ARIPO, Japan Government To Train 1,000 People In IP Systems In Africa 29/09/2017 by Maina Waruru for Intellectual Property Watch 2 Comments Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)The government of Japan, in partnership with the African Region Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO), has begun implementation of a project meant to train 1,000 people across Africa in intellectual property systems. The World Intellectual Property Organization also plays a role. Under the Japan Funds-in-Trust for Africa for IP systems (FIT/IP), the Japanese are spending up to 1.6 million Swiss Francs annually to conduct the trainings among ARIPO member countries, the main aim being to raise intellectual property literacy and build capacity in Africa. Also partnering in the initiative is the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which will help ARIPO design the course curriculum targeting government officials and private sector representatives, mainly local manufacturers and innovators. WIPO will administer the funds under its Africa bureau. The initiative comes as a result of Tokyo International Conference for Africa (TICAD VI), a gathering that brings African heads of state together with Japanese government every two years to explore areas of joint trade and development cooperation, which took place in Nairobi in 2016, and committed to train 1,000 Africans in IP systems in countries including non-ARIPO members. In 2008, the Japan Patent Office established the Japan FIT/IP – Africa and LDCs, meant to support IP development with an initial kitty of 1.1 million Swiss francs, but it was not until 2016 that training in IP systems was made a central part of the project. Under the initiative, scholarships for master’s degree programmes in intellectual property at African universities (for example Strathmore University in Nairobi) will be provided every year, as well as training on patent drafting for patent agents from the ARIPO member and observer states, said Takuya Sugiyama, deputy director, regional cooperation for Middle East and Africa Japan Patent Office. Also offered under the funding are seminars and workshops held in Africa and at WIPO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, benefiting mainly government officers. “The principal objective of the training activities would be the development of human resources in the concerned sectors of the administration and utilization of the industrial property system,” said Sugiyama. ARIPO, he said, has been seen as one of the most important partners to consider when implementing IP training assistance, which he said is done based on the needs of the Africa region and the member states. However, the FIT-Japan initiative training will only cover industrial property including patents, utility models, designs and trademarks, the contentious area of seeds and plant varieties being out of scope, Sugiyama disclosed. “We believe that such efforts will lead not only to encouraging investments in Africa by foreign countries including Japan, but will also help to drive sustainable economic growth in African countries, the official told Intellectual Property Watch. The training programme will run until 2018 when it will be reviewed at the end of the current 2 year term of TICAD VI, he said. “Japan will provide training to 1,000 people to promote public awareness for intellectual property in Africa. This commitment is being implemented during the current TICAD VI term, 2016-2018, not only for ARIPO and its member states but also the other African countries,” Sugiyama noted. ARIPO has 19 members and 12 countries are considered as observers or “potential members.” According t0 ARIPO Director General Fernando Dos-Santos, the IP training and capacity building will help provide protection for “functional aspects of inventions and innovations,” across Africa. Dos-Santos made the remarks at a September training event at ARIPO in Harare. Lack of awareness of the IP system in Africa is to blame for the low percentage of Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applications emanating from Africa, as well as the minimal awareness of services that national offices and ARIPO offer to the African countries, he said. Subjects covered under IP drafting course for agents include drafting patent applications, ARIPO patent systems and procedures, filing patents under the PCT and theory of patent claims and protection of inventive concepts, the director said. Other topics will include searching for patent information from databases and drafting of patent claims. Objectives of the Japan FIT/IP – Africa & LDCs project have been listed as being meant to increase awareness of the importance of the industrial property system for economic and technological development, and to increase awareness of the benefits of effectively using the system. The fund was established in 2008, following the adoption of recommendations under the 2007 WIPO Development Agenda. Other objectives include assisting developing countries in establishing or strengthening their industrial property laws and institutions, as well as fostering the development of capacities in the administration and use of the industrial property system. According to Kenyan social innovation and impact development specialist Kenneth Ndua, while the training opportunities such as the one provided by the Japanese would help build capacity and awareness of IP in Africa, the approach used in designing curriculum as well as the content are more critical. Relevance of such training to the African IP situation and context is even more important considering the levels of awareness on the continent, he noted. “A programme like this one is welcome and good for us all in Africa, but only if it addresses local IP regimes, needs and situation, therefore it becomes even more useful when it is localised and domesticated to meet local needs,” Ndua told Intellectual Property Watch. Working with local IP experts and national IP institutions in assessing needs and in designing the programme for the African IP scenario would also help make training more relevant and the knowledge trickle much faster, the innovator further said. Studies done by WIPO and other agencies in the recent past have found that lack of competent patent drafters was one of the reasons Africa was not realising enough benefits from innovations and discoveries. “The lack of patent drafters has been noted as a major hindrance on the ability of inventors in developing countries to use the IP system, and, thereby, to participate in the economic benefits of intellectual property,” ARIPO said in a September statement. According to David Tsunakake, deputy head of mission, Embassy of Japan in Zimbabwe – where the headquarters of ARIPO is located – Africa should place more effort in not just patenting technologies, but also handicraft products such as artefacts to protect its craftsmen. Education therefore is critical in to build capacity in the IP field across the continent, he argued. 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