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EPA Summary Report Africa 2013

7 Technological advances, coupled with the growth in international trade of knowledge-based goods and services, have progressively raised the awareness of patent related issues in discussions about trade regulation and global challenges such as climate change. Each member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is required to implement the Agreement on Trade- Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which mandates the provision of a minimum level of IP protection. In the climate change discussion, patent protection has become a topic of continued debate over access to technology and knowledge in general between industrialised countries on the one hand and developing countries and least-developed countries (LDCs) on the other. African countries have increased their efforts to elaborate and implement strategic IP policies at the national and institutional level in the last few years. Factors such as the greater availability of funding and technical support for the development of such strategies and policies from organisations like the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and the co-operation with the EPO, have advanced this trend and made African countries focus more on the strategic importance of IP in the knowledge economy. Overall, the different patent policies and strategies focus on technology transfer and emphasise the importance of a patent policy that supports innovation, including the transfer of critical technologies such as CET. This is a particularly important issue in the area of climate change considering the significant public investments in CET development and deployment. Various countries have also developed science and technology (S&T) or science, technology and innovation (STI) policies, as well as national programmes or white papers, which all place considerable emphasis on the transfer and diffusion of technology and explicitly include the energy sector. Many of these policies also acknowledge the role of and the need to address patent-related issues in the context of technology transfer. To comply with the TRIPS agreement and other international, regional and bilateral agreements and stakeholder demands, the African countries have often to update and otherwise reform their IP and patent laws, their related legal frameworks and their institutions . On climate change, the impact and role of patent laws has been the subject of much debate. Attitudes towards patent protection in these areas are diverging between industrialised countries on the one hand and developing and least-developed countries (LDCs) on the other. The latter group (the South) has gone so far as to call for CETs to be excluded from patenting (TWN, 2009). African countries, which are politically part of this group, have generally been supportive of such views. They were repeated at the “Rio +20” talks in 2012. Most African countries are members of the WTO and therefore obliged to mandate a minimum level of patent protection for inventions. To date, no countries exclude CET from patenting. Meanwhile, another 11 countries are in the process of acceding to the WTO and will be required to comply with the TRIPS agreement as a condition. In summary it can be said that CET patents can be applied for and are granted in the majority of the African countries. The situation remains unclear only in Eritrea, Libya, the Seychelles and Somalia. Rooted in the legal obligation in the patent system to publish patent applications, the patent information system makes technical information readily available throughout the world via the internet. With dedicated tools such as the EPO’s free Espacenet database and with the EPO’s specially developed Y02 classification scheme (including the additional Y02B-Buildings and Y02T-Transport sections end of 2012) the technical information from some 1,5 million documents relevant to most climate change related technologies have been made freely available. The Y02 scheme is fully incorporated within the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC). The information function of patents, therefore, constitutes a vital mechanism for dissemination of CET, also supporting further research and development in the area. As the patent system in these countries develop, it is important to ensure that a quality-oriented patent system involving state of the art searches on technology and substantive examination of the invention on its compliance with the patent law is introduced, as opposed to mere patent registration systems. For instance, only approximately 50% of patent applications filed with the EPO are granted, and the majority those granted have their scope of protection reduced during the substantive examination Policies and legal frameworks for patent protection in Africa