In the annual joint effort of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the African Regional Intellectual Property Office (ARIPO) to build patent-drafting capacity in Africa, I again enjoyed the great privilege of participating, as a patent-drafting instructor, at a patent drafting workshop at ARIPO headquarters in Harare. After traveling to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2008, and with a fragile "unity government" now in place in Zimbabwe, we returned to the ARIPO headquarters in Harare, Zimbabwe with a new group of participants, this time from the following countries: Burundi, Ghana, Liberia, Mauritius, Namibia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Seychelles, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. The program included a series of presentations discussing patents and patent-drafting concepts, as well as a series of practical patent claim-drafting exercises. Again, the students were highly committed and made remarkable progress in picking up concepts and skillfully employing claim drafting techniques in just one week.
Again, it was refreshing to meet high-ranking government officials, including the chairwoman of the council of ministers from Lesotho, who fully recognize that a strong intellectual property system is critical to investment and that skilled patent drafting is a critical need in that regard. African leaders recognize that a strong patent system is often needed to introduce new products to a country both from within as well as from outside the country's borders, as many companies will be afraid to enter a market if their innovations cannot be protected. Once again, I appreciated the opportunity to contribute to that mission by sharing my insights into patent law, policy and strategy.