What is a Patent?

A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted by law to applicants for inventions that are new, non-obvious and industrially applicable. A patent is valid for a limited period of time (generally 20 years), during which patent holders can commercially exploit their inventions on an exclusive basis.

In return, applicants are obliged to disclose their inventions to the public in a manner that enables others, skilled in the art, to replicate the invention. The patent system is designed to encourage innovation by providing innovators with time-limited exclusive legal rights, thus enabling them to appropriate the returns from their innovative activity.

Patent Law and Legislation

ARIPO is mandated to grant patents on behalf of the Harare Protocol Contracting States in accordance with the provisions of the Harare Protocol on Patents and Industrial Designs. The Harare Protocol was adopted on December 10, 1982 at Harare, Zimbabwe. The protocol entered into force in 1984.

Under the protocol, an applicant for the grant of a patent for an invention can, by filing only one application, designate any one of the Harare Protocol Contracting States in which that applicant wishes the invention to be accorded protection. The protocol requires the filing of the application to be made with any one of the Contracting States or directly with the ARIPO Office.

There are 20 Contracting States, namely; Botswana, Cabo Verde, Kingdom of Eswatini, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Kingdom of Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Seychelles, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.


Procedures for Filing of a Patent

Filing an Application

Applications may be filed by the applicant (who can be an inventor or his/her assignee) or by the authorized representative of the applicant (attorney, agent, or legal practitioner) who has the right to represent the applicant before an industrial property office of any of the Harare Protocol contracting states. Representation is mandatory for applicants who are not resident or whose principal place of business is not situated in a contracting state. To File the Applicant has to submit the following:

  • a completed ARIPO Form 3 (Request form)
  • a description of the invention
  • one or more claims
  • one or more drawings(if any)
  • an abstract
  • prescribed application fees or a written undertaking to lodge the fees
  • designation of at least one state

Applications can be filed directly at ARIPO by:

  • e-filing
  • email
  • in person
  • registered mail
  • courier

An application can also be filed through a contracting state.



ARIPO Online Service

The ARIPO Office has introduced online services to allow applicants, attorneys, agents and other users to conduct their ARIPO business electronically. This facility allows for online filing of industrial property applications, online payment of fees, sending and receiving notification and general tracking of led applications. Click here for the ARIPO ONLINE SERVICE.

The online application comes with 20% reduction of the application fee.