INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS ABSENT IN NAMIBIA
WINDHOEK, Namibia (PANA, 09/17/98) - A two-member delegation from the World Intellectual Property Organisation decried the absence of Intellectual property rights in Namibia, at the end of a three-day fact-finding mission in the country Wednesday. Wend Wendland, a German national, and Faith Odibo of Nigeria, visited Gobabis in the Omaheke region, Tsumkwe in Otjozondjupa and the Kunene region's Opuwo. They charged that property rights especially in terms of inventions are absolutely lacking in Namibia and called for a thorough study before such rights can be regulated. A report on their findings will be made known through the Namibian Society of Composers and Authors of Music, whose aim is to incorporate all property rights, including inventions, designs and other innovative property of indigenous people. Before their arrival in Namibia Sunday, Wendland and Odibo undertook similar visits to Uganda and Tanzania, and will make a final stop-over in South Africa. Though WIPO has been in existence since 1883, it only began investigations in Africa recently, following the appointment of its new director general, Kamil Idris of Sudan. During the organisation's round-table meeting on Intellectual Property and Indigenous Peoples in Geneva from 23-24 July, the chairperson of the UN working group on indigenous people, Erica-Irene Daes, said the intellectual properties of indigenous people may be divided into folklore and crafts, bio-diversity and indigenous knowledge. "For the world as a whole, indigenous knowledge holds out hope of greatly accelerating the struggle to improve human health and nutrition and protect the environment," she said. "For their part, indigenous peoples have made it clear that they will share what they know, if they are recognised as the owners of their knowledge." A member of the Parliamentary Committee on Arts, Languages, Culture, Science and Technology of the South African Parliament, Mongane Wally Serote, said there is a movement away from the authoritarian technology transfer approach towards indigenous knowledge as a base for development. "The term indigenous knowledge, widely used in recent decades, signifies a realisation that technology is not the exclusive property of industrialised societies, but that indigenous cultures are also inventors and custodians of technology," Serote said. Currently, Namibia has a lot of designers of architectural works but without recognition of their rights, sometimes they are forced to simply produce more and more in order to meet the demand without recognition or earnings for their inventions. In northern Namibia, women have always made traditional baskets (omashungu) from palm tree leaves but the original inventor has probably been lost.
WIPO has a membership of 169 countries worldwide and strives, through the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works of 1886, to help nationals of member states to obtain international protection of their right to control, and receive payment for the use of their creative works. These include novels, short stories, poems, plays, songs, operas, musicals, sonatas, drawings, paintings, sculptures and architectural works. The need for international protection of intellectual property was first realised when foreign exhibitors refused to attend the International Exhibition of Inventions in Vienna, Austria, in 1873. They refused to attend for fear that their ideas would be "stolen" and exploited commercially in other countries. Meanwhile, to encourage useful inventive activity and to enhance the image of inventors by increasing public recognition for their work, WIPO created its Gold Medal Award Programme in 1979. The medals honour inventors, who have made significant contributions to their countries' inventive wealth, are also awarded at technology fairs and exhibitions in categories such as Best Invention, Best Young Inventor and Best Woman Inventor.
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