Friday, 3 May 2013

Kenya: a patent lawyer observes ... the diversity of "typical" inventors

Following yesterday's guest post on misconceptions about patenting in Kenya (here), here's a second contribution from Dr Isaac Rutenberg, an American patent lawyer living in Kenya.  Isaac, who directs the Center for Intellectual Property and Information Technology (CIPIT) at Strathmore Law School, writes:
On a fairly regular basis (maybe twice a week on average) I get paid a visit by the “typical Kenyan inventor.” I am surprised at the diversity of these inventors.

There is diversity in age. I cannot even say that most inventors are young, which is what I expected, as I am frequently meeting inventors in their 40s and 50s. The youngest inventor that I have met so far had his big breakthrough invention (which you can view here; this invention is supported by Wildlife Direct, here) before becoming a teenager.

There is diversity in ethnicity and gender. So far I have met more men than women, but it’s not exclusively Kenyan men that are inventing and innovating. Plus, the diverse group includes Africans, Asians, White folk, and mixes thereof.

ICT comes as a great relief ...
There is diversity in subject matter. The most common subject matter is ICT (mobile applications, web-based applications, cloud computing, mobile money applications, and social networking), which constitutes about half of the overall inquiries that I receive. Patentability in these areas is challenging, but an in-depth discussion on the challenges will be saved for a future posting. The remaining half of the inquiries are scattered over an enormously diverse field. Biogas and other environmentally friendly technologies are currently very popular areas.

Something that is common to most inventors is that they do not hang the entire success of their business on receiving patent protection. In a region where patent protection can be difficult to enforce, this is quite necessary. It is also, I think, quite healthy from a business perspective as it forces the inventors to be creative with their business models.

Another thing is common to almost all of the inventors I have seen. They have looked far and wide seeking help with the patenting system and have been frustrated by the lack of local affordable help.

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