Thursday, 2 May 2013


Kenya: a patent lawyer observes ... some common misconceptions

Here's a guest post from Dr Isaac Rutenberg, an American patent lawyer living in Kenya and directing the Center for Intellectual Property and Information Technology (CIPIT) at Strathmore Law School. Isaac writes:
There is a common misconception among Kenyan law firms that there is not much local patent work to be done. This is far from the truth, particularly if you include Information and Communications Technology (ICT) innovations in the pool of patent-worthy inventions. Apart from ICT, Kenyan inventors are active in a variety of fields, including renewable energy sources, water treatment and waste treatment methods, pest and insect control, livestock protection, plant varieties, hair care, and more.

Although it’s far from true that there is little local patent work to be done, the misconception is grounded in some factual evidence. Those factors are primarily: 
(1) Most big companies in Kenya spend very little on pure research and development. Accordingly, most big companies have very little cause to investigate patents as a form of IP protection. Simultaneously, these companies are the major source of work for big law firms.

(2) Most research and development done in Kenya (and there is quite a lot of it) is done by individual entrepreneurs and inventors. Such clients tend to be highly interested in patenting but rather distrusting and suspicious of law firms. The expectation is that law firms will charge a lot of money.

(3) Many Kenyan would-be patent seekers go to the Kenyan patent office (KIPI) for advice on the patenting process. KIPI correctly advises them that they should seek the help of a qualified patent lawyer for drafting the patent. Unfortunately there is a serious shortage of such “qualified patent lawyers” for KIPI to refer inventors. 
(4) Government funding of R&D is only now taking centre stage (with the recent passage of the Science, Technology, and Innovation Act 2012). This funding will take time to result in innovations that are suitable for patenting.



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2 May 2013 at 13:10 delete

Perhaps the time is ripe for a registered Association of IP Practitioners in Kenya?