Thursday Nuggets: Intellectual Property Laws and Artificial Intelligence.

Speakers: Daniel Bill Opio, Baguma Moses, Emmanuel Okiror from CyberLine Law Initiative.

Disclaimer: The Thursday Nuggets are a series of blog posts that summarize the seminars held every Thursday at the AI Research Lab at Makerere University. The goal of this series is to provide a platform for future reference in regards to the content discussed during these seminars.

Artificial Intelligence is pushing innovation in new ways and accelerating with technological advances in computing power, data and algorithms. Many companies are now using machine learning methods ranging from startups to long-established institutions. Intellectual property (IP) protects creativity and encourages innovation. As such, it is important for the companies, entrepreneurs and investors to be aware of the Key IP considerations as applied to innovation and AI. We had the privilege of hosting speakers from the CyberLine Law Initiative who talked to us about the IP laws in Uganda and how best we can harness them.

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual Property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. Intellectual Property rights grant the owner of the work exclusive rights to exploit and benefit from his/her creation.

Why protect Intellectual Property?

To provide an incentive to the innovators to be able to benefit from the result of their endeavor.
The legal protection of innovations encourages the commitment of additional resources for further innovation.The promotion and protection of intellectual property spurs economic growth, creates jobs and enhances the quality and enjoyment of life.

Forms of Intellectual Property

The most common forms of Intellectual Property include: Copyright, trademarks, patents, utility models, industrial designs and geographical indications. IP relates to intangible assets, including inventions, brands, new technologies, source code and artistic works.

Copyright: Mr. Baguma explained that copyrights gives protection to an expression of an idea and not just an idea. It protects an idea that has been put to expression. He added that in Uganda, copyright protects the creator for the period of their lifetime plus 50 years after their death.

Trademarks: The CyberLine lawyers also hinted on trademarks which are described as “ A sign or mark that distinguishes one’s product from from another. An example of a trademark is the taxify and SafeBoda logos used as each company’s trademark”. A trademark can be in the form of a sign, sound or any thing used in branding.

An example of Trademarks are the Uber, SafeBoda and Taxify Logos

Patents: Patents provide a time-limited protection for an invention. A patent entitles the patent owner to the exclusive right to make, use and sell his or her invention in exchange for full and clear disclosure on how to work the invention. They provide a mechanism to exclude others from making, using or selling the patented technology, which may help companies obtain or maintain market share, and protect research and development investments. Patents can provide a competitive advantage, and may also be used defensively as a negotiation tool. Patent publications can also be cited against subsequently filed applications to prevent grant.


We had a great discussion on how IP laws are relevant in the ever growing field of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. This Blog post is just the tip of a bigger iceberg that is IP laws. This field in the global innovation economy definitely demands for intellectual property (IP) titles such as: Copyright, trademarks, patents, industrial design (especially for user interfaces) and utility models though rapidly becoming complex given the nature of AI.

Nonetheless, the Cyber Law Initiative (CyberLine) legal team led by Daniel Bill Opio, Moses Baguma and Emmauel Okiror have taken the initiative under the CyberLine Techubation Hub to conduct a mobile move in legaltech training on matters of the relationship between AI and IP and assist AI developers acquire the requisite requirements for attainment of the rights with emphasis on the importance of acquisition of such rights. The need revolves around protecting trade secrets, exploring exclusive economic rights to the exclusion of others in a bid to spur innovation and economic growth. As a result, CyberLine is on the journey of positioning itself as a Collective Management Organization (CMO) responsible for protecting and pursuing the economic IP rights of Software developers. The future is indeed promising in an atmosphere where CyberLine is not just the light at the end of the AI tunnel but the light in the AI tunnel.

Prepared By: Benjamin Akera.