18 December 2019
In an effort to enhance international co-operation in order to strengthen the global patent system, the EPO has signed a Reinforced Partnership agreement with the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO). Under the Memorandum of Understanding, signed on 16 December by EPO President António Campinos and ARIPO Director General Fernando dos Santos in Zimbabwe, the EPO will support ARIPO in building up its capacity to efficiently search and examine patent applications that are validated in its member states.
ARIPO is an inter-governmental organisation that facilitates co-operation among its member states on intellectual property matters. It consists of 19 mostly English-speaking countries, representing a market of some 350 million inhabitants - with Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda being the fastest growing economies. Together with the EPO’s member states, extension states, validation agreements and other reinforced partnerships, the EPO’s work products now cover a market of some 1.9 billion inhabitants.
"I am very pleased to conclude a reinforced partnership with ARIPO, the first regional organisation to sign this advanced co-operation agreement with the EPO," said Mr Campinos. "It demonstrates the strong commitment of our organisations to enhancing co-operation in order to support innovation and economic development in both our regions. Africa is an increasingly dynamic part of the global economy with strong growth potential. It stands to benefit from greater awareness of intellectual property, and improved access to the patent system."
"ARIPO and EPO have a longstanding co-operation, and many positive results have already been achieved in the framework of that co-operation," said ARIPO Director General dos Santos. "The signing of this memorandum comes at the right moment as ARIPO has been forging partnerships and has embarked on a number of initiatives aimed at ensuring that we build an effective patent examination system. We are pleased that through the Reinforced Partnership our examiners will able to benefit from capacity building by one of the most experienced patent offices in the world, and will have access to a full range of supporting tools and procedures such as EPOQUE Net."
Under the MoU, ARIPO will make systematic and effective use of EPO work products, tools and practices, in order to boost its ability to deliver high-quality, timely and efficient search and examination of national patent filings for its member states. The agreement is valid for the next five years, and can be extended by further five-year periods.
With a view to further boosting co-operation with its partner offices in Africa, the EPO President also met with the Commissioner of the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) of South Africa, Rory Voller, to take stock of bilateral co-operation under the reinforced partnership agreed in June 2018, and to sign a new biennial work plan for 2020-21. Over the coming years this co-operation is expected to benefit both EPO applicants and South African inventors by providing improved conditions for companies filing patents in both regions while at the same time supporting the South African office in offering improved services to local applicants.