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ARIPO-ACS39: Proposed Policy for Accreditation of ARIPO Professional Representatives

The Harare Protocol on Patents and Industrial Designs stipulates that the role of patent agents and attorneys includes, but is not limited to, drafting patent application, representing inventors and assignees at the Patent Office, discussing inventions with inventors and applying for patents on behalf of inventors. Many ARIPO Member States have no institutionalized system of training, examining and enrolling intellectual property agents or attorneys. In these member states qualified lawyers with no further specialized training act as patent agents.

Inventions are of a complex and technical nature. Patent agents should possess knowledge about the applicable domain that inventions pertain to. A need has therefore arisen to properly train patent agents so that they are capable of sufficiently conducting their mandate.

Currently the ARIPO Secretariat is inundated with patent agents who request guidance on simple procedural issues which results in the ARIPO Secretariat spending less time focusing on core activities. In 2012, at the 13th Session of the Council of Ministers, a proposal was approved to establish a system for accreditation of ARIPO industrial property agents and attorneys. It was decided that the framework will be implemented by the ARIPO Academy. In 2015 at the 39th Administrative Council meeting , the policy and how it came about was discussed again.

An overview of the proccess highligted that at the developmental stages of the policy a comparative analysis of the USPTO, EPO and OAPI was conducted. It was noted that the comparative analysis should be critically evaluated as the member states of EPO and USPTO are developed nations whereas those of OAPI aren’t.

In general, the idea on accreditation was welcomed, but it was cautioned that it will not be an easy process. The main concern was that the accreditation process could possibly lead to excluding some patent agents from member states where accreditation on national level is not required. It was also clear that there is a need for development of additional skills for patent agents on national level and it was proposed that ARIPO should assist member states to develop national accreditation systems as well as trade mark and patent institutions. Moreover, more research on this issue was necessary to understand the patent enviroment at national level, as well as an assessment of the convergent practices in various member states.

A further review of the current ARIPO training modules was also proposed, towards ensuring careful attention was paid to the context within which ARIPO operates as opposed to comparisons with more mature jurisdictions. This proposal was based on the view by member states that most african states have not yet matured to levels where professionals such as engineers would choose to become patent agents. These various conflicting concerns were taken into consideration.

Reiterating that ARIPO’s aim is to be recognised as an internationally accepted system, the chairman of the session tabled a proposal made by the delegation of Namibia that the focus should be on capacity building and then the consideration of accreditation on a gradual basis after due consultative process.The proposal was seconded by delegations of Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

In his concluding remarks the Chairman of the session explained that the desire to implement an

accreditation system was to enhance the efficiency of the administration of intellectual property rights. he noted that the Secretariat held the mandate from the Administrative Council to harmonise the representation of Patent Agents and the accreditation policy was a stepping stone towards this.

To track other posts and updates from the 39th ARIPO administrative Council meeting click on the #ARIPO-ACS39 tag below or for more information please contact Naomi Bruwer

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