Thursday 5 October 2017


Japan ups its game for Africa IP infrastructure assistance

As long ago as 2009 this blog reported on Japanese funding of IP infrastructure on the continent. A few days ago Afro-Hip wallowed over to this post on the Intellectual Property Watch hailing the efforts of the Japanese, in conjunction with ARIPO, to train 1000 people in IP systems across Africa. They will be spending over $1.6 million per annum according to the article; $1600 per person. 

Fellow blogger Jeremy Phillips was critical in 2009 lamenting that flying IP officials all over the place and staying in luxurious hotels etc was perhaps not the most fruitful use of funding and that technology could be better used for the purpose. There is no doubt that IP systems have improved on the continent since 2009 and this blogger was hoping for some data on the progress of the Japanese initiative over the last decade or so. His call was answered not by the IPW post but by this report from WIPO in 2016.

The initiative has received steady funding (recently topped up from $1.1million) over the years and there is evidence of various training and funded projects across Africa, digitisation of records, training in IPAS, scholarship and textbooks, and ministerial dialogue. The focus has now turned more to training it appears. The report, while short on the actual spend and financials, does indicate progress which is corroborated by various articles on this website and elsewhere about the increasing reliability of IP systems in Africa and the increase in IP jurisprudence. One suspects therefore, without knowing the finer details, that this program is working and should be commended for that.

It is interesting though that South Africa's place in the program is but for a few meetings here and there, largely ignored. This could be because they have long been regarded as being the pre-eminent IP system in Africa (still accounting for most of the registered IP on the continent) and hence there is more need elsewhere in Africa or it could be that it is WIPO and others are preferring direct access to Registries in Africa. Perhaps South Africa does not see itself as the custodian of Africa IP or lacks resources to assist in Africa where, in truth, there is lots to be done in its own country. 

Whatever the reason, collaborating with South Africa has benefits which include training courses already on offer for both patents and trade marks under SAIIPL as well as its infrastructure, relative ease of access for travellers on the continent and accommodation. In turn South Africa should make itself available for more collaboration otherwise it will lose out on the advantages of not being part of the continent's slow but steady maturity. There are already systems in Africa far more efficient than its own.



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