"No Invention left behind" - WIPO's Inventor Assistance Programme gathers Pace
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Hardly a week goes by without a request for help from an inventor, entrepreneur or other innovator in Africa, Asia or Latin America as well as my own or some other advanced country. Obtaining legal protection for a brand, design, technology or work of art or literature is difficult enough even in the UK. In a less developed country it is so much harder. Usually, all I can do when I get such a request is to direct the enquirer to his or her national intellectual property office, a local patent or trade mark attorney or lawyer or, occasionally, an inventor's club.
The reason why those enquirers seek my help is that legal protection for a product or service is a prerequisite for market success. Without it countless ideas that could improve the human condition lie unused. That is obviously bad for the creator or innovator whose life could have been transformed had he or she taken the product or service to market but it is also bad for the rest of humanity including consumers in advanced countries who could have benefited from it.
The problem is that patenting costs money. Patent offices have to charge search and examination fees and patent and trade mark attorneys and intellectual property lawyers can't live on air and are not massively overpaid for their services even in countries like the UK and USA. The notion that they can take on difficult cases requiring specialist expertise that took a lifetime to acquire on a pro bono or even no win, no fee basis is fanciful. It happens occasionally but it is very rare indeed.
The World Economic Forum has recognized the problem (see Corey Salsberg Too poor for a patent? A new scheme gives inventors a helping hand 27 April 2016). So, too, has the World Intellectual Property Organization, the UN agency for intellectual property. Their solution is the Inventor Assistance Program which introduces inventors in participating countries to attorneys who will help them for free. The programme was pioneered in Colombia in 2015 and I blogged about it in Inventor Assistance Programme 25 Nov 2016 NIPC Inventors Club.
There are now three participating countries, Colombia, Morocco and the Philippines and they are soon to be joined by South Africa (see IAP: Next Stop South Africa! 29 Nov 2017) and Ecuador (see IAP Grows: Ecuador Becomes Fifth Participating Country 15 Dec 2017). That is still a small part of the world but the aim is to include everybody. As David Kappos who headed the US Patent and Trade Mark Office between 2009 and 2013 put it, the plan is that no invention should be left behind.
Inventors in countries that are not yet in the IAP as well as those that are can benefit from the WIPO's online course to help first-time inventors decide whether their invention fulfils patentability requirements. This course would also help inventors in advanced countries. They can also benefit indirectly from the help given to their national governments. An example of the vehicle protection device that is protected by Brunei Darussalam's first local patent.
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