How to plug into huge global patent opportunities.

Author:Mwiti, Susan

Innovations rule the world today and patents protect the right of the innovators, encouraging more innovation. However, Africa is lagging far behind in patent applications, making only 0.6% of the total. A chronic lack of awareness of the process is largely responsible for this state of affairs. But the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) is on a mission to change all this. Susan Mwiti reports.

For the first nine months of 2017, the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) has been holding national roving seminars for academic institutions in its 19 member states in pursuit of its strategic plan of using intellectualproperty to foster economic growth in Africa.

Held under the theme, "Fostering creativity and innovation for economic growth and development in Africa", the seminars have focused on sensitisation, capacity building, and awareness creation on topical Intellectual Property (IP) issues.

The seminars have been designed to ensure that institutions of higher learning, where the highest number of innovations are created, not only have IP policies in place but also understand the acquisition of IP rights via national, regional, and international routes.

According to ARIPO's director general, Fernando dos Santos: 'We are directing the intellectual property gospel towards universities and research institutions to target the very generators of IP where over 90% of knowledge is created."

The topics discussed at the seminars include: principles and concepts of intellectual property, basic principles of patent drafting, the role of copyright and related rights enforcement in the digital era, and "beyond publish or perish" --strategic IP asset management and fostering the use and exploitation of IP in universities.

So far, three such seminars have been held in Swaziland, Zambia and Sierra Leone, and more are to follow till the end of the year.

Before these seminars, ARIPO had also held other seminars for national IP offices and companies involved in IP. The focus, equally, had been on awareness creation, laws, building and providing support for national institutional frameworks, and creating platforms for linkages between member states.

ARIPO has been driving the recognition of IP rights in Africa for several reasons. One, lately, Africa has been on the path of ensuring that its citizens come up with their own needs-based innovations for a prosperous continent. Climbing the innovation ladder therefore...

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