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EPA Summary Report Africa 2013

8 process. This not only produces greater certainty about the technical and legal merit of inventions but also minimises the risk of unwanted legal stumbling blocks to innovation. Ensuring the validity of granted rights is all the more important as patents are increasingly filed across a larger number of countries using different filing routes, such as the Paris Convention or the Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT), and treated by different IPOs in parallel. Accordingly, patents originating from abroad may also be subsequently filed in African states. Improved information products and services such as the Common Citation Document (CCD) promote the convergence of search results, and increase their relevance for judging the merit and validity of inventions. In the case of PCT filings, initial patentability search and examination results from a recognised expert IP office acting as International Searching Authority also helps discourage the simple “registration” of low quality patents in countries that have not yet been able to establish significant examination resources. High quality patents offer better support for the transfer of CET and other sustainable technologies across the continent on the basis of licenses. Participation in the EPO’s validation scheme for patents could help a local national environment benefit from the strong quality of the EPO examination for those applications originating from abroad. In doing so, the national office is in the best position to dedicate all its resources to a full support for the national innovation while foreign direct investment is encouraged by the sound examination of the foreign applications by the EPO. In certain exceptional cases, including a national emergency, but also where a specific patent owner has not been willing to grant authorisation on reasonable commercial terms and conditions within a reasonable length of time, some legal options are allowable under TRIPS (Art. 31). A review of the relevant patent legislation also reveals that most African countries have incorporated basic flexibilities such as compulsory licensing, government use and ex-officio licences and research exemptions into their patent laws. These countries also have regimes for voluntary licensing, including prohibitions on certain anti- competitive licensing practices. Of course, the specific application and scope of these flexibilities vary across the countries.

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