Africa’s rich and diverse culture is constantly thriving through its influence that has penetrated the global fashion & lifestyle market. However, one important aspect that has not been given enough attention is how Africa (not the rest of the world) can protect its Cultural and Intellectual Property.
Vera Albino of Inventa International wrote an essential article about the right of indigenous people to protect their rights against intellectual property. She shed light on some essential issues in this unresolved crisis:
“One of the solutions they could think of would be to protect their cultural assets, however, this solution has several flaws, four appearing to be of particular importance.”
- Having no entity to represent them, on whose behalf could they register their intellectual property rights?
- Since many of their names or patterns are registered in the name of third-party companies, their own registration applications may be rejected.
- In the specific case of trademarks, even if the registration of their rights is granted, their use would be necessary, otherwise, the marks would be declared invalid.
- In the case of trademarks also, since this registration is divided by classes, it would be necessary to register the trademark in all classes, in order for its protection to be complete.
Information is power. But what about the groups of people and communities who cannot read this blog and be inspired to move in the right direction when it comes to advocating for their rights to control and sustainably manage their assets?
According to Sarah Young’s article in the Independent about East African Maasai people fighting against cultural appropriation by luxury labels, “It’s calculated that around 80 companies are presently infringing and as a result, the Maasai people should be collecting $10 million in licensing fees every year.”
Even though many brands and communities on the continent are paying enough attention to find ways in which to protect their cultural IP’s, it’s not enough. It is imperative that we talk and facilitate ways to influence change in this aspect TODAY. And please don’t tell me you are still thinking about it because there is nothing to think about – let’s just get things done!
South African fashion lawyer Sumaiya De`Mar strongly advises protecting your Intellectual Property as the very first thing to get straight from a legal standpoint when starting your fashion brand, so as to not get your ‘fingers burnt’. As a creative in this vicious industry, you have a right to copyright protection – and that means you have to stay awake. If you and I cannot protect our brands & culture from the predators, who will? Those cultural groups who have set up systems to protect their cultural and economic rights already see the profits. Wake up Africa and shift your crown into its right position.