Ghana - Protecting Intellectual PropertyGhana - Intellectual Property
Protecting Your Intellectual Property in Ghana
Several general principles are important for effective management of intellectual property (“IP”) rights in Ghana. First, it is important to have an overall strategy to protect your IP. Second, IP may be protected differently in Ghana than in the United States. Third, rights must be registered and enforced in Ghana under local laws. For example, your U.S. trademark and patent registrations will not protect you in Ghana. There is no such thing as an “international copyright” that will automatically protect an author’s writings throughout the entire world. Protection against unauthorized use in a particular country depends, basically, on the national laws of that country. However, most countries do offer copyright protection to foreign works in accordance with international agreements. In January 2016, Ghana launched its first national intellectual property rights policy and strategy. The policy, jointly launched by Ghana and the Swiss Federation, is a first step aimed at ensuring that innovators, creators, users, and consumers benefit from an improved intellectual property environment that will create favorable conditions for entrepreneurship, innovation, technology transfer, and product modernization.
Granting patent registrations are generally based on a first-to-file [or first-to-invent, depending on the country basis.] Similarly, registering trademarks is based on a first-to-file [or first-to-use, depending on the country], so you should consider how to obtain patent and trademark protection before introducing your products or services to the Ghana market. It is vital that companies understand that intellectual property is primarily a private right and that the U.S. government cannot enforce rights for private individuals in Ghana. It is the responsibility of the rights' holders to register, protect, and enforce their rights where relevant, retaining their own counsel and advisors. Companies may wish to seek advice from local attorneys or IP consultants who are experts in Ghana law. The U.S. Commercial Service can provide a list of local lawyers upon request.
While the U.S. Government stands ready to assist, there is little we can do if the rights holders have not taken these fundamental steps necessary to securing and enforcing their IP in a timely fashion. Moreover, in many countries, rights holders who delay enforcing their rights on a mistaken belief that the USG can provide a political resolution to a legal problem may find that their rights have been eroded or abrogated due to legal doctrines such as statutes of limitations, laches, estoppel, or unreasonable delay in prosecuting a law suit. In no instance should U.S. Government advice be seen as a substitute for the responsibility of a rights holder to promptly pursue its case.
It is always advisable to conduct due diligence on potential partners. A good partner is an important ally in protecting IP rights. Consider carefully, however, whether to permit your partner to register your IP rights on your behalf. Doing so may create a risk that your partner will list itself as the IP owner and fail to transfer the rights should the partnership end. Keep an eye on your cost structure and reduce the margins (and the incentive) of would-be bad actors. Projects and sales in Ghana require constant attention. Work with legal counsel familiar with Ghana laws to create a solid contract that includes non-compete clauses, and confidentiality/non-disclosure provisions.
It is also recommended that small and medium-size companies understand the importance of working together with trade associations and organizations to support efforts to protect IP and stop counterfeiting. There are a number of these organizations, both Ghana or U.S.-based. These include:
- The U.S. Chamber and the American Chamber of Commerce in Ghana
- National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
- International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA)
- International Trademark Association (INTA)
- The Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy
- International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC)
- Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)
- Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO)
- A wealth of information on protecting IP is freely available to U.S. rights holders. Some excellent resources for companies regarding intellectual property include the following:
- For information about patent, trademark, or copyright issues -- including enforcement issues in the US and other countries visit the STOP! Hotline-- call: 1-866-999-HALT.
- For more information about registering trademarks and patents (both in the U.S. as well as in foreign countries), contact the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) at: 1-800-786-9199.
- For more information about registering for copyright protection in the United States, contact the U.S. Copyright Office at: 1-202-707-5959, or visit http://www.copyright.gov/.
- For more information about how to evaluate, protect, and enforce intellectual property rights and how these rights may be important for businesses, please visit the “Resources” section of the STOPfakes website at http://www.stopfakes.gov/resources.
- For information on obtaining and enforcing intellectual property rights and market-specific IP Toolkits visit: visit the STOP! Hotline /businesss-tools/country-ipr-toolkits. The toolkits contain detailed information on protecting and enforcing IP in specific markets and also contain contact information for local IPR offices abroad and U.S. government officials available to assist SMEs.
- The U.S. Department of Commerce has positioned IP attachés in key markets around the world. You can get contact information below for the IP attaché who covers the following countries:
Angola and Sub-Saharan Africa
Vacant – contact Dominic Keating
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
European Union and European Commission
Geneva, Switzerland - WTO
Geneva, Switzerland - UN
Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean
India & South Asia
Middle East & North Africa
Aisha Y. Salem
Russia, the C.I.S. and Georgia
Ghana Trade Development and Promotion Intellectual Property