The 41st session of the administrative council of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (“ARIPO”) recently took place in Lilongwe, Malawi. Several documents on the administrative aspects of the organisation were discussed at the meeting, including the proposed programme of activities for 2018, and proposals to amend some ARIPO treaties to continually keep them in line with international trends.

Culminating from the attendance by ARIPO officials together with the commissioner of the State Intellectual Property Office (“SIPO”) of China at the “China-Africa High-Level Seminar on Intellectual Property System and Policies” in July 2017, it has been announced that a patent prosecution highway (“PPH”) agreement has been signed between ARIPO and SIPO. SIPO and ARIPO already have a Memorandum of Understanding in place between them, but establishing the PPH is a significant step forward in collaboration between the two offices.

It is not certain when this agreement might come into effect, but it seems it would be sometime in 2018. It is likely that, when in effect, the PPH will provide a mechanism for accelerated examination by the applicant of the corresponding ARIPO application, once SIPO has allowed the Chinese patent application.

Additional changes to the Harare Protocol that would allow for delayed or accelerated patent examination were also discussed during the session.  If passed, these may come into effect as early as January 2018.