Chapter 9 The Unusual Extension of Imperial Intellectual Property Laws to Colonies in Africa

In: Intellectual Property and the Law of Nations, 1860-1920
Daniel Opoku Acquah
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This chapter examines the unusual extension of Imperial intellectual property laws to British colonies in Sub-Saharan Africa from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century, critically appraising how British dominion shaped domestic intellectual property laws and culture, and its impact on the social and economic development of African nations. It argues that contrary to the narrative that there was no apparent imperial strategy as to the development of colonial intellectual property laws, there seems to have been a certain arrangement regarding Africa, which cannot be merely coincidental. Intellectual property laws were imposed on Sub-Saharan Africa, not borrowed, and there must have been a reason for this. Yet unlike other Crown colonies, the Imperial government did not build local capacity nor institutions for intellectual property in Africa. This led to displaced local knowledge governance and innovation systems, and countries ill-equipped to handle the pressures of the twenty-first-century intellectual property system.

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