Africa University’s draft IP policy could be a big disincentive to innovators. See how.

Africa University, Mutare, Zimbabwe has drafted an Intellectual Property (IP) policy for the institution. The draft policy has been circulated to get feedback from the IP community.

 

Feedback from one of Africa’s largest IP online community, IP Africa, says the draft IP policy is welcomed, but it could be much better for the creator or inventor.

Reacting to the draft IP policy, Senator Iyere Ihenyen—Infusion Lawyers’ Lead Partner—commended Africa University’s initiative but he thinks the draft IP policy could be much better. His concern is the royalty-distribution formula proposed in the draft. On IP Africa, a fast-growing IP group on Facebook created by John Asein—a leading IP author and consultant—Mr Ihenyen expressed his concerns as follows:

“One major problem I have with this draft is its formula on revenue distribution. The formula cuts the image of the share-the-national-cake syndrome that has been one of Africa’s development challenges.

Under section 5.2.3 of the draft, net revenue from a commercialized IP will be shared as follows:

a) Innovators/inventors/ creators / breeders          25%
b) Central Fund 30%
c) College/unit/department/laboratory/ library/       20%
d) Research and Innovation Committee             15%
e) Endowment Fund for Technology Transfer Office       10%”.

Mr Ihenyen then asked rhetorically, “Is the above an ideal revenue-distribution structure in an environment that is innovation- and value-driven? I think it can be much better, especially for the innovator. Cut down on the number of beneficiaries, starting with the Committee.”

 

Using the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) Model Intellectual Property Policy for Universities and Research Institutions as a model

Mr Ihenyen pointed out the need for Africa University to consider WIPO’s revenue-distribution model. In his words:

“Compare Africa University’s IP Draft above regarding revenue distribution to WIPO’s ‘Model Intellectual Property Policy for Universities and Research Institutions’. The difference is clear. Under section 10.3, WIPO recommends that IP royalty be shared between 3 entities:

1. The Innovator(s)
2. The Department
3. The Institute [institution]

Nothing more. Being a model IP policy, WIPO didn’t specify what the percentage share would be so universities and research institutions decide that. Except for special royalty cases, the Africa University should please reconsider their national-cake revenue distribution formula.”

 

John Asein—the administrator of IP Africa—also shared the same view; says the innovator deserves better.

The former Director of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Mr Asein, emphasized the need to have a revenue-sharing formula that encourages innovators to keep innovating. “I haven’t had time to read the Policy but I do agree that the present revenue sharing formula could be a big disincentive and innovators would find partners outside of the university”, he said.

To expose the unfairness in the proposed revenue-sharing formula in Africa University’s IP Policy draft, Mr Asein showed how bad it was for the innovator as follows:

“In practical terms, the Central Fund (30%), Research & Innovation Committee (15%), and Endowment Fund for Technology Transfer Office (10%) effectively give the University 55% leaving the College/unit/department/laboratory/ library and (again arms of the University) 20%and the Innovators/inventors/ creators / breeders (who may be more than one person) a pitiable 25%.”

Considering the lopsidedness of the revenue-sharing formula, Mr Asein then asked: “Is this a negotiated policy involving all major stakeholder groups or a unilateral draft?”

Well, if it is, it doesn’t look like it.

 

The way forward?

“The major stakeholders and the university community should be encouraged and helped to make critical input. The WIPO Model is very instructive and an inclusive approach to policy formulation well advised otherwise it would turn to be ineffectual as a policy”, Mr Asein pointed out.

Other members of the IP Group who also commented on the draft IP Policy expressed the same views, hoping Africa University would review the draft to cut a better deal for creators or innovators. One of them is Fanta D. Conde-Barclay, the Deputy Director General for Copyright, Liberia Intellectual Property Office (LIPO). Ms. Conde-Barclay suggested that the [revenue-sharing formula] should be revisited and key players (stakeholders) should have the opportunity to be part of the process, if they were not contacted [initially].

 

Let’s compare Africa University’s draft IP Policy with 3 other universities in Africa—Babcock University, the University of Ibadan, and the University of Pretoria.

Africa University’s revenue-sharing formula above is similar to Babcock University’s IP policy introduced in August 2017. Babcock University is a private university in Nigeria which recently introduced the university’s IP policy to the research community and the public. Under the revenue-sharing formula, net income is shared as follows: 30% to the inventor/author; 35% to Babcock University; 10% to the school of the inventor/author; 10% to the Research, Innovation and International Cooperation (RIIC) for use in research work, and 15% to the inventor/author’s department.

But can’t African universities have more encouraging incentives for inventors and authors?

With the University of Ibadan’s IP policy, the answer to the above question is ‘YES, why not?’.

In the IP policy of Nigeria’s Premier University, inventors or authors get much more better incentives. Under section 5.5.2 on Allocation of Net Income, revenue is shared as follows:

  1. 50% shall be allocated to the Inventor(s)/Author(s) in their personal capacity;
  2. 25% shall be allocated pro rata to the environment(s) of the Inventor(s)/Author(s):  8% shall be allocated to the University Research account of the inventor(s)/Author(s) for use in his/her research work, 7% shall be allocated to the Department/Centre of the Inventor(s)/Author(s), 10% shall be allocated to the Faculty/College/Institute where the Inventor(s)/Author(s) reside, to be administered by the Dean/Provost/Director; and
  3. 25% shall be allocated to the Central account of the University of Ibadan.

The University of Pretoria, South Africa—like University of Ibadan—also allocates 50% royalty share to the creator or inventor; 25% to the University research account of the creator inventor to be used for his or her research work; and another 25% to the creator’s or inventor’s Faculty. This allocation formula is provided under section 5.1 of the IP policy. Compared with the University of Ibadan’s IP policy, the only difference is that no royalty is allocated to the University, making more funds available to the Faculties and consequently enabling Faculties lead innovation.  

To lead in innovation in the disruptive era we are now, Africa badly needs its creators, innovators, or inventors to stay awake for the continent, not go to sleep.

The University of Ibadan’s revenue-sharing formula is quite encouraging. It will effectively earn a creator’s or inventor’s many nights. Our creators and inventors cannot afford to be sleeping at this stage of Africa’s development in today’s global village. Africa needs more and more innovation that will work for the African people.

 

IP is the key to Africa’s future.

Universities and other research institutions in Africa that don’t already have very encouraging incentives for their creators and inventors should reconsider their IP policies. There are even more universities in Africa that don’t have any IP policy at all. This is not good for innovation. We need to do much better. 

IP is the key to Africa’s future. And Africa needs to open new doors of opportunities in the 21st century, not remain locked up in its past.

With an eye on a greater future for Africa, Africa University, Mutare, Zimbabwe, is leading the way in Africa’s IP race. In conjunction with WIPO and ARIPO (African Regional Intellectual Property Organization), the University offers a Masters in Intellectual Property program. This has gradually positioned the University as the academic capital of IP in Africa. And this is one of the reasons the University must get its IP policy right.

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