JumpStart Intellectual Property presentation in Harare this Friday

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Aleck Ncube

Aleck Ncube

On Friday this week, the JumpStart community will hold its second event. This event covers a topic that concerns many a would-be entrepreneur in Zimbabwe; that of Intellectual Property (IP), specifically, the answer to the question; “How is my IP protected?”, or a more direct variation of the question; “What if big company X steals my idea?”

And it’s not just a concern in Zimbabwe, it’s an issue in all budding tech startup communities across the emerging markets. Non-Disclosure Agreements and issues of patents are contentious in established markets as well.

The questions have of coursed in turn raised concern in the people working with entrepreneurs whether that’s mobile network operators, VCs, or other experienced entrepreneurs. Most of the concerns are summarised in this article by Tim Ferriss; “Trust me, your idea is worthless”. Indeed, the advice we hear from these ‘enablers in the ecosystem’ every now and again is that, too much IP concern and focus on it actually stifles innovation.

But let’s not simplify things needlessly. To help the tech community understand IP, JumpStart has invited IP expert Aleck Ncube, who is currently the acting director of the National University of Science and Technology Technopark (More about the NUST Technopark here next week). Ncube has extensive knowledge on the subject having undertaken research on Technology Transfer in Academic Institutions at the International Technology Transfer Institute www.unh.edu/itti (ITTI), at the University of New Hampshire School of Law in the US. You can read more about Ncube on the event page.

To attend the event, please make a booking on the JumpStart event page, http://www.jumpstart.co.zw/events/a-presentation-on-intellectual-property-by-aleck-ncube/. Please do sign up to help the JumpStart organisers plan accordingly. Attendance is free, but you need to make a booking via the JumpStart website.

If you feel you have any specific questions you need answered at the event, please send an email to hello@jumpstart.co.zw and we’ll ensure that Ncube has a response for you at the event. You can also enter it in the comments section below.

This month’s meetup is sponsored by ZOL, one of Zimbabwe’s largest internet service providers. The guys that sponsored the Startup Challenge last year. Besides learning about IP, Technology Transfer, and the opportunity to ask an IP expert about the subject, you’ll also get the opportunity to meet other technologists, tech entrepreneurs, VCs and other folk in the industry.

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  • Harrison Ford, Air Force One

    I would like to know when the NUST lecturer will be addressing the Bulawayo folks, or if he has any public lecturerts he does in Bulawayo. i speaks as someone not in Bulawayo or Harare who finds even Lupane State university lecturers not even available to speak to Lupane residents. Thank you.

  • Tapiwa ✔

    It’s unfortunate (perhaps indicative) that my knowledge of IP law is more US-centric, but the over-arching philosophy is that you cannot own an idea, just the expression of an idea. (e.g. Apples patent on animated desktop switching using a cube was by-passed by using a tetrahedron on Linux. You could argue the ‘idea’ was stolen)

     I think that execution is more important than the idea itself (which is not really worthless – but close to). If big company X (or any company X) can execute your idea better than you, I’d say that’s not your biggest problem.

  • Lee Masuka

    Ideas are sometimes almost similar, sometimes people develop new ideas from existing ones, but its still a new idea. These ideas need to be protected. Thank you Mr Alex from NUST for IP.

  • Prosper Chikomo

    You cannot protect an idea. There is no law worldwide to do that. you can only protect a creation, not an idea. For example, a word processing program is an idea, but a word-processing software is a creation. Hence even Microsoft cannot protect the idea of a word-processor, but their software is automatically protected by copyright law and treaties worldwide the moment they create it. Even the work in progress is protected by copyright law, but not an idea otherwise it would be illegal for people to think as very often someone else would have thought exactly what they were thinking some time or the other.

  • Intellect2012

    I think your first part is very correct, but however I would disagree with the notion that a “word processing program” is an idea. I believe the moment it becomes a program it is already a creation because in this case it is already functional. A program can be protected (in the U.S under Copyright) because it has a source code, and where a program has a technical function, it can be protected under patents. Abstract ideas are difficult to enforce because simply to the rest of the world they don’t exist (legally that is). They are only in one’s mind. But, the moment you fixate (as in copyright) or conceptualise, design, produce (as in industrial property) your idea becomes a protectable “property”

  • Prosper Chikomo

    Did you even read what i said? When you actually create the thing, it is protectable, but when it is just an idea, a thought of a piece of software that can display characters from a keyboard etc, it is just an idea. And unprotectable. You can google more on that. And for your benefit @341fbe214aa76682d1a641ba74cfd90f:disqus i reproduce below my first 3 sentences

    You cannot protect an idea. There is no law worldwide to do that. you can only protect a creation, not an idea. 

    I will not be discussing this further.

  • Prosper Chikomo

    You cannot protect an idea. There is no law worldwide to do that. You can only protect a creation, not an idea.

  • Intellect2012

    Not that I don’t agree with all you said, only the part on “word processing program” is an idea. Let me quote exactly what I was disagreeing with..

           “For example, a word processing program is an idea……” 

    I read your comment very well. and Prosper I am not trying to draw an argument but rather point to something you may have overlooked. Clearly from what I wrote I agree with the general assertion you made, in fact the few contributors on the blog do agree that ideas are not protectable, and only expressions of ideas (copyright) and physical manifestations of ideas (in industrial property) may be protected. 

    I hope your reply was not that you felt offended but that you genuinely wanted to clarify your position. I come in peace and believe its healthy for us all to express our views.

  • IP Lawyer….

    Looking forward to this seemingly insightful presentation..It would be good to hear from those in the actual creation of IP to inform us that assist in its protection on their  practical  challenges in this process… 

  • Prosper Chikomo

    I am breaking my rule only this once just to clarify things. I am not offended, i just do not debate something i know for a fact.

    Your disagreement with me saying “For example, a word processing program is an idea……”….

    A word processing program, just like “a car that flies”, is just an idea. IT IS AN IDEA, and NOT A PATENTABLE INVENTION LIKE AN AEROPLANE’S DESIGN. The styling of the place (shape) is protectable because it has been created, whereas the idea of a self-propelled cylinder with ailerons is not protectable. Until you create something that processes the words, you have just an idea that is unprotectable.

    Going back to word processors,I repeat, A WORD PROCESSING PROGRAM IS JUST AN IDEA. if the idea of a word processing program was protectable, we would not have MsWord, Corel Wordperfect etc. These programs are word processing software. What is protected is the copy of the word processing software itself because the idea is not real, and not just an idea.

    For more information read the Copyright and Related Rights (Neighboring Rights) Act. or visit http://wipo.int

  • Fidelity Chauke

    It even applies to Zimbabwe. I talked to Ncube about protecting ideas
    and what he told me was disappointing yet logical. Anyone can have an
    idea, and that idea is theirs regardless of whether or not they had it
    first. You can only patent a design or product.