Intellectual Property – The Enabler for Creatives in Art and Design

Intellectual Property – The Enabler for Creatives in Art and Design

 

Creativity and innovation are crucial tools for growth and sustainable development, however there has not been significant commercial benefit from creatives in Uganda. Art and design, in its many intricate forms, gives artists an opportunity to demonstrate their ingenuity. Recently creative artists have discovered that they can earn from their skill. While students of art and design in Uganda are equipped with practical knowledge and skills to enable them create tangible visual objects to satisfy market demands, their skills.   have not necessarily been commercially appreciated as they are often dismissed as a passive hobby.  As such, little effort has been made to equip artists with business skills  to enable them reap the full benefit of their work. With a more enlightened and exposed populace, there has emerged a new art and design industry with innumerable opportunities to explore. This article spurs an appreciation of the cultural art industry from a business perspective and outlines the benefits that can accrue to artists through protection of their intellectual property rights.

Creativity and innovation are a catalyst for progress, photo credit: Orare

There is an increasing demand for people with skills in art and design. This follows the enactment of the Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU) policy 2016, and prioritization of the tourism sector in Uganda. The National Arts and Cultural Crafts Association of Uganda (the Association) has made a significant contribution towards the promotion, preservation and transformation of Uganda’s tourism and culture through partnering with visual artists. The Association buys products from members and sells them locally and internationally. By doing this, the Association advertises and promotes Uganda’s rich cultural heritage while increasing the income of artists, in turn alleviating poverty. Nevertheless, it has not afforded the artists the needed sensitization and protection of their intellectual property rights and often, their work is duplicated and sold without their consent.

Retailers of African craft products are thriving through business clustering. This has translated into increased clientele and sales. For instance, the Buganda Road Craft Market which is swarmed by a bulk of tourists and locals to buy impressive assortments of master pieces, ranging from paintings, batiks, art prints, ceramics, sculptures. While African craft products admirably adorn hotel rooms, lounges, offices, and restaurants, the creators of the crafts have not received a deserving benefit for their creations. This is attributable to their ignorance of intellectual property.  Kenneth Muhangi, an Intellectual Property Law practitioner says that the limited awareness of the population on the importance and value of Intellectual property as an asset is the biggest hinderance to intellectual property protection in Uganda. The promotion and protection of Intellectual property spurs economic growth, creates jobs and enhances the quality and enjoyment of life. It also provides an incentive to the innovators to be able to benefit from the result of their endeavors.

The internet is revolutionizing the art industry and ordinary people now have an opportunity to be a part of new innovations. Artists and creatives are facing stiff competition from novices who are taking advantage of the evolving creative industry by utilizing computer aided designs and online platforms like Pinterest, an online pin board website with a wealth of ideas to create and recreate art and design. This has created a budding group of entrepreneurs in the crafting industry and has sparked the unique Do It Yourself (DIY) trend. With the aid of tutorials, tools, supplies, space and a social setting, business enthusiasts are able to recreate projects and bring their ideas to fruition. This unconventional dynamic also deserves protection and a fair reward for the effort.

Regardless of how one chooses to express their creativity, a fair reward is warranted. Kenneth Muhangi emphasizes that Government and relevant stakeholders have a lot to do in the promotion of creativity and innovation. Further, Bemanya Twebaze, the Registrar General of the Uganda Registration Services Bureau, points out  that while significant progress has been made in the generation and protection of intellectual property assets, very little has been done with respect to their  commercialization.  He reveals that the National Intellectual Property Policy was formulated to provide direction on short, medium-and long-term activities that will enable intellectual property stakeholders to effectively work together towards creating, protecting and commercially exploiting research results, innovations, new technologies and creative works. The policy has a number of strategies to facilitate the enhancement of innovation and creativity, they include; knowledge-based skills, capacity building, technology transfer, and development as well as wealth and employment creation across all sectors of the national economy. The policy will encourage both public and private sectors to recognize and harness the value of Intellectual property for the benefit of Ugandans.

As Uganda transitions towards a knowledge-based economy, sectors will all progressively depend on the use of intellectual property to generate wealth and social good. Intellectual property protection in art and design, is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

Mercy Nampiima