According to a report in The New Times*, a draft IP law is being considered by a parliamentary committee. The proposals are wide-ranging:
Provisional patent specifications. There is a proposal that allows for the filing of a provisional patent specification in order to secure a filing date. The patentee will then have a period of time to finalise the details of the invention, and make improvements and amendments before filing the complete application. This is seemingly aimed at helping inventors with limited means.
Patent protection for pharmaceuticals. To date pharmaceuticals have been excluded from patent protection – this was done as per the flexibilities offered by TRIPS to least developed countries (LDCs). The draft law, however, proposes that pharmaceuticals be included in the scope of patent protection, with exclusions being determined by the Minister in charge of health.
Opposition procedures for patents. Currently there is only provision for opposition to trade mark applications. This thinking is that there should be provision for pre-grant opposition to all IP rights including patents. The rationale is that affected parties should not need to resort to expensive court procedures in order to cancel rights.
Maintenance payments. The draft law proposes maintenance payments five years from the date of first exploitation or filing, whichever is the earlier.
Photographic works. There is currently no protection for photographic works. The draft law rectifies this.
Orphan works. The draft law makes provision for a system of licensing of orphan works, one that requires the potential licensee to make reasonable efforts to locate the owner.
Traditional knowledge and cultural expression
Protection. The bill proposes sui generis protection for traditional knowledge, as well as the protection of cultural expression through copyright law.
Publication of IP rights. The authorities feel that there should be publication of all IP rights in order to ensure that interested parties can intervene – to date there has only been publication of trade mark applications. Inventions related to national defence and security will be excluded from the requirement to publish.
Penalties. There will be tougher penalties for infringement of IP rights. So, for example, the theft or fraudulent use of a formula or invention could result in a penalty of imprisonment of between three and five years, as well as hefty fines.
The centralisation of IP admin. The plan is to entrust the management of all IP rights and related matters to a single body, the Intellectual Property Office. Currently the administration is spread over multiple bodies.
We will report on further developments.
Read more about Filing, prosecuting, managing, and enforcing patents in Africa.
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