Finding the right Intellectual Property Lawyer for your innovative venture

Intellectual Property Law

Intellectual Property LawWhilst Kenya is quickly becoming the  fastest growing innovation hub in Africa, there lacks proper laws and the legal framework for the protection of these innovations, most of which are code related.

There currently exists two government bodies that handle the two aspects of Intellectual Property Law which are; Industrial Patents and Copyrights. The organisations are KIPI and KeCoBo respectively.

It is however becoming increasingly hard for software developers to get any protection from the two bodies as many are either not aware that they exist, do not fully understand how they can help an innovator, or do not have the funds required to get legal representation.

When we were registering the copyrights and patents for Safari Tales, we made the one cardinal mistake that all techpreneurs make; we went to see a potential corporate before first securing a patent and copyrights for the mobile app.

We have all read stories in our dailies and on the net of how a techpreneur’s idea was stolen. The main reason is because, most walk into meetings without;

a. A competent IP lawyer
b. Any papers (read patent and/ or copyrights) to show that they own the creation
c. An NDA with a non compete clause.

The software development waters have become murky and every company is looking for the next Mpesa thus a bright yet naive techpreneur will present their mobile app at some huge corporates boardroom and only have a downloaded NDA which even he, does not know what it means since its in legal jargon. The next thing we are hearing are the words,

They stole my idea.

How do you avoid this?

The innovation worda. Get a competent IP Lawyer
Before all the innovation hubs were setup and every business story  in the dailies had to have some Kenyan tech innovation, getting an IP lawyer was pretty hard. One had to deal with the likes of Sichangi &  Co. Advocates who,  despite having an IP lawyer, did not have a full understanding of the tech innovation happening  that needed protection thus most would insist that one has to reveal their code which most software developers would never agree to. Alternatively,  they would give you their rate card which was not very different from the one issued for a criminal case representation.

It therefore helps to have a well versed lawyer in IP especially when it pertains to a mobile innovation.

It also helps to get a lawyer or law firm that understands where you are coming from. You are boot strapping this venture and do not have thousands to spend but you know the importance of protecting your invention/innovation.

I found it better dealing with lawyers that do not work for a huge reputable law firm, ones who did not send you an invoice after the first meeting. Instead I chose to work with those who only charged a reasonable fee for services like the copyright registration process , the Trademark application process and drafting of an NDA.

Talk to the following IP lawyers who have a  clear understanding of the Silicon Savannah that Kenya is becoming.

Victor Nzomo ( Lawyer and blogger on IP matters in Kenya )
Liz Lenjo ( IP lawyer and blogger )
Wandiri Karimi ( creative with an LLM in IP)
Sarah Amoit

Find a full list of all IP lawyers in Kenya here

 b. Get the Papers to prove ownership
The iHub, Nailab and everyone in the tech space might know that you are the one who created app X but if you do not have papers to show, like a copyright certificate or a trademark certificate  for that funky name then, it will only take some guy/company with a clever lawyer to steal that from you.

Visit the KeCoBo & KIPI websites, pay them a visit if you have to, and know what you need if you were to sue someone for stealing your innovation.

Its sad but that’s what it often boils down to.

The whole process will cost you a tidy sum of anything between 50- 100K depending on how many patents or trademark categories  your innovation falls under but it will be worth it in the long run.

intellectual_propertyd) Know when and how to use an NDA
I admit, as people who spend alot of their time online, we tend to think we know everything and that we can get anything we want online, including an NDA. However, most NDAs are written in legal jargon which can sometimes be pretty confusing. Terms like ‘In perpetuity‘ or ‘un-enforceable‘  should not be thrown around by a techpreneur without proper understanding of what they mean in a court of law.

if your NDA does not have a non-compete clause, you are as good as dead. This means that, the company/guy you presented your innovation to and got to sign a nice NDA will take your idea, tweak a few things and release it in a different name. Worst part is, no law can protect you when that happens.

A good lawyer will draft for you an  effective NDA for anything between 8-15K.

Lawyers don’t come Cheap 
Legal services are still a preserve of the rich in this country. It is however, no excuse for a techpreneur thus sometimes it requires that one is clever. Don’t ask the lawyer to do everything for you like go to KIpI etc as it will cost you more. Instead, seek advice and guidance but do most of the hardwork.
Once you have gone to the KIPI offices in South C and realized that they don’t work from 1-3pm, you will know why lawyers will charge you a fortune for the service.

 

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3 comments

  1. Isaac Rutenberg Reply

    Don’t forget CIPIT (www.cipit.org) provides an IP Clinic where you can get free advise in IP matters, including patenting, from a qualified Patent Lawyer.

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