7.4 What is Intellectual Property Intellectual property (IP) is an intangible form of property arising out of people’s creativity, ideas and inventions which may have valuable application in agriculture, industry or commerce. The concept of physical ownership of assets is well understood and laws exist to safeguard ownership of such property. In the case of intellectual property, rights can be obtained by the developers of the nonphysical assets, to acknowledge their ownership and to reward their efforts. As a form of property, IP has to be protected to ensure that the creator/inventor maintains the rights of exploitation. Protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) is a means to reward innovators and creators for their contribution to society through their industry and investment. This protection is, however, fora finite period of time – often 20 years. At the expiry of this period, the ownership of the IPR will return to the public domain whereby access to commercially exploit the IP will be open to anyone interested without having to obtain permission or make a payment for accessing the technology/process/information. Protection is intended to provide the necessary incentives for the generation of knowledge as well as to encourage the transfer of technology through self or third- party exploitation. Intellectual property has been described as a bundle of exclusive rights with exceptions and limitations granted by a legal process and normally conveyed through a certificate (except for copyrights and related rights. Creators of intellectual property can be individuals, groups or organisations upon whom IP rights are conferred. Consideration of IPR and developing IPR policies is a relatively new area in many ACP universities and research stations. Ina meeting of university vice chancellors in 2002 in Kenya to develop IP policies many were initially sceptical. Many scientists connected IP to copyright and were unable to see its relevance to RD. Others
82 viewed the exercise as an attempt to control their IP. Tom Ogada, formerly head of Moi University’s Technology Transfer Office and now Director of the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute, indicated that a major cause for concern was the issue of delaying the publication of research results for the sake of patentability’. There was also concern voiced over questions of ownership, benefit distribution, conflict of interests and commitments. To overcome these challenges IP awareness exercises were held and debates organised. A number of ACP universities and research institutes are setting up IP offices and drafting institution IP policies.