Nyakundi and Mnjama -Part 3
Statement of the problem
A study carried out by Ogada (2000) on Intellectual Property Rights for Universities and Research and Development (R&D) Institutions in African countries established that research has to be carried out on the management of intellectual property rights in the developing countries with regard to the collection, storage, dissemination of patent information and the problems associated with it. The management of patents entails various activities including creating awareness on the importance of patents and the role of the Patent Office, receiving applications from the potential inventors, filing of the patent specification together with the necessary forms and application fees and verifying their completeness. The management of patents is largely dependent upon the efficient and effective execution of all the above-mentioned steps. Although KIPO has endeavored to put in place procedures to enhance the patenting of new inventions, it still faces a number of challenges.
The first challenge relates to the small number of patents applied and issued in Kenya (KIPO Annual Reports between 1990 and 2003). This may be attributed to the amount of fees charged by KIPO which are considered to be rather on the higher side for ordinary citizens. For instance, the amount charged for filing and processing patent applications is KSh 3,000 (US$43), Searching fee KSh 2,000 (US$29), Examination fee KSh 5,000 (US$72), Registration fee KSh 3,000 (US$43), Publication fee KSh 3,000 (US$43), and maintenance fee of between KSh 2,000-5,000 (US$29--$43) (Kenya Industrial Property Regulations 2001). Furthermore the time taken to process applications is obviously long. Very often the applicants complain that it takes too long to have their applications processed (Ndirangu, 2000). The issue of skills and competencies of the staff charged with the responsibility of managing patent information at the Kenya Industrial Property Office also has impacted negatively on the management and use of patent information in the country. Although KIPO has a number of professional staff (examiners, librarians, computer programmers and legal officers&$041;, quite often their deployment and allocation of responsibilities tends not to be in areas that can benefit the management of patent information (WIPO 1987). In addition, registry staff who are directly responsible for filing and management patent records lack the necessary skills and competencies in records and information management which are key to proper maintenance and care of these records, including patent records.
Storage and maintenance of patent records is yet another problematic area at KIPO. Patent records and related information at KIPO are maintained in two separate areas - the patent registry where restricted patents are stored and in the library where patents available to the public are held. These units have limited space and inadequate facilities resulting in congestion and poor standard of maintenance. This problem has been compounded by the huge backlog of non-patent literature which has accumulated in the library over time, most of which has not been technically processed. The dissemination of patent–related information in Kenya is still an issue of concern. KIPO's outreach programme is in its nascent stage and its impact is yet to be felt in educating the public on patent information available at KIPO to enable them utilize it. Most people are unaware of what can be patented and the criteria for patentability. The absence of a patent information policy at KIPO has also been noticed to be a challenge, hindering effective management of patent information in Kenya.
As a result of these challenges, the aim of this study was to critically examine the management of patent information at KIPO and to make recommendations for their effective collection, storage, maintenance and utilization. Specifically this study had the following objectives:
- to identify patent records available at the center;
- to find out how selection, acquisition and classification of patent records is carried out;
- to examine their storage conditions;
- to assess the methods of organization and retrieval of patent information;
- to explore the current channels of disseminating patent information in Kenya;
- to identify the creators of patent information in the country;
- to identify the users of patent information in the country; and,
- to make recommendations on the future management of patent information in the country.