Monday, 14 April 2014

World Moto Inc. 'looking forward' to another quick patent: The benefit of a deposit system

Fussy Lion Cub
Always fussing about the office. 
Source: here
This young Leo has learned that World Moto Inc. are about to lay hands on another patent for its Moto-Meter™ technology. This latest patent comes from South Africa - who is expected to issue on 30th April. (If interested, the certificate will be posted on the company's facebook page). [Another publicity round for them?" asks Afro Leo]. Yes, Afro Leo; you will soon understand why, in a moment.

As this Leo currently understands: World Moto filed a PCT application (probably with the USPTO) seeking to protect the Moto-Meter™ technology in 61 countries, including some in Africa. Several forward-looking statements (including here for Mexico) inform the public that Nigeria was the first to grant (see Moto-Meter Granted a Patent in Nigeria -- Monopoly Guaranteed Until 2033hereinafter, 'Press Release for Nigeria'). For the purposes of this post, here are crucial excerpts from that article: 

Excuse me, what are you looking at?
Source: World Moto Inc
"Nigeria is the first locality to complete its investigations and issue a patent. The patent was granted as filed, with no changes or office actions required on any of its 28 claims, and will remain in force until February 8, 2033. The remaining 60 countries are currently in the substantive evaluation period and are expected to complete their investigations within the next 4 years. Based on its success in Nigeria, and its original favorable review from the Patent Cooperation Treaty Examiner, the Company expects ultimately to be awarded a patent in every targeted jurisdiction."

"World Moto CTO Chris Ziomkowski stated, "The Moto-Meter will greatly affect billions of lives and we are pleased that the Nigerian Patent Office has so quickly recognized its novelty and industrial applicability. Having a patent on an innovation of this magnitude will allow us to fully develop the market for everyone's benefit."

Afro Leo, can you now see the minor reason for this post: Nigeria was the first to investigate (or according to the CTO: "...quickly recognised its novelty and industrial applicability") and issue a patent? South Africa is next. Is there something in common in respect of patent law and practice in these two countries? This Leo, as usual, will pick on Nigeria. 

It is often good news when foreign investors or entities see growth opportunities in various parts of the continent. This technology may well help improve - at least, in terms of motorcycle transportation cost - the lives of many. However, this Leo is unsure about the advertising part of it: glowing wheels in the dark? [Afro Leo may well need a cool Ray-Ban sunglasses]

Winning hearts and minds
Based on experience - in working with tech entrepreneurs, especially those looking for funding and partners - this Leo gathered that some investors are somewhat easily pleased to hear or see the phrase, 'patent pending'. Same may be said for potential distributors, licensees and dealers eager to pounce on business opportunities - subject to terms such as IP infringement indemnity. 

On the macro level, this Leo would be interested to know how World Moto (including their distributors or dealers) assessed last year's news which reported that the Nigerian Federal Government urged States to ban the commercial use of motorcycles. [Obviously, market research was conducted to reveal that opportunities outweigh risks. Confident Afro Leo continues by guessing that one of World Moto's counter strategies may involve lobbying certain States not to follow orders or even to introduce meters. Moreover, he also sees the lucrative side of the personal use market. At the end of the day, investors/business people need a decent level of certainty in order to participate in a market. World Moto sitting comfortably]

Having secured some distributors, one has to feel that World Moto has, at least, won some business hearts and minds in their target markets. 

The PCT route to market
At the heart of patent regimes is novelty. It is commonly held that patent owners, with global ambitions, tend to tend to take advantage of the provisions of the Paris Convention or  PCT system (provided targets are members thereof) than bear the burden (e.g. costs and priority date) with individual applications for every target. The PCT system is common and notable, not least, due to features such as: a single application (in-country or directly with WIPO), initial basic formalities, and coverage in up to the current 148 members.

From a strategic viewpoint, one of the beauties of the PCT system is that its examination/reporting system assists an applicant in reaching a decision on countries to proceed with in the national phase. This, more often than not, means that - again, provided basic formalities are met - countries operating a deposit system (e.g. Nigeria and South Africaquickly grant - with or without a favourable search/opinion report

Sorry, no substantive examination in Nigeria and South Africa
The main point in this Leo's commentary is this: reading the Press Release for Nigeria, one would be forgiven to think that Nigeria's IP office currently conducts substantive examination on patent applications; the reality is otherwise (see herehere and here).

According to available sources, sub-section 4(4) of Nigeria's Patent Act states: "Patents are granted at the risk of the patentee and without guarantee of their validity." When one reads the whole of section 4, what Nigeria's IP office must not do with any given patent application becomes very clear. The same can also be said of South Africa's Patent Act (in particular, see Chapter V).

Indeed, the global authority on the $500 billion dollar moto taxi industry is feeling smug has done well with its patent strategy and media publicity. After grant, comes enforcement. World Moto, this Leo wishes you the very best with the press releases African venture.

World Moto files a patent application for Wheelies™ technology in the U.S. here
What are forward-looking statements? see here
See the benefits of substantive examination for pharmaceutical patent claims in South Africa, here
Challenges and options in substantive patent examination are here

More fussiness from Afro Leo:
(1) 'World Moto, Inc. Opens North African Regional Office in Lagos, Nigeria -- a $150 Million Market for Moto-Meter'. Is Nigeria also becoming the hub for North Africa? Wow, so much good news for Nigeria.

(2) Why did this press release, 'Moto-Meter(TM) Patent Clears Final Hurdle in South Africa -- Africa's Largest Economy') dated 7th April, not pick up (from herehere and here) that Nigeria is now the largest economy on the continent? This Leo knows why they may well be right in doing so: because the great majority of Nigerians do not care about this new-found status and the World Bank, for example, is yet to update its website with this new GDP figure. Does it mean that Nigeria is, probably, living in its own dreams?

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