4 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Registration of IP Titles Crucial

opinion

In this instalment we encourage our local enterprises and individuals to register their various intellectual property (IP) titles at national, regional and international frameworks.

Historical background

By the turn of the millennium, the year 2000 to be precise, Zimbabwe commanded the largest number of registered IP titles under the Aripo framework, be it trademarks, industrial designs, utility models or patents. Today, we now play second fiddle to Kenya.

Why is this so when we rank the most literate in Africa, and of European Union (EU) performance output equivalent? Of course not to mention the abundance in natural resources in all conceivable spheres of human endeavour.

And this is despite the fact that Zimbabwe has been the host nation of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (Aripo) since 1981.

This alone should have made Zimbabweans some of the most IP literate on the African continent. Remember the quantity of registration of locally produced IP products is indicative of its innovative and creative culture, hence wealth-creation and socio-economic development. Our failure to continue with the momentum beyond Kenya is perhaps attributable to the following painful and mostly self-inflicted miseries.

The political and social upheavals that resulted in unprecedented economic meltdown and malaise.

The economic downturn in turn led to knowledge worker-base flight to other countries, mainly the developed world.

The liquidity crunch that led to company closures and investment drought.

Focus disorientation from economic pragmatism to blind retrogression.

Lack of knowledge and appreciation of the value of our IP products and tools.

Lack of awareness of how and where to register our IP titles, when in fact two options are at our disposal, namely the Zimbabwe Intellectual Property Office (Zipo) route and the Aripo route.

Failure by our institutional frameworks to aggressively conscientise the populace on their IP rights, namely the government, Zipo ad Aripo.

Refusal by our own people to take opportunity of the Wipo Worldwide Academy IP sponsored programmes. In the year 2000 ,for instance, Kenya had 14 students undertaking the Wipo sponsored IP specialisation programme compared to nil for Zimbabwe.

Now with the economic upturn we are now experiencing this should translate into increased registration of IP titles, especially trademarks and industrial designs.

Why register IP titles

Registration of IP titles safeguards the proprietor thereof against piracy. It makes it easier and cheaper to prosecute infringement matters as the certificate of registration itself is proof of ownership. Otherwise without registration the proprietor would have to rely on the time-consuming and expensive passing -off action.

Further advantages yielded through registration, particularly trademarks include, promoting product lines, creating repute and goodwill for the enterprise, increasing profitability, responding to unfair competition practices, enhancing market share, striking strategic partnership, gaining royalties through licensing, creating justification for financial assistance.

Over and above these benefits, patents facilitate technology transfer and promote socio-economic development through further research and development.

Institutional framework

Local proprietary owners of IP products have two options at their disposal, namely the Zipo or the Aripo route. A proprietor may approach these two administrative offices in person without the need of engaging the services of an agent as is the requirement for foreign IP title-holders.

In either system the procedures are fairly straight forward as this is done by standard practice procedures. However, the engagement of qualified agents is highly recommended since these have all the time to prosecute the registration processes with minimum difficulty. After all, they have the knowledge and familiarity of the systems and procedures.

Registration

Zipo examines patent application as to formalities-required-news only. It does not have the capacity to conduct substantive examination. This means that a fresh patent application would have to be transmitted to Aripo for substantive examination. In which case, to be regarded complete the patent application must contain the following documentation in standard forms.

Power of attorney: which is furnished where there is agent representation; if not represented this is not requisite.

A request: which essentially is a petition on which a precise definition of the title of the invention is stated. It is also on this form the applicant must furnish their personal details such as name and address for service, including telephone numbers. Where the applicant is the inventor this should be stated. Again where there is priority claimed this must be stated too.

Description or specification This document might re-state the title of invention as contained in the request form. Further requisites to be contained in this form include the technical field of the invention, indication of the background art, disclosure of the functionality of the invention and set out the best method of performing it.

Diagrams: These serve to clarify the illustrations contained in the specification. Noteworthy is that these are not a must but are optional or necessitated by the nature of the invention as claimed.

Claims: These point at the essential integers or features of the claimed intention.

That is to say, they point at inventive features or aspects of the invention, hence delineate the patent monopoly. They are a must, or else no invention would have been made.

Abstract: This is a short narrative about the invention. It is precisely crafted within the word limitation usually around 200 words.

Fees payment: The application must be accompanied by the prescribed fees payment otherwise the application would not be accepted and given a filing date until payment has been made. That is to say application fees are paid upfront.

Industrial design registration

The above prescribed forms and fees payments must comprise the application save that there is no need of a specification describing how the design is best performed. The claims are also not elaborate.

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