Thursday, 28 February 2008

ARIPO's first patent appeal decision

Sanitam services (EA) Limited, a Kenyan company, brought an appeal against the decision of the ARIPO office removing its patent No. AP 773 entitled "Foot Operated Sanitary/Litter Bin" from the register due to non-payment of annual maintenance fees. The patent was granted on 15th October 1999 but maintenance fees were consistently late. The Appeal Board concluded that both parties were to blame for the delays in the payments; the Office had failed to send reminders, which it ought to have done. Consequently, the Appeal Board ordered the patent be reinstated in respect of Kenya and Uganda (the appeal was dropped in argument in respect of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana).

Notably:

As in the first Aripo trade mark appeal case reported here, the Office was urged to strictly observe the Protocol (Harare Protocol as opposed to Banjul Protocol) and in particular adherence to time limits, information delivery, procedure and processing of application, procedure on appeals and rules of natural justice.

and,

A patent can lapse in a designated state due to non-payment of maintenance fees in respect of that designated state. But it could also lapse if the patentee decides to expressly withdraw it, in this case the patentee was not obliged to "completely" withdraw the patent over the other three countries since they lapsed due to non-payment of maintenance fees.

Afro-IP suggests that this decision may be seen as a let off for law firms and patent registrants entrusted to manage patent renewals.

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