Patents play a vital role in fostering innovation, driving economic growth, and promoting technological advancements. Patents provide a strong foundation for economic growth, as they represent a contract between the inventors and society. By creating incentives for businesses and individuals to invest in research and development, inventors are encouraged to create novel products, processes, and technologies that have significant advantages to the whole society.
A patent, in a nutshell, is an intellectual property right that grants inventors exclusive rights to their inventions for a limited period enabling them to recoup their investments and reap the benefits of their inventions. In Mauritius, according to the Industrial Property Act 2019 and the Industrial Property Regulations 2022, the protection is granted for 20 years. By offering a temporary monopoly, patents incentivize inventors to disclose their inventions, sharing valuable knowledge that can contribute to the collective progress of society.
Against this background, on March 15, 2023, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) came into effect in Mauritius, making the island the 157th Contracting State of the PCT. Whilst patents are territoriality limited, and the granting of patents is under the control of national or regional patent offices, the 1970 PCT facilitates the process for inventors to file for patent protection in multiple jurisdictions through a single application. The PCT foresees an international phase, administered by the World Intellectual Property Organisation, which then liaises with the national offices for the granting of the patent (i.e. national phase).
With the PCT being in force in Mauritius since March 15, businesses and individuals in the island can now file for patent protection in 156 PCT Contracting States. According to the Industrial Property Regulations 2022, the lndustrial Property Office of Mauritius is the responsible entity to check and transmit international applications to the WIPO’s International Bureau. Per the Industrial Property Regulations 2022 and Article 11 of the PCT, the international application requires the following:
i) specification of the fact that the application is an international application;
ii) designation of at least one PCT Contracting State;
iii) name, address, and nationality of the applicant;
iv) a description of the patent;
v) the identification of the claim or claims.
The international application should be filed in the application form provided by the International Bureau and should be submitted in three copies. The description claims and abstract can be submitted in any language. However, in the case of applications filed in languages other than any of the languages accepted by the International Searching Authority designated by the Director, the applicant is required to file a translation of the documents in an approved language within one month from the date the application is filed.t
Figure 1: Overview of the PCT System
Per Industrial Property Regulations 2022 and the PCT fee tables as of April 2023, the fees that the applicant needs to pay as are follows:
The international filing fee and the search fee are collected by the local office on behalf of the International Bureau and the International Searching Authority. In case the fees above are not paid in full by the required time limit, the local receiving office will send a reminder to the applicant to pay the amount required to cover the fees together with a late payment fee as applicable within a time limit of one month. In case of non-payment after one month, the receiving office will declare that the international application is considered withdrawn (Rule 16 bis of the Regulations).
Upon receipt of the application, the Director of the Industrial Property office needs to ascertain that the application meets the requirements below:
- The applicant has the right to file an application in the office of Mauritius by virtue of nationality and residence;
- The international application is in one of the approved languages;
- The international application contains the information required as described in paragraph 2 above.
If the Director of the Industrial Property Office is satisfied that the requirements above are fulfilled, the date of receipt of the international application will be considered as the international filing date and the application will be transmitted to the International Bureau and the International Searching Authority. The latter then carries out required searches and prepares a search report and written opinion which is transmitted to the International Bureau. In the case of a favourable report, the International Bureau will publish the international application with the international search report.
If the requirements above are not met, the receiving office has to refund the international filing fee to the applicant. Additionally, in cases where corrections are possible, the applicant will be requested to file an amended application within one month from the date of receipt of the request by the receiving office.
With regards to applications for which Mauritius is a designated State or an elected State, an application that was granted an international filing date by a receiving office will be considered equivalent to a patent application filed in Mauritius on the same date. In case an applicant wishes to continue the international application in Mauritius within 30 months from the international filing date, he/she has to open the national phase in Mauritius by:
- Filing a request to enter the national phase;
- Pay the Industrial Property Office the same fee as for filing a patent application;
- Submit three copies of the certified translation into English of the description, claims, drawings, and abstract of the international application.
The accession of Mauritius to the PCT is a long-awaited and welcome development by the private sector. Until March 15, Mauritius was one of the few countries in Africa for which patent protection was not available through the PCT. This move aligns Mauritius’ IP laws to global standards, providing applicants seeking patent protection in Africa with additional options and facilitating patent protection for applicants and inventors in Mauritius.
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The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about specific circumstances.
Industrial Property Regulations 2022, Available at: https://foreign.govmu.org/Documents/2022/IPO/Regulations/Industrial%20Property%20Regulations%202022.pdf
Industrial Property Act 2019, Available at: https://www.mauritiustrade.mu/ressources/pdf/industrial-property-act-2019.pdf
WIPO PCT FAQs – July 2022, Available at: https://www.wipo.int/pct/en/faqs/faqs.html
PCT Fee Tables – April 2023, Available at: https://www.wipo.int/export/sites/www/pct/en/docs/fees.pdf
This article has also been published on the Mondaq website.