World Intellectual Property Day : Zimbabwe copyrights in context

All business owners and creatives need to familiarise themselves with the different types of Intellectual Property (IP) to avoid the risk of their ideas being “borrowed” by competitors. It is not a surprise how most entrepreneurs and creatives, especially here in Zimbabwe, seem a bit out of touch when it comes to this matter. Hence the reasons to give a brief on the different types of IP and how to utilize them in the context of Zimbabwe.

By Fadzai Mathabire

World Intellectual Property Day is observed annually on 26 April.The event was established by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 2000 to “raise awareness of how patentscopyrighttrademarks and designs impact on daily life” and “to celebrate creativity, and the contribution made by creators and innovators to the development of societies across the globe”

In Zimbabwe, Intellectual Property rights are governed by The Zimbabwe Intellectual Property Office (ZIPO) which falls under the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. Intellectual Property recognised by the Zimbabwean law  include Copyright and Neighbouring Rights, Industrial Designs, Integrated, Circuit Lay-Out Designs, Geographical Indications, Patents, Plant Breeders Rights, and TradeMarks. 

Copyright and Neighbouring Rights

The type of innovative and creative works eligible for copyright protection in Zimbabwe as defined by The Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act [Chapter 26:05] (Copyright Act), include performance rights, sound recordings, audio-visual works, literary works, recording rights, artistic works and moral rights. The Copyright Act also distinguishes between the creation of a copyright work and the ownership of the copyright in a work. This is because the authorship of a copyright work may not always coincide with the ownership of the copyright in that work. An example is a journalist who writes news articles for her employer for publication.

Industrial Designs

Under the The Industrial Designs Act [Chapter 26:02], creators of new and useful designs are extended the right to “prevent third parties from making, selling or importing articles bearing or embodying a design which is a copy, or substantially a copy of the protected design, when such acts are undertaken for commercial purposes.” The creator or author of an industrial design is treated as the proprietor of the design except where the design was made by the author for another person for valuable consideration, whether as an employee or as a commissioned work. In such a case, that other person is held to be the proprietor of the industrial design. 

Integrated Circuit-Layout Designs

Legal registration of a layout design prohibits third parties from reproducing the whole or any part of the layout design, commercially importing, selling or distributing the design or an integrated circuit that incorporates the design or publishing an article that incorporates the design. Read more on the registration and protection of integrated circuit-layout designs in the Integrated Circuit-Layout Designs Act [Chapter 26:07].

Geographical Indications

Geographical indications identify a product as originating in a particular area, where some quality, reputation or other characteristic of the product is essentially attributable to its geographical origin. The Geographical Indications Act [Chapter 26:06] prohibits the sale, importation, export and manufacture of any product to which a misleading geographical indication has been applied.


Patents, which is a common term, refers to the legal documentation necessary for the protection of inventions that are new, inventive and industrially applicable. The Patents Act [Chapter 26:03] stipulates the nature of inventions eligible for registration and protection under the Zimbabwean law. According to the Act, registable inventions are not limited to a single field and registered patents can be mortgaged and pledged. 

Plant Breeders Rights

Plant breeders rights apply for plants such as barley, bean, citrus, coffee, cotton, maize, millet, wheat, potato and tobacco. Registration and protection of rights is available for a variety of plants recognised as new and distinct by The Plant Breeders Rights Act [Chapter 18:16. Such rights are transmittable through mortgages, assignment, pledges, licence and operation of law

Trade Marks

The Trade Marks Act [Chapter 26:04] defines the different marks available and registrable for goods and services. It also provides for registration of trademarks, collective marks and defensive marks. Trade marks can be assigned, licensed, mortgaged, and otherwise transmitted by operation of law. Read The Trade Marks Act to understand the 34 goods classes and 9 service classes eligible for trademarking. 

The availability of acts and legislation provides evidence of the government’s aim to honor intellectual property ownership and rights. Different stakeholders however have a part to play in ensuring effectiveness of these efforts. Creators and inventors ought to be eager to stay up to date on any changes in the intellectual property laws available to protect them. Manpower and relevant expertise are also necessary to beat corruption and increase the enforcement of these laws.


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