INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY FOR PUBLICALLY FUNDED RESEARCH

If you take a look at the vision and mission of most universities it will be to disseminate information for the good of the society. It is therefore inevitable for universities to engage in a lot of research. A lot of other public institutions in various fields also engage in a lot of research and make a lot of findings that are published in journals and other publications. Unfortunately some of this research is plagiarised by other persons who then benefit from this research work.  For example a university makes a presentation at a science congress and a third party manufacturer commercialises their idea without any benefit to the university. The Science, Technology and Innovation Act of 2013 legislates on all research work carried out in Kenya. Under this Act, research committees can be set up for specific sciences. It is now illegal to carry out any scientific research in Kenya without a license. The Science, Technology and Innovation Act streamlines and co-ordinates all research taking place in Kenya. In the past there has been a lot of erosion and plagiarism of research carried on in our institutions. This could be due to lack of regulatory framework seeing that the Science Technology and Innovation Act is a 2013 Act and also lack of good intellectual property law polices when research is done jointly by third parties. Sometimes the research done by universities is undertaken jointly with foreign universities or other entities. Before this Act was passed, what guided the research work was a memorandum of understanding and sometimes a joint venture agreement. These agreements set out the rights and obligations of both parties. However in the absence of a national law to protect the interest of locally done research the risk of plagiarism was still high. The Act therefore protects all research done in Kenya and public institutions that engage in research stand to benefit the more out of the provisions of this Act. The economy also benefits from research work carried out in the country as the same is co-ordinated and centralised.

 

Under the principles of publically funded research, public institutions are encouraged to protect and manage their research work so as to ensure commercial viability of all their research work.  Other than just providing information to the society public institutions should also seek to gain financially from their research work. A university can protect its own research work and own the intellectual property in it. It can then come up with an IP strategy on selling the right in its research to third parties and therefore make extra revenue for itself. The gains made through sale of IP can subsidise the income of the public institutions. Many countries are now coming up with national principles of managing publically funded research to ensure that any rights to the research and benefits from the research benefit the economy as a whole.  In Kenya the good thing is that research is now co-ordinated and centrally managed under the Act. I believe that the relevant regulatory authority that will be formed under this Act will also come up with a national principle of managing all publically funded research to ensure that maximum benefit is made out of all research work carried out in Kenya.

 

In many infrastructure projects which require regulatory approval a lot of time the licenses come with some conditions. I have seen that sometimes that the project owner has to satisfy the regulator as to how the project will benefit the locals.  The same principle of issuing conditional licenses will most likely apply in research licenses.

 

However for now any public institution engaging in research should ensure that it first gets a license for the research it is doing and secondly comes up with a policy of owning the research work and commercialising the same so that research is not only done for purposes of finding information but also to make extra revenue out of its own research.

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