By Grey Njowola, Head of ICT, ARIPO
The Fourth Industrial Revolution, enabled by technologies based on computing and the internet, has led to the formation of a knowledge-based society driven by ideas and information. It brought in better communication and connectivity and other technologies that companies and organizations can take advantage of to become more effective and competitive by reducing operating costs, duplication of work, and streamlining complex processes. The value of access to information and the ability to use the information cannot be overestimated in a knowledge-based society.
ARIPO has embarked on a number of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) projects and has taken advantage of the ICT tools available to provide IP business processing efficiency, supporting IP information availability, encouraging IP scientific research, and IP rights protection and enforcement. This is in support of two of ARIPO’s objectives which are:
- to establish such common services or organs as may be necessary or desirable for the co-ordination, harmonization, and development of the industrial property activities affecting its members; and
- to assist its members, as appropriate, in the acquisition and development of technology relating to industrial property matters;
ARIPO is therefore using ICT tools to:
- enhance the efficiency of business processing and other administrative work at the ARIPO Office and those of its Member States;
- facilitate the accessibility and use of Intellectual Property information in the region and Africa at large; and
- Strengthen ICT institutional capacity in the ARIPO region and beyond.
ARIPO Online Services
In August 2013, ARIPO embarked on a project to Upgrade and Modernize its ICT Infrastructure and Member States Patent Offices. The project focused on upgrading ARIPO’s IP administration system, developing a Member States module for online electronic data communication between the ARIPO Office and those of its Member States, and developing and providing online services to users the public at large.
In March 2015, ARIPO launched the new IP Administration System and the online service platform that was inaugurated in April 2015. The system is web-based and provides functions for IP work, including online filing, online file inspection, online payment, filing of follow-up documents, the Intellectual Property Digital Library (IPDL), access to online journals, and downloads for form and fee information.
The ARIPO online services provide IP information service for the stakeholders and have functionality that allows applicants to submit their IP applications without physically visiting the ARIPO offices by providing e-filing and e-payment through e-service. The platform also gives users access to Member States journals which are available for download free of charge. ARIPO gives a 20% discount on the application fee to users filing their applications online to promote the platform’s use.
Member States are also able to track their accounts and upload journals on the platform.
Agents and applicants using the online platform have found it to be very convenient. It proved very effective during the COVID-19 induced lockdowns as it ensured business continuity. There was an increase in the online services uptake with 85% of all new applications received in 2020 filed online compared to 77% in 2019, 73% in 2018, 58% in 2017 and 33% in 2016. Individually, Patents recorded the highest percentage with 97% of the applications filed online. The online service platform has been continuously available for the users’ convenience.
Some of the benefits realized from the use of the ARIPO Online Services are:
efficient processing of IP applications from filing to grant/registration
reduction of errors in the business processing of applications
a decrease in paper records in IP file processing
elimination of duplicate records and processes
reduced costs and processing time for applications
improved service delivery and increased customer satisfaction
substantial productivity and efficiency gains amongst ARIPO stakeholders
faster IP data communication with other IP Offices and users
timely, cost-effective generation of official publications
improved access to technological information
improved transparency in management, administration and enforcement of IP
The uptake of online services has been very encouraging due to the efficiency and effectiveness of the system. The technologies driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution like Artificial Intelligence, BlockChain, Internet of Things, and cloud computing have fundamentally changed the way people work, transformed how businesses operate and has shifted user expectations. ARIPO will continue to improve its services and provide quality services for all our stakeholders in line with these latest technological trends.