The Tanzania Patent Office is a useful partner in the prosecution process, says Sunday Godfrey Ndamugoba of ABC Attorneys

Are there any peculiarities in Tanzania to be aware of?

Tanzania is a union of two countries, Tanganyika and Zanzibar. For the purposes of the protection of intellectual property rights, there are two jurisdictions, namely Tanzania and Zanzibar, since IP does not fall within the purview of the union matters. In so far as patenting is concerned, in Tanzania, the main law is the Patent (Registration) Act, Cap 217, Revised Edition 2002. In addition to that, there is Patents Regulations (GN No 190 of 1994). In Zanzibar, however, the main legislation is the Zanzibar Industrial Property Act 2008. Tanzania is a member of the Patent Cooperation Treaty , the Paris Convention, the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of IP Rights and the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO). It is that protection that can also be afforded via an ARIPO application designating Tanzania.

Tanzania and Zanzibar are two separate jurisdictions, so one would have to file for patents in both jurisdictions to obtain protection within the entire united republic. Otherwise, it will be protected in the territory within which the registration took place.

The registration process in Tanzania involves a number of steps. These include preliminary examination, formal examination and novelty search. It also includes publication, substantive examination and grant. The law also allows for oppositions.

The grant of a patent offers protection for 20 years after which the patent falls into the public domain. Upon grant, the patent owner is liable to pay annual fees, which are payable on the anniversary of the date of filing. Failure to pay the annual fees within the required time may render the application withdrawn. As such, one will have to make an application for restoration in the prescribed form, which must be accompanied with evidence in support for the grounds of restoration.

In Tanzania, a request for the grant of a patent must be made in English, in the prescribed form and in triplicate. The documents that must be attached to the request include the power of attorney, description, claims and abstract. Other documents that must be attached include drawings, a statement justifying that certain disclosures be disregarded, and priority documents (if available at the time of filing). Although the laws of Tanzania require the documents to be filed in English, documents in other languages can also be filed provided an English translation of the document is also submitted, either at the time of filing, or, in any other case, no later than three months from the date of filing. Other requirements for an invention to be patentable are universal in almost all jurisdictions globally and thus not peculiar to Tanzania.

How well equipped is the Tanzania Patent Office?

The Tanzania Patent Office is located at the Business Registrations and Licensing Agency. The patent office still operates manually, but it is well equipped to deal with the filings.

A patent application is done through filing form No P2 accompanied by a patent document in triplicate at the patent office. If everything is in order, all documents have been filed correctly and no objections have been lodged, it takes up to three months to have a patent registered in Tanzania. The response time for inquiries other than those requiring statutory timelines is normally two working days. The office has handled and continues to handle fillings in a very efficient way, making it easier for patent firms such as ABC Attorneys.

The staff at the Tanzania Patent Office are easily accessible, and very cooperative in ensuring that the entire process goes as smoothly and as fast as possible given the circumstances of each application.

There is a need, however, to move to digital filing system as it will make the entire process much smoother and reduce paperwork. This may even shorten response times for enquiries. It suffices to point out though that this has not in anyway delayed or frustrated the registration process. Patents are registered in time and are protected.

The prosecution of patents is also well developed to ensure that maximum protection is offered. The Tanzania Patents Act provides for relief upon infringement to include: an injunction to prevent infringement where infringement is imminent, or to prohibit the continuation of the infringement, once infringement has started; damages; and any other remedy provided for in contract or law of torts.

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