Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.

IP is protected in law by, for example, trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create.

By striking the right balance between the interests of innovators and the wider public interest, the IP system aims to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish.

Though Tanzania is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Work, many stakeholders in the country have a little understanding about Intellectual property issues.

Tanzania’s membership in the international Intellectual Property community validates how it is committed and trusts the benefits of Intellectual Property rights, but do we really take advantages of intellectual properties especially in technological advancement?

The supply side weaknesses faced by Tanzania impede its ability to compete effectively in national and international markets. These weaknesses span from both public and private sectors.

They include, poorly developed managerial and technical capacities in the private sector, weaknesses in public administration and deficiencies in Intellectual Property institutional building and physical infrastructure.

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Tanzania to the United Nations – Geneva Modest J. Mero says building national IP institutions to stimulate economic growth and development requires strengthening a range of pro-growth institutions that can provide predictable incentives for economic activity.

He was speaking during a two days national meeting on the WIPO Development Agenda held at Hyatt Regency Hotel Dare s Salaam organised jointly by Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH),Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology and the World Intellectual Property Organisation.

Ambassador J. Mero says what is important for a country like Tanzania is that the right equilibrium needs to be found between rewarding and protecting intellectual efforts, while respecting the right to access and the construction of a common heritage.

He says development objectives need to be integrated into policy on IP, in national Intellectual Property Rights regimes and in international agreements.

“For this to happen, Tanzania should be involved in setting standards in Intellectual Property at the national, regional and international levels specifically taking into account the interest of the country.” He noted.

He also says there was a need to particularly have long term productive investments, improving dialogue across the various stake holders involved in making those investments and disciplining those interest groups.

“Today’s successful economies like Singapore, the Republic of Korea, and Malaysia were able to develop such institutions consistent with their national political, social cultural and with the bureaucratic and entrepreneurial capacities of local elite.”

He says emphasising that Intellectual property in the form of patents is a valuable source of technical and scientific information.

He adds that Intellectual property is a tool for providing a solution for problems such as food security, the environment, trade, industry, and health and safety concerns associated with development activities.

He observed that in the era of knowledge-based economy, many small and medium-sized enterprises, researchers and government agencies concerned with resource development, had not taken full advantage of unique and valuable source of patent information.

He further explains that the supply side weaknesses faced by Tanzania impede its ability to compete effectively in national and international markets.

“These weaknesses span from both public and private sectors. They include, poorly developed managerial and technical capacities in the private sector, weaknesses in public administration and deficiencies in IP institutional building and physical infrastructure” He says.

COSTECH Director General Dr Hassan Mshinda points out that as part of the strategy of promotion of innovation, science and technology, the World Intellectual Property Rights Organisation (WIPO) executed the recommendation brought forward by Member States concerning the facilitation of establishing Technology and Innovation Support Centres (TISCs) in Developing Countries in order to promote innovation and creativity especially resulted from research.

Dr Mshinda says WIPO in collaboration with the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, through the Business Registration and Licensing Agency and Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) took an initiative of establishing the Technology and Innovation Support Centres (TISCs) in the United Republic of Tanzania.

The Centres established 22 institutions including Universities Research and Development which act as National Focal Point for Technology and Innovation Support Centres.

Mr Kifle Shenkoru is a WIPO Director Division for Least-Developed Countries. He says in order for Tanzania to attain its vision 2025 it must consider effective uses of new technologies and intellectual properties issues. “Malaysia and Singapore were at the same level of development similar to Tanzania in 1960.

They however utilised effectively the invention of new technologies by their Scientists, they ensured patents and intellectual properties to their products and services.” He says.

He says the key to the success of most developed countries including Korea was their efforts to upgrade their University research capabilities.

“There was a close link between University researchers and the private sector which focused on developing products that exploited the emerging expertise in high value niches by using scientific and technical information including from patent documents” Mr Shenkoru hints.