Protecting Innovation in the ICT Sector

Since the mid-twentieth century, the rapid development of information and communication technology has led to a wide range of inventions such as the internet, mobile phones, cloud computing and digital media. 

One of the most notable and significant inventions of the last two decades has been the development of the wireless network which significantly reduced the costs of mobile technology without the need for expensive infrastructure to be installed at the level of the common user. Over the years, the wireless network has evolved from early 1G network to the current 5G network that is critical to connecting people and businesses around the world through a variety of media channels including instant messaging, video calls and live streaming services. 

A key concern for inventors within the ICT sector in Kenya is the protection of their inventions from use or exploitation by third parties, given that such inventions are in fact the inventor’s intellectual property. To this end, an inventor can seek legal protection of their product by registration of a patent, which represents a legal right to make or sell one’s invention for a particular number of years. 

Requirements for Registration

Patents are registrable in Kenya at the Kenya Industrial Property Institute under the provisions of the Industrial Property Act. A right to a patent belongs to one or more inventors who made the invention. Where two or more persons make the same invention independently of each other, then the person who made the earliest filing application, or claims a valid priority, shall have the right to the patent. 

In order to successfully apply for a patent, one must demonstrate that their invention is original and not obvious to persons who are skilled in the art of that invention. Likewise, an invention should not already be available or known to the public since revealing it before patenting it would mean that it is no longer protected.

During the application process, there are several elements that have to be satisfied for registration. For example, the applicant must give a written description of the invention called a specification in which important technical features of the inventions must be defined. In addition, the applicant must give a summary of the information contained in the specification which further states the technical field in which the invention belongs.

Once all elements are satisfied, the applicant can go ahead and apply for the patent at the Kenya Industrial Property Institute along the following lines:

  • Filing the application and paying the required fees
  • Search and examination of the application 
  • Filing of the required corrections if any
  • Publication of the application 18 months after the filing date
  • Substantive examination of the application for patentability
  • Grant, registration and publication of patent

Effects of Successful Registration

Once the patent is successfully registered, the inventor will then enjoy several exclusive rights such as the right to copy, modify, distribute and sell the invention. 

The patent lasts for 20 years and is subject to annual renewal. In the event where the patent owner’s rights are infringed, then the owner can claim for damages, injunctions, and compensation in a court of law.

Doreen Khizi

is an Independent Contributor.
She holds a Bachelor of Laws Degree from Kenyatta University and is enrolled for the Advocates Training Programme at the Kenya School of Law.

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