As Africa’s economic significance grows, so does the need for patent protection in the continent. Africa is sometimes seen as being challenging, partly because of the co-existence of national and regional registration systems. This is the next in our series of country-specific updates. Here we focus on Algeria.
Africa’s largest country has a population of some 36 million. Oil and gas dominate the economy, and the country imports heavily from countries like France, China, Spain, Italy and Germany. GDP is US$156 billion and growth is in the 3.5% range. The official languages are Arabic and Berber, but French is widely spoken.
The legislation that governs patents is Order 03-07 of 2003. As for international arrangements, Algeria is a member of the Paris Union, WIPO and the PCT.
Inventors, joint inventors and successors-in-title can file patent applications. Inventions made by employees in the course of their employment belong to the employer. Algeria has a first-to-file system, except in cases where there has been misappropriation.
There is provision for Patents of Invention, Patents of Addition and national phase PCT applications. An invention is described as any idea that provides a practical solution to a specific problem in the field of technology. An invention can be patented if it is new, results from inventive activity, and is industrially applicable. An invention may involve a product or a method.
The usual exclusions apply, for example discoveries, scientific theories and mathematical methods, methods of treatment and computer software. Other exclusions include plans, principles and approaches ‘purely designed to conduct cultural or entertaining work’, curriculums and systems of education, and inventions ‘of a purely decorative nature’.
Absolute (worldwide) novelty is required. Novelty is not destroyed if disclosure resulted from an act committed by the owner or a predecessor in title, or an abuse committed by a third party with regard to the applicant or a predecessor within 12 months of the filing date. Novelty is also not destroyed if the inventor or his successor discloses the invention at an official or officially-recognised international exhibition not earlier than six months before the filing date.
The patentee has the right to stop others making, importing, offering for sale, selling or using the patented product. The patentee’s rights are limited to activities conducted for industrial or commercial purposes, and do not extend to activities for scientific research purposes. The owner is entitled to civil remedies such as an injunction and damages. Intentional infringement is a criminal offence.
For patents of invention (non-PCT) the following documents are required: a Power of Attorney (simply signed); specification, claims and abstract in French and Arabic; formal drawings; Assignment of Priority Rights; priority document with verified French translation.
For national phase PCT applications the following documents are required: title in French; a Power of Attorney (simply signed); specifications, claims and abstract in Arabic; formal drawings; copy of the Published International Application; copy of the International Search Report; copy of the International Preliminary Report on Patentability .
There is substantive examination and the authorities will often base their objections on those raised in the International Preliminary Report on Patentability. The authorities can request information regarding foreign patent applications. There is no procedure for opposition, but there is provision for cancellation if the patent was wrongly registered.
A patent lasts for 20 years from the filing date. Patents of Addition expire with the main patent. Renewal fees are due annually.
Divisional applications may only be filed within six months of the filing date of the ‘parent’ application.
Compulsory licensing can be granted after the expiry of four years from the filing date or three years from grant (whichever is the later) on the basis that the patent is not being used sufficiently in Algeria.
It is important to note that voluntary amendments to the specification or claims may only be filed within one month of the filing date.
There is specific legislation regarding plant breeders’ rights and integrated circuits.