On 10 February 2017 the Industrial Property Regulations were gazetted by the Ugandan government bringing the Industrial Property Act, 2014 (“the Act”) into full effect. Despite the fact that the Act came into force in February 2014, it has had a somewhat limping effect for the past three years due to the lack of implementing regulations. The effect of this is that patents have been filed with the Registry but until now there have been no provisions guiding the Registry on how to register industrial designs, utility models and technovations.

This article provides an explanation of the rights afforded to the new, somewhat less common categories of intellectual property protected by the Act in Uganda, namely: industrial designs, utility models and technovations.

Industrial designs

The protection offered by a registered industrial design is gaining prominence across the globe, admittedly in the shadow of its more popular forms of intellectual property law such as patents, trade mark and copyright. An industrial design is defined by the Act as “useful article which is ornamental or aesthetic that may consist of three dimensional features like a shape or surface of an article or a three dimensional feature such as patterns, line or colours”. Excluded from the definition is any design which serves solely to obtain a technical result which is within the realm of patents and utility models in Uganda.

Industrial designs must be new and afford the proprietor of the design to preclude third parties from performing certain acts such as reproducing, importing and selling the product in Uganda for a period of up to fifteen years.

Utility models

Where the definition for patents are defined as “the title granted to protect an invention” by the Act. Utility models seek to protect a much broader class of “inventions” such as appliances, utensils, tools, electrical and electronic circuitry, instruments, handicraft mechanisms or other objects that gives some utility, advantage, environmental benefit, saving or technical effect not previously available in Uganda.

In that the utility models are still required to be an invention in terms of the Act it is not clear how the overlap between patents and utility models will play out in practice. Utility models afford the proprietor of the design to preclude third parties from performing restricted acts for a period of ten years.

Technovations

Uganda is the first country that we are aware of affording rights to what they define as a technovation. Technovation is defined by the Act as “a solution to a specific problem in the field of technology, proposed by an employee of an enterprise in Uganda for use by that enterprise, and which relates to the activities of the enterprise but which, on the date of proposal, has not been used or actively considered for use by that enterprise”.

The effect of this new form of intellectual property protection is that an employee can protect their solution to a problem by filing a request for a technovation certificate with their employer which the employer grants to the employee if the requirements of the Act are met. If the employer uses the technovation (or communicates it to a third person) the employee (technovator) is entitled to a remuneration will be determined by collective bargaining agreement or by mutual agreement between the parties.