On 11 May 2023 in Nairobi, the throbbing heart of East African innovation, the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) and WIPO took a giant leap to support local inventors. These institutions teamed up to launch the Inventor Assistance Program (IAP) in Kenya. The Program puts patent protection within reach of individuals and small businesses.
Each year, more than 300 Kenyan inventors apply for patent and utility model protection. The most recent Global Innovation Index points to tremendous potential, with Kenyan innovation outputs outperforming levels of investment for the 4th year in a row. However, relatively few of these ideas make it through the patent system. Many local inventors represent themselves before the patent office and get stuck on the technicalities. The IAP stands to change that, providing professional support and the opportunity for Kenyan inventors to have their ideas evaluated on their merits.
“Patents and other intellectual property help inventors and businesses attract investments, scale up, and compete on a global stage,” said Allison Mages, Head, IP Commercialization Section, IP for Business Division, IP and Innovation Ecosystems Sector, WIPO. “The partnership between KIPI and WIPO will allow inventors to secure rights within Kenya and beyond.” Through the IAP’s global network of volunteers, inventors currently benefit from pro bono support in other IAP participating countries as well as Europe and the United States.
Volunteers who donate their time to the Program reap huge dividends too. As David Kappos, Partner, Cravath, Swaine & Moore s – the IAP Steering Committee Chair, shared, “from my experience, the person who gets the most benefit out of this Program is the attorney preparing the patent application.” Volunteers get many opportunities, like meeting potential clients, building professional networks and technical skills, he explained.
Building these skills is another focus of the KIPI-WIPO growing partnership. In January this year, KIPI agreed to recognize the International Patent Drafting Training Program. Kenyan participants receive a professional certificate after successfully completing the 8-month hands on training program. As demand for the IAP and local patent professionals grow, the two organizations will use both programs to enhance Kenya’s innovation ecosystem.
Kenya’s innovation-powered future is bright. The launch celebrated potential, with representatives from Magna Quest, Gavo Foods and Hello Tractor, sharing their journey. Each described the essential role patents played in the growth of their ventures and expressed the massive benefit the IAP could deliver.
The Program’s impact could be felt immediately. Inventors attending the launch had the chance to discuss their inventions with one of the Programs 16 local volunteers. These consultations are expected to lead to Kenya’s first IAP beneficiaries.