HOW TO OBTAIN A PATENT IN ZAMBIA
Patents in Zambia are governed by the Patents Act Cap. 400 of the Laws of Zambia. Click here to view the Act. Once properly documented, a patent application should be lodged at the Zambia Patent Office (which is a unit of the Patents and Companies Registration Office (PACRA) in Lusaka. There are two (2) types of patent applications: a Convention and Non-Convention application. An inventor or his/her successor in title may file either of the two types of applications.
A Convention application is one that claims an earlier filing date in another country called the 'priority date'. If, for example, one filed the first patent application in South Africa, the Zambian Patent Office will record the date of filling in South Africa as the filing date in Zambia, even if this was done a year ago. The priority document in this case would originate from South Africa as this is where the earlier filing was made.
The Non-Convention Application is filed when the inventor is still in the process of documenting or perfecting his or her invention but would like to protect the key elements of the invention. The law requires that the complete specification or details of the invention be filed within 12 months.
A Convention application is filed on Patents Form No.2 and must be accompanied by a complete specification, a priority document and a deed of assignment (where applicable). A deed of assignment is a document that shows that the rights in the invention have been assigned or transferred from the inventor to another person. It is therefore only necessary where the applicant is not the inventor.
A Non-Convention application, on the other hand, should be lodged on Patents Form No.1, accompanied by a deed of assignment. The complete specification for a Non-Convention Application should be filed within 12 months of filing the application. It is important to distinguish between the Convention application and Non-Convention Application.
The Complete Specification
This is the most important part of the patent application. It describes the invention in detail. This document contains the following parts:
Part A: The background to the invention: -This includes an explanation of the present level of technical development (state of the art) in the field of the invention’s application as known at the time of the invention. It also briefly outlines the advantages of the invention which are envisaged to overcome the shortcomings of the present state of the art.
Part B : Detailed Description of the invention: - This is the main part in which the invention is described and the manner in which it is to be performed in detail to enable a person ordinarily skilled in the invention’s art to replicate the technology only by studying the description.
Part C : The Claims: -These are the legal boundaries defining the invention, the inventor is required to only claim what is described in the detailed description (Part B of the document), and cannot claim anything outside the scope of the invention.
Qualifications for an invention to be patentable
In order to preliminarily qualify for a patent, an invention must meet the following four (4) important international standards:
(i) Be new or novel,
(ii) Involve an inventive step,
(iii) Be practically viable, and
(iv) Meet both statutory and natural laws.
This requirement means the invention must be new or novel. Any invention or technology that has ever been published or disclosed in any form to the public is considered not to be new or novel. This means that an invention whose gist is divulged to the public in any means of mass communication such as radio, newspaper, television or by public lecture or demonstration is unpatentable. There are instances where inventors rush to the press to disclose their valuable new findings thinking of popularising the newest ideas but unaware that they are spoiling the patentability of their ideas.
(ii) Inventive Step
The proposed invention must not only be new, but it must involve an inventive step. Any invention passes this prerequisite if it displays a noticeable difference between the state of the art known in the field and that portion which the invention freshly contributes onto this state of the art.
(iii) Practical Viability
A proposed invention must be capable of practical application. It must be adapted to a practical use in at least one particular field of application whether in the kitchen, industry or elsewhere.
(iv) Conformity to Natural and Statutory Law
Any invention must in addition satisfy statutory and physical laws.
For instance, the law forbids from patenting, any variety of animal, plant or biological process for the production of animals or plants not being a microbiological process or the product of such a process. The law further excludes from patenting any invention whose exploitation may encourage offensive, immoral or anti-social behaviour.
Advertisement and Grant of a Patent
Once the application is deemed to satisfy the requirements for patentability, a brief summary of the complete specification is advertised in the Patent and Trademarks Journal for a period of 90 days. During this period, the public is allowed to oppose the grant of the application. If there is no opposition to the patent application, the patent is granted. The application for the grant is made on Patent Form No.19.