As part of its annual Africa IP Network Week, Adams & Adams co-hosted the inaugural Africa Patent Examination Summit with the European Patent Office (EPO) in Pretoria, South Africa, on 13 September 2017.
Few countries in Africa conduct any form of substantive patent examination at present, mainly due to a lack of capacities and resources. South Africa has a depository system and has begun training patent examiners as it intends to introduce substantive examination in the near future. Work-sharing and pooling of examination resources in the form of regional institutions such as the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) and Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle (OAPI) is an effective way for addressing these common challenges. In addition, Morocco, and soon Tunisia, allow holders of EP patents to validate granted European patents in their jurisdictions via so-called validation agreements.
In contrast to other registration type systems available in African countries such as Ethiopia, the DRC and Swaziland, this allows for a proper delimitation of the granted scope of protection which is favourable to both the patent proprietors and third parties.
Registrars, officials and patent examiners from twenty African jurisdictions, as well as representatives from regional organisations such as the EPO, ARIPO and OAPI met to discuss the various approaches to patent examination available and to share experiences and best practices in this regard.
The Summit was followed by the 5th Annual Adams & Adams Network Meeting, a two-day seminar that brings together IP professionals and officials from across the continent to discuss topical IP issues in an African context.
Adams & Adams Partner and co-chair of the summit, Mr. Danie Dohmen, described the meeting as a platform for an “honest and open discussion between the Registrars, regional organisations and the EPO” in assessing the status of patent examination in Africa and prospects for future co-operation. Mr François-Régis Hannart, Principal Director for European and International Co-operation at the EPO, stated: “It is evident that the worldwide patent system is becoming more connected and integrated as a result of globalisation, and that Africa will play an important role in this system. This meeting offered a valuable platform for forging new partnerships in the region, both bilateral and multilateral, thereby strengthening the ties between Europe and Africa even further.