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Addis Abeba, July 03/2019 – Following the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding on Reinforced Partnership with Ethiopia in April of this year, European Patent Office (EPO) President António Campinos and the Director-General of the Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office (EIPO), Ermias Yemanebirhan, signed their first Biennial Work Plan for 2019-21 on the occasion of a visit by a high-level Ethiopian delegation to Munich last week. This is the second time the EPO has concluded such a partnership with a non-member state, following a similar agreement signed with South Africa last year.

“I am very pleased to launch this wide-reaching co-operation program with Ethiopia, one of Africa’s most dynamic economies,” said EPO President António Campinos. “Working together we can further develop Ethiopia’s national patent system, benefiting both local companies and our global users. The purpose of ensuring efficient and high-quality patent examination is ultimately to foster innovation and economic development, and support bilateral trade and investment between Ethiopia and Europe,” he said.

“It is with immense pleasure that I am signing this Biennial Work Plan  because this is a milestone in the EIPO’s endeavors to enhance and modernize the patent system in Ethiopia and integrate the country into the international IP system for the betterment of local innovation and technology transfer,” said EIPO Director-General Ermias Yemanebirhan.

The Reinforced Partnership program with Ethiopia aims to support the country in developing a vibrant national innovation ecosystem and in upgrading its national intellectual property (IP) system with a view to attracting foreign investment and promoting technology transfer. Under the MoU, over the next five years the EPO will support the EIPO in developing local capacity to efficiently and effectively process national patent applications using EPO work products, tools and standards. The two offices also agree to explore the possibility of entering into a validation agreement which would allow patent applicants to validate European patent applications and European patents in Ethiopia, and boost the country’s efforts in preparing itself to join the global patent system. In addition, the two offices will create a co-operation platform for stakeholders and innovators from both regions to facilitate collaboration.

With some 105 million inhabitants, Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa, and one of its fastest-growing economies, posting double-digit GDP growth rates in recent years. Many European companies (and EPO applicants) have announced plans to start operating in the country. According to the UNCTAD World Investment Report, during the last fiscal year ending in July 2018, Ethiopia attracted over USD 4 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) from 156 large companies, representing an increase of 46% and making Ethiopia one of the top performing countries for FDI inflow.

The EPO’s co-operation with non-member states outside Europe is set to grow, with several major intellectual property offices in Southeast Asia and Latin America having expressed interest in joining the Reinforced Partnership program in the near future. EPO/AS

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