Updated: Aug 17, 2020
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 may not have been given enough attention is ways in which Africa can protect her cultural IP.
According an article by Vera Albino of Inventa International around the right of indigenous people to protect their rights against intellectual property, she shares potential solutions on 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.”
1. Having no entity to represent them, on whose behalf could they register their intellectual property rights?
2. Since many of their names or patterns are registered in the name of third-party companies, their own registration applications may be rejected.
3. In the specific case of trademarks, even if registration of their rights is granted, their use would be necessary, otherwise the marks would be declared invalid.
4. 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.
The information is power, but what about the groups of people and communities who cannot read this blog and be inspired to move towards the right direction when it comes to advocating for their rights to control and sustainably manage their assets?
In Sarah Young’s article on the Independent around Maasai of East Africa 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 $10m in licensing fees every year.”
I have to admit that even though very brands and communities in 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 Africa Fashion lawyer, Sumaiya De`Mar strongly advises on the three first things to get right legally when starting your fashion brand so 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 ‘woke’. Power to those cultural groups who have set up systems to protect their cultural and economic rights . Whether you organize the groups through the community, the governments or whatever group you are a part of, it will make a big difference.
Despite the flaws around the current IP law and the concerns around it as a reasonable solution to issues of cultural appropriation, there is still protection that you get from the laws. If you and I cannot protect our cultural heritage from the predator, who will?
If you are determined to appropriate cultures, without respecting, honouring, and empowering the cultural IP from the culture you mimic, you have an opportunity to change that.
Do what you need to do respectfully so we can enjoy the fruits of globalization.