TRIPS

BRIEF ON INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS IN SEYCHELLES

Introduction

Up till April 2014 Intellectual property rights in Seychelles were governed by three pieces of legislation. They are namely; The Patents Act (1901), The Trademark Decree (1977) and The Copyright Act (1984).  The three laws were administered by two different Ministries; Patents and Trademarks falls under the administration of the office of the Registrar General and Copyrights under the purview of the Department of Culture.

In addition to the Registrar General’s Office and the Department of Culture, there are also several Intellectual Property rights service providers such as the Judiciary, Police, Customs, the Small Enterprise Promotion Agency (SEnPA) and the National Arts Council.

It was generally accepted that IP rights enforcement capacity was weak in the current institutions implementing intellectual property right because over the years, although some individuals have been trained to do so, this task has been continuously neglected because the lack of human resources. It has also been very difficult for the Ministries and Departments to attract the suitably qualified people to work in the area and this has led to limited reform being undertaken.

The Government recognises that there are shortcomings in IP development and enforcement in Seychelles and has taken various steps to improve the situation.

Intellectual Property Development Plan

Following a request to WIPO by the Government of Seychelles, in January 2010 a team comprising of 2 consultants contracted by WIPO undertook an intellectual property system evaluation and needs assessment mission to Seychelles. The objectives of the mission were to:

1. Assess the current IP system, identify weaknesses, constraints and opportunities and
2. Make concrete proposals with the view to defining specific needs-oriented activities and projects for implementation within the IPDP to enhance Seychelles’s capacity to create, protect and make strategic use of IPRs and assets as a power tool for economic growth and development.
The Consultants examined relevant Government policies, the patent, trademark and customs laws, various background documents provided by the stakeholders and made available on the web sites such as WIPO, WTO and appropriate Government Agencies of Seychelles.

At the end of the consultancy the consultants submitted an Intellectual Property Development Plan which highlighted seven action areas which the government then prioritized as follows:
 

1. Strengthening IP Policy Framework.
2. Strengthening IP Legal Framework.
3. Strengthening of IP Institutional Framework.
4. Strengthening IP Enforcement.
5. Creating and strengthening IP awareness.
6. Enhancing the use of IP System.
7. Linking the National IP System with the International IP System.

The Government has already started to action on the first 3 areas.

1. Strengthening IP Policy Framework.
Apart from undertaking it at national level through the creation of an IP Taskforce which liaises with the various stakeholders to work on ways to strengthen the IP policy Framework, Seychelles has also received technical assistance on an international level. In January 2012 2 UNESCO sponsored consultants who were experts in creative industry, were in the country. The consultancy was aimed towards assisting the Culture Division in establishing a Creative Industry Policy and also to work on a Music Industry Strategy for the Seychelles. The consultancy lasted until March this year and at the end of it the 2 Experts submitted a Creative Industry Policy and Music Industry Strategy to the Culture Division.

2. Strengthening IP Legal Framework.
With regards to the legal framework the Seychelles government was of the view that IP related legislations needed to be modernized. With that in mind the a new Copyrights Act has been promulgated as well as the enactment of the Industrial Property Act which has repealed the Trademarks Decree and the Patents Act. This piece of legislation covers the protection and use of patents, trademarks, geographical indications, utility models, layout designs and integrated circuits.

3. Strengthening of IP Institutional Framework.
In its effort to strengthen the IP institutional Framework the Government is in the Process of working on the setting up of an  Intellectual Property Office which will centralise and consolidate most of the resources relating to intellectual property management and enforcement under one central body.
This office will be responsible for effective intellectual property rights management and development in the country.  Given that it will be a specialized agency; resources will be shared only for intellectual property rather than other non-related work.

It is envisaged that the Office will to be financed by Government during the initial five-year-period; the subvention would subsequently be reduced to half for the following five years.  The Office’s self-sustainability could be secured through the patents, trademarks and industrial designs application fees; both local and foreign, sale of holograms for the anti-piracy program and other fund raising activities.

MOU with WIPO

Following the IPDP, the Government signed an MOU with WIPO in November 2010. The aim of the MOU is to delineate a framework of cooperation geared towards the Implementation of the IPDP in such a manner so as to ensure that the activities highlighted in the IPDP are successfully executed and also that there is good coordination between the various stakeholders so as to better enable the Government to protect, encourage and effectively use the IP system to complement the country’s development strategies.

Becoming a Member of ARIPO

Since Seychelles is in the process of developing and harmonising its intellectual property program through the creation of the Seychelles Intellectual Property Office, it is an opportune time for it to join the ARIPO and benefit from the regional expertise that they have to offer. This will also allow Seychelles to fully share its developmental experiences which may be documented by ARIPO for the purpose of offering similar assistance to other countries.