly unique, you get a patent. This renders you ‘the only brilliant mind on earth to have conceived this idea,’ Rose Odengo really came through with that definition. This too is issued by the Kenya Industrial Property Institute valid for 20 years at a fee of Kshs100K and above. 


Industrial Design – This IP law protects your product design. Know how Blueband has had the same design for the longest? Something like that. It’s awarded by the Kenya Industrial Property Institute at a Ksh15K fee. This protects you for 15 years.


Traditional Knowledge – These laws protect IP whose creator is unknown while their creation is part of a culture. Some of us grew up thinking ‘Unknown’ on quote attribution was a person. We were right. They were simply not identified persons. For example, no single person can claim they made most of our traditional instruments.


Fast forward to present day 2018, let’s use memes to break it down:


You can protect your meme by copyright granting you accreditation when someone else uses it. This is why some memengineers watermark their memes


All Kermit the Frog memes can be claimed by Jim Henson who invented the character.


Salt Bae can patent the salt bae meme/gif. He was the only one to come up with and execute that level of ‘extra’.


Traditional knowledge would apply to memengineers who don’t necessarily do it for the credit. They just create the meme and share it for the culture.


Class over.




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