EPO launches reinforced partnership with Ethiopia

1 July 2019

Director General of the EIPO, Ermias Yemanebirhan, and Director General of the Technology Innovation Institute of Ethiopia, Sandokan Debebe, during their visit to the EPO in Munich

Following the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding on Reinforced Partnership with Ethiopia in April of this year, EPO President António Campinos and the Director-General of the Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office (EIPO), Ermias Yemanebirhan, signed their first Biennial Work Plan for 2019-21 on the occasion of a visit by a high-level Ethiopian delegation to Munich last week. This is the second time the EPO has concluded such a partnership with a non-member state, following a similar agreement signed with South Africa last year.

"I am very pleased to launch this wide-reaching co-operation programme with Ethiopia, one of Africa's most dynamic economies," said EPO President António Campinos. "Working together we can further develop Ethiopia's national patent system, benefiting both local companies and our global users. The purpose of ensuring efficient and high-quality patent examination is ultimately to foster innovation and economic development, and support bilateral trade and investment between Ethiopia and Europe," he said.

"It is with immense pleasure that I am signing this Biennial Work Plan  because this is a milestone in the EIPO's endeavours to enhance and modernise the patent system in Ethiopia and integrate the country into the international IP system for the betterment of local innovation and technology transfer," said EIPO Director-General Ermias Yemanebirhan.

The Reinforced Partnership programme with Ethiopia aims to support the country in developing a vibrant national innovation ecosystem and in upgrading its national intellectual property (IP) system with a view to attracting foreign investment and promoting technology transfer. Under the MoU, over the next five years the EPO will support the EIPO in developing local capacity to efficiently and effectively process national patent applications using EPO work products, tools and standards. The two offices also agree to explore the possibility of entering into a validation agreement which would allow patent applicants to validate European patent applications and European patents in Ethiopia, and boost the country's efforts in preparing itself to join the global patent system. In addition, the two offices will create a co-operation platform for stakeholders and innovators from both regions to facilitate collaboration.

With some 105 million inhabitants, Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa, and one of its fastest-growing economies, posting double-digit GDP growth rates in recent years. Many European companies (and EPO applicants) have announced plans to start operating in the country. According to the UNCTAD World Investment Report, during the last fiscal year ending in July 2018, Ethiopia attracted over USD 4 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) from 156 large companies, representing an increase of 46% and making Ethiopia one of the top performing countries for FDI inflow.

The EPO's co-operation with non-member states outside Europe is set to grow, with several major intellectual property offices in Southeast Asia and Latin America having expressed interest in joining the Reinforced Partnership programme in the near future.

About the EIPO
The Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office (EIPO) is based in Addis Ababa and has 200 employees mandated with the task of providing appropriate IP protection for IP rights in Ethiopia, which in turn stimulates the generation of new ideas in the fields of technology, trade and culture.  The EIPO also works to facilitate the commercialisation of IP assets, thereby making IP a strategic development tool in the country. To that effect, the EIPO is undertaking various activities to improve its service provision, such as office automation, launching online filing system, preparation for accession to the Paris Convention, the Madrid Protocol and Patent Cooperation System.

About the EPO
With 7 000 staff, the European Patent Office (EPO) is one of the largest public service institutions in Europe. Headquartered in Munich with offices in Berlin, Brussels, The Hague and Vienna, the EPO was founded with the aim of strengthening co-operation on patents in Europe. Through the EPO's centralised patent granting procedure, inventors are able to obtain high-quality patent protection in up to 44 countries, covering a market of some 700 million people. The EPO is also the world's leading authority in patent information and patent searching.

About reinforced partnership
The EPO's Reinforced Partnership programme seeks to establish long-term partnerships with selected non-member states in strategic and technical areas of mutual interest in the field of patents. The aim of the programme is to further integrate and strengthen the global patent system by extending the network of partner offices that are increasing their capacities, productivity and quality through the systematic utilisation of EPO work products, tools and standards. The programme also assists the partner offices in supporting local innovators by providing improved services and ensuring the effective and timely examination of national first filings.

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