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EPA Summary Report Africa 2013

13 The fact that only 1% of CET patent applications have also been filed in Africa prove that claims made at the original 1992 and subsequent 2012 Rio Conferences, that patent rights provide a barrier to use of CETs, are very largely unfounded for Africa. As the energy requirements of Africa and its 1 billion people develop, patent rights are unlikely to be a major consideration in any decision to exploit CETs. The report confirms that Africa has extensive clean energy resources, yet these are not evenly distributed across the continent. It emphasises that full exploitation of these resources would provide the continent not only with enough energy to meet all local and regional needs, but also additional energy for transcontinental export. However, current exploitation levels indicate a very low usage of the potential, and in the area of hydro of only 4 %. In recent years, African countries have invested in their capacity to exploit their resources and placed greater focus on their legal and strategic frameworks in the areas of patents and technology transfer in order to promote this trend. As a result, African countries are well integrated into the international patent system. Since individuals and companies can seek patent protection for inventions in virtually all African countries, national and international stakeholders active in CETs place an emphasis on patent rights in their own business strategies. Despite these efforts and positive conditions, the overall counts for mitigation and adaptation technologies patent applicationss are still relatively low in Africa, though the rate of growth is high compared to the rest of the world. Overall inventive activity increased more quickly in Africa than worldwide, with impressive 59 % average growth in mitigation technologies between 1980 and 2009. As a result of a relative technological advantage, Africa’s inventive activity is disproportionately directed towards climate mitigation technologies, and to a lesser extent adaptation technologies. While inventions in mitigation focus on biofuels, carbon capture and storage, solar thermal and waste- to-energy, the adaptation technologies are mostly concerned with desalination, offgrid water supply and remote energy supply. Overall, inventive activity and patenting is dominated by South Africa. Regarding foreign countries’ activities, the EU, especially Germany, and the US are the most active patent applicants in Africa. These countries are also the most active in international collaboration. Additionally, co-invention plays an important role in Africa’s inventive activities. Several recommendations result from these findings. In the context of the Technology Mechanism, this study and its patent landscaping on key CETs has shown that the vast majority of CETs are not patented and can be freely exploited. International policies may be developed for promotion of CET in Africa without having to consider significant issues relating to patent rights. On the contrary, the patent system has made its extensive technical documentation available freely throughout the world via the internet. Patents still have an important role to play in technology transfer. As the previous report on patenting and climate change mitigation technology from EPO, UNEP and ICTSD showed, the main factors impeding technology transfer are access to the real know-how from the source companies (including access to trade secrets), access to suitably skilled staff, scientific infrastructure, and favourable market conditions. Moreover, the patent system provides a legal framework to support technology transfer through licensing agreements, and without patents to protect their products and processes, the source companies may be reluctant to engage in technology transfer and associated investments. As interest in Africa and demand within Africa grows, it is foreseeable that a growing proportion of CET- related applications will be filed in African states into the future, especially if international policies support such technology transfer on a larger scale. It will then be important to ensure the granting of only high quality patents in Africa, ensuring that exclusive rights in CET and similar technologies are only granted for valid inventions, and the undeserving ones refused. To foster innovation and growth, the big challenges for all patent offices across the world, including in African states, are to establish or maintain a high quality patent system and to discourage low quality patent applications. Different actions could be taken to improve the quality of patent systems on a global basis. In general measures to improve patent quality Understanding and leveraging the global patent system to promote access to CETs in Africa