Intellectual property rights protection of publicly financed research and development outcomes: lessons Kenya can learn from the United States of America and South Africa

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This dissertation explores the protection of intellectual property rights (IPRs) as they relate to publicly financed research and development (R&D) outcomes. Kenya has the opportunity to learn from the experience of the United States of America (US) and South Africa (SA). The US enacted the Bayh-Dole Act (BDA) in 1980 while SA enacted the Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Financed Research and Development Act (IPR-PFRD Act) in 2008. The main research question is whether Kenya ought to enact similar legislation. In addition to the main research question, there are six other secondary questions. The first and second research questions are explored in chapter two which discuss the enactment of the BDA and its impacts in the US. The dissertation uses literature to look at the legislative journey of the BDA which upon its enactment created a uniform approach towards the protection of federally funded R&D outcomes. Literature also points to the fact that years later, the BDA still invokes debates across the US and beyond. There is no consensus on the impact of the BDA. Despite the lack of a clear stand point on its exact effect, several countries have emulated the US and still continue to do so. The third and fourth research questions discussed in chapter three adopts a similar approach but focuses on SA, the first African country to emulate the BDA. The IPR-PFRD Act has been operational since 2010. The limited period of its existence means that the literature available is work in progress. Despite that, SA has had some impacts experienced so far across its leading universities in the form of; realignment of IP policies to comply with the provisions of the IPR-PFRD Act as well as discussions among researchers, innovators and the National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO). There is evidence that Universities, industries and NIPMO are trying to implement the spirit as well as the letter of the IPR-PFRD Act. The fifth and sixth questions discussed in chapter four turn to Kenya. The dissertation tries to establish whether there is a demand in Kenya for legislation that regulates publicly financed R&D outcomes. It proposes that the time is not yet ripe for Kenya to have a BDA model, but that Kenya needs to first develop sustainable capacity and infrastructure to support the protection, management and ownership of IP. Chapter five concludes that Kenya can learn invaluable lessons from the US and SA when it considers regulating publicly-financed R&D outcomes.