Egypt: patents in Africa - at a glance
As Africa’s economic significance grows, so does the need for patent protection in the continent. Africa is sometimes seen as being challenging, partly because of the co-existence of national and regional registration systems. This is the next in our series of country-specific updates. Here we focus on Egypt.
With a population of 93 million, Egypt is Africa’s third most populous country. GDP stands at some US$336 billion. On 4 February 2018, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), praised Egypt for its programme of structural economic transformation, which she said had led to increased confidence in the Egyptian economy, resulting in higher foreign investment and economic growth. She added that Egypt’s growth rate of 5% is higher than the Middle East and African average of 3.5%.
The legislation covering patents is the Protection of Intellectual Property Rights, 82-2002. As for international arrangements, Egypt is a member of the Paris Union, WIPO and the PCT.
Inventors, joint inventors and successors in title can file patent applications. Inventions made by employees in the course of their employment (and within one year of termination of the employment contract) belong to the employer, although the employee may be entitled to equitable remuneration.
There is provision for Patents of Invention, Patents of Addition and national phase PCT applications. To be patentable an invention must be new, involve an inventive step, and be industrially applicable or a new use. The usual exclusions apply: immoral inventions; diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical methods; discoveries, scientific theories and mathematical methods; plants and animals.
As for novelty, this is destroyed if before the date of filing (or the earliest priority date) a patent has already been issued for the invention or part thereof in Egypt or abroad, or if the invention has been publicly used or exploited in Egypt or abroad, or disclosed in a manner that enables experts to exploit it. Disclosure of an invention at a national or international exhibition within six months of the date of filing a patent application is exempt.
A patent owner has the right to stop others exploiting the invention. Acts done for scientific research are excluded from the owner’s exclusive rights, as are indirect uses of the production process that is the subject of the invention in order to obtain other products. In legal proceedings the patentee can be granted an injunction, financial compensation and evidence-preservation measures.
For patents of invention (non-PCT) the following are required: a legalised Power of Attorney; a specification with claims and abstract in both English and Arabic; formal drawings; legalised Assignment of Invention and priority rights; a legalised Certificate of Incorporation; priority documents with verified English and Arabic translations. When it comes to national phase PCT applications the law is not clear - the best advice is to file the same documents, together with copies of the Published International Application, the International Search Report and the International Preliminary Report on Patentability.
There is examination and the Registry can require information regarding foreign applications. There is provision for opposition after publication, as well as cancellation (revocation).
A patent lasts for 20 years from the filing date. Renewal fees are due annually.
Compulsory licensing can be granted after the expiry of four years from the filing date or three years from grant (whichever is the later) on the basis that the patented invention is not being supplied on reasonable terms in Egypt.
Egyptian law offers specific protection for utility models, layout designs of integrated circuits and plant varieties.