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Impact of Covid-19 on your intellectual property in Kenya

 

This has come with far too many disruptions in life and many. What started as an outpost strange disease in China has become fodder for conspiracy theorists as countless coronavirus rumours circulate. The pandemic has drastically altered our lifestyles, affecting our interactions with certain aspects of work and school, among them is the intellectual property (IP).

Intellectual property refers to property resulting from creations of the human mind, the intellect. It includes patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, know-how, domain names, and other proprietary rights.

Mid-March, the first Covid-19 case in Kenya sparked a paradigm shift on how we conduct our studies and work — remotely and potentially unsupervised. As a result, organisations are in precarious positions regarding certain aspects of the law. It is incumbent upon establishments to protect their IP rights and ensure they are not caught infringing on the rights of others.

During these novel times, employees and scholars are focused on getting work and studies done remotely using tools at their disposal. While at it, many do not comprehend some drawbacks that result from this new setting. As a result, certain practices, procedures and processes usually present in the office setup may be absent and not be followed, resulting in termination of IP agreements for failure to maintain obligations.

Further, there is a likelihood of certain losses of an institution’s property.

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Some elements like trade secrets require proper security measures. This coupled with online hacking and fraud, call for vigilance.

Therefore, a constant and consistent review of all IP covenants should be done at the earliest time possible to ensure that obligations are adhered to hence keeping agreements in force.

Employees need to adhere to their respective institutional IP policies and liaise with their legal and information technology departments regarding any development, monitoring and evaluation of IP to ensure compliance.

Organisations should provide reminders to their staff on steps to be observed when dealing with any confidential information to circumvent unintended IP loss. For example, it is strategic to shred documents instead of throwing them in the bin or holding back from using personal e-mail to convey work documents or even gauging the teleconference applications such as Zoom and Teams.

To beat timelines institutions may try to accelerate the execution of certain agreements concerning IP licensing, development, supply and/or distribution to meet Covid-19 demands without paying proper attention to warranties and conditions. To avoid certain legal bottlenecks an entity may opt to minimise the length of the contract terms or allow for the terms to be renegotiated at a later date as well as allowing some ownership rights to be individually owned for any development work in the interim period.

Finally, given that the Judiciary has moved key functions to online platforms, court cases have slowed down. Therefore, there is a greater need for compliance and vigilance on matters IP rather than grapple with infringements in courts.

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