The African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) releases annual statistics documenting applications filed in ARIPO member states. Applications include patents, industrial designs, utility models and trade marks.

It is evident from the 2019 statistics that intellectual property (IP) proprietors are opting to obtain patent protection in ARIPO member states on a regional level through the Harare Protocol, as opposed to individual national filings. Botswana, for example, reported only 5 patent applications via the national route, as opposed to 562 patent applications via the regional route. In Kenya, 335 national patent applications were filed, whilst 708 regional patent applications were filed.

One reason for this trend is that an ARIPO regional patent application affords IP proprietors the benefit of regional protection in up to 20 English-speaking African countries with a single patent application. The applicant designates member countries where protection is sought at the time of filing, although recent amendments to the Harare Protocol allow for later reduction/addition of designated states subject to payment of the prescribed fees (vary depending on the nature of the application). Once the single patent application is granted, it is effective in all designated member states.

Another reason for the opting of regional phase applications over national phases may be the fact that ARIPO applications are substantively examined by qualified patent examiners. This provides a level of substance and force to granted ARIPO patents which is not necessarily true of local patents which were not examined substantively.

Smit & Van Wyk can assist with the filing and further prosecution of ARIPO regional patent applications, as well as national phase applications throughout Africa.

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