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Govt develops ICT intellectual property guidelines to promote innovation

The ministry of ICT and National Guidance has developed comprehensive ICT Intellectual Property (IP) guidelines to promote innovation, creativity, and economic growth by safeguarding the rights of innovators.

The growth of the ICT sector in Uganda has primarily been private sector-led, resulting in the emergence of various sub-sectors, including innovation. Recently, government support for local applications and innovations has been limited, with young graduates and skilled locals often left supporting imported ICT solutions.

Recently, the government embarked on investing in indigenous technology development, enacting laws to protect innovators, and supporting initiatives like the National ICT Initiatives Support Program (NIISP).

The government has enacted various laws, including the Copyright and Neighboring Rights Act of 2006, the Trade Secrets Protection Act of 2009, and the Industrial Properties Act of 2014, to protect different forms of IP in the ICT sector. The National Intellectual Property Policy passed in 2019, aims to facilitate innovation, productivity, competitiveness, and technology transfer and development in Uganda’s economy.

Shirley Gladys Nakyejwe, an intellectual property management specialist at the Ministry of ICT, said the guidelines aim to strengthen the legal protection of innovations owned and funded by (MOICT and NG).

The guidelines provide a framework for managing, owning, and commercializing IP rights in contracts between MOICT & NG and its suppliers. The guidelines cover areas of IP management, commercialization, procurement of digital assets, and funding and grants towards innovation development.

“The guidelines also address ownership of IP, stating that where IP arises from funding or a grant from MOICT & NG, both the recipient of the grant and MOICT & NG will own exclusive or non-exclusive rights to the invention. However, IP generated from MOICT and NG-funded innovations must not be used to block further innovation by others. The guidelines outline the process for reassignment or disposal of government-owned IP, stating that IP may be reassigned or disposed of in circumstances where it has reached the end of its usefulness or can be better exploited by a third party,” she said.

Prof Elly Katunguka, the vice chancellor of Kyambogo University, says the institution has developed an academic management information system that is being deployed across all public universities, and many other private universities have expressed interest. With that system, the country would save a lot of money they would spend to import these expensive IT systems.

He noted that the regulatory system or framework has been lacking because many universities do not have intellectual property management systems.

“We have been discussing with the government to see whether they can buy these systems and make them available to public universities, and it is the system that operates across all systems of the university, be it financial, human resources, or academic, and then the students in public universities will make a small contribution to this ICT system,” he said.

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