Michelle Okyere and co-author IPAN Director Dr Janice Denoncourt recently published their article ‘Protection of Intellectual Property Rights in Ghana’s Kente Textiles: the Case for Geographical Indications’ (12 February 2021) online in the Journal of Intellectual Property Law and Practice (JIPLP). Geographical Indications (GIs) are a global phenomenon, having spread from Europe to Asia-Pacific, the Americas and now Africa. Michelle and Janice’s article forms part of a special GIs issue which celebrates the importance of GI research and is co-edited by Professor Eleonora Rosati and Sarah Harris (JIPLP Managing Editor).
The new article is timely given the African Union and European Union have recently agreed a continental strategy for developing GIs in food and non-food products in Africa (AU-EU Continental Strategy). The authors provide a case study and preliminary analysis to show how Ghana’s traditional kente textiles could potentially be registered as a Ghanaian GI to initiate the journey toward international GI protection. Kente is an expression of folklore correlated to Ghana’s cultural heritage dating back over 300 years. It comprises colourful, handwoven strips of fabric, combined by Ghanaian weavers among certain ethnic groups and communities. Its colours and unique designs have made it the best known of all Ghanaian, and perhaps even all West African textiles. Every design and colour has a distinct name and a meaning which is characteristic of the community in which it is produced. The article presents the link between kente and the Ghanaian communities in which it is produced. It also critically analyses the misappropriation of the kente cloth by third parties. Further, it discusses the EU’s contribution to the development of GI protection and the proposals to extend the protection of GIs beyond agricultural products in the EU, adding to the sparse literature on the GI protection of non-food products in Africa. Finally, the kente case study illustrates the importance of developing African nations such as Ghana embracing GIs as a legal instrument to promote economic development. The article is available as an advance JIPLP Oxford University Press publication here.
Michelle is a qualified Ghanaian lawyer with leading Ghanaian law firm Bentsi-Enchill, Letsa and Ankomah and Nottingham Law School alumna (LLM 2020), and was a recipient of a Nottingham Law School Outstanding Achievement Award.
Dr Janice Denoncourt is Associate Professor of Law at Nottingham Law School and leads the School’s Intellectual Property Research Group.
On 7 May 2021, the authors will participate in Nottingham Trent University’s Global Cultural Heritage series event together with their guest speaker, Professor Edward KwaKwa, Assistant Director General of the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO). Professor KwaKwa will speak on his work with the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC), the IGC process and IP Policy. A fellow Ghanaian, Professor Kwaka provided Michelle with valuable guidance and support during her WIPO Library research visit in Geneva in 2019. More details to be announced shortly.
Associate Professor Dr Janice Denoncourt
1 March 2021