The growth in international trade, advancement in technology and changes in trading methods have come with challenges that call for new strategies to effectively combat counterfeit trade. Intellectual Property rights (IP rights) are a form of property granted through trademarks, patents, industrial designs, copyrights and geographical indications, etc. These enable the owner to exercise monopoly on their invention. Over the years, Kenya has made strides in the fight against counterfeiting; with the biggest win being the establishment of the Anti-Counterfeit Authority (ACA) in 2010.
Additionally, the Government established the Inter-Agency Anti-Illicit Trade Executive Forum and Technical Working Group to strengthen interventions toward curbing the trade. This forum furthermore facilitates the exchange of information between agencies and enhances enforcement.
Apart from ACA, different agencies, anchored on various laws, continue to collaborate to sustain the fight against counterfeiting and related forms of illicit trade. Some of these institutions include Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya Industrial Property Institute, Pest Control Products Board, Kenya Plant, Health Inspectorate Services, National Police Service, and Kenya Bureau of Standards among others.
Despite these efforts, illicit trade continues to be a major threat to economic growth. IP rights serve as a link between the consumer and the manufacturer, enabling the consumer to identify, associate and trust products with their respective owners. The National Baseline survey on Counterfeits and Illicit Trade found that the worst hit sectors are Building, Mining and Construction (23pc), Energy, Electrical and Electronics (15pc), Textile and Apparel (14pc), Plastic and Rubber and Metal and Allied Sectors (9pc each). The five sectors accounted for 70 counts of illicit trade in 16 manufacturing sectors in 2018. Complaints from the private sector and consumers were on counterfeiting, piracy, uncustomed goods and substandard goods.
IP rights are not only instrumental in protecting the innovative and creative capacity of owners and promoting competition in various industries, but also have to do with the welfare of the consumers of the goods and services to which they apply.