Ineffective patent laws in Africa are keeping investors from supporting local innovators leaving them to struggle with their ideas that eventual collapse due to lack of funding.
Heavy legal costs, arbitrary red-tape procedures and mismatch in legislation has made it difficult for many African inventors to patent their products making it even harder for them to sell these products on the international market, attendants at the Innovation Prize for Africa told SciDev.Net .
Only 19 out of the 54 countries on the continent have subscribed to the African Intellectual Property Organization (AIPO) in Cameroon, several other including Ghana and Benin are not party to this treaty some thing that has left inventor in many countries exposed to ‘idea jackers’.
For example, a former IPA award winner from Togo, Logou Minsob, was unable to prevent other entrepreneurs in his country from creating cheap imitations of his Foufoumix machine, which pounds yam roots into powder in under eight minutes — a process that takes hours if done by hand with a mortar and pestle.
Misob, who was awarded $25,000 last year, has now filed for a patent at AIPO, SciDev.Net reported.
It takes about a year successfully file a patent under the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) Patent Cooperation Treaty, which covers nearly 150 countries.
There is however difficulties patenting products in Africa where intellectual property rights are often territorial, and laws differ even within the same country.
“In Tanzania, the island region Zanzibar has different IP laws than the mainland,” MacLean Sibanda, a South African patent lawyer, told SciDev.Net.
The process of patenting is usually too slow and too expensive for many young African entrepreneurs.
It took a Moroccan programmer, Mohammed Said Abdelouahad, 23, who designed a rhythm-based app for online authentication that collects all your passwords and activates them by tapping on the screen, six month and $2,500 to finally finalize his patent in America, his choice market.
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