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URSB Faults Law for Counterfeits on Ugandan Market

The debate comes on the backdrop of an operation by the URSB, accompanied by police officers in shops in Kiyembe Lane, Nakasero where a number of items branded Harvel were confiscated on Tuesday. The traders say that the operation against five shops confiscated all electronics including main switches, circuit breakers and changeovers manufactured by Harvel plastics in Dubai.
DOCKARS, an imitation of global brand name, DOCKERS.

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The law is the reason there are many fake products on the Ugandan markets, most of which are imitations of major international brands, according to the Uganda Registration Services Bureau, URSB. 

The debate comes on the backdrop of an operation by the URSB, accompanied by police officers in shops in Kiyembe Lane, Nakasero where a number of items branded Harvel were confiscated on Tuesday. The traders say that the operation against five shops confiscated all electronics including main switches, circuit breakers and changeovers manufactured by Harvel plastics in Dubai. 

Harvel Plastics, a brand of India-based Harvel Group makes electric insulator cables, plastic pipes and plastic irrigation implements, among others. But the traders put up a fight to stop the operation, which they said was meant to deter them from selling the products, which are allegedly meant to be “distributed by an unidentified importer”. So, part of their protest was against a supposed monopoly held by a person they could not name. 

Others said if it had to do with substandard or fake products, they should have expected the Uganda National Bureau of Standards, UNBS, to come for them, not the URSB, which deals with the registration of companies. But according to URSB, this was a case of infringement on copyright under the Intellectual Property protection laws, and to protect the copyrights of the innovators. 

“We pay the taxes to Uganda Revenue Authority and it clears the goods for importation. Why do they now confiscate our products?” the traders wondered. Indeed, the products are cleared by all the relevant agencies, including URA. 

In this case, the traders’ offence was stocking goods labelled ‘Harvel Products’  or ‘Harvel Plastics’, which the company claimed were bearing its brand names and yet, they were not made by the company itself. URSB Head of Public Relations and Corporate Affairs, Provia Nangobi, said the owner of the copyright petitioned the bureau, which proved the claim, and had to move in.

//Cue in; “You know we’re… 

Cue out….actual brand.”//

UNBS says that its duty is to ensure that what goes onto the market is safe for public consumption or use and that the uses, ingredients and measurements, among other features, indicated on the package or product are correct. 

Nangobi says that even where there is clearly a violation of one's copyright, like through imitation, the owner of the genuine brand, or an appointed agent, must petition the URSB first for intervention. She says this is the reason there are many fake or counterfeit products on the market imitating popular brands. 

//Cue in; “That is where the law is funny… 

Cue out...from the owner.”//                           

For example, asked why garments branded ‘DOCKARS’, a clear imitation of global brand ‘DOCKERS’, are openly being sold in shops and on roadsides of Kampala, UNBS said their role is to test the material used in making the garment.

“Clothes are tested by the UNBS materials laboratory if two products are both registered trademarks unless one is counterfeiting and that is the work of URSB,” said Josephine Nakyeyune, UNBS Senior Legal Metrologist. 

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