Several general principles are important for effective management of intellectual property (IP) rights in Namibia. First, it is important to have an overall strategy to protect your IP. Second, IP may be protected differently in Namibia than in the United States. Third, rights must be registered and enforced in Namibia, under local laws. For example, your U.S. trademark and patent registrations will not protect you in Namibia. 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 on the national laws of that country. However, most countries offer copyright protection to foreign works in accordance with international agreements.
Patents 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 Namibian market. Companies must understand that intellectual property is primarily a private right and that the U.S. Government cannot enforce rights for private individuals in Namibia. 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 Namibian law. The U.S. Commercial Service can provide a list of local lawyers upon request.
While the U.S. Government (USG) 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 lawsuit. In no instance should USG advice be seen as a substitute for the responsibility of a rights holder to promptly pursue their cases.
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 Namibia require constant attention. Work with legal counsel familiar with Namibian laws to create a solid contract that includes non-compete clauses and confidentiality/non-disclosure provisions.
It is also recommended that small and medium-sized companies understand the importance of working with trade associations and organizations to support efforts to protect IP and stop counterfeiting.
There are a number of these organizations, both Namibian and U.S.-based. These include:
- The U.S. Chamber and local Chambers of Commerce
- 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)
For more information, contact ITA’s Office of Intellectual Property Rights Director, Stevan Mitchell at Stevan.Mitchell@trade.gov.
To access Namibia’s ICS, which includes information on the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, visit the U.S. Department of State Investment Climate Statement website.