I would like to share with you a proposal made by students of the first cohort of Masters in Intellectual Property at KNUST after my one-week lectures on the topic: Industrial Property (Patents, Utility Module and Innovation, and Industrial Designs. I am thankful to the students for their kind permission to share their views with the public.

According to Section 3 (4) of the Ghanaian Patent Act, 2003 (Act 657), “For the purposes of subsection (3), disclosure to the public of the invention shall not be taken into consideration if it occurred within twelve months preceding the filing date or, where applicable, the priority date of the application, and if it was by reason or in consequence of acts committed by the applicant or the applicant’s predecessor in title or of an abuse committed by a third party with regard to the applicant or the applicant’s predecessor in title”.

Students propose that, instead of within twelve months preceding a filing date, amendment should be made to six months. This time frame, they propose, would be the best because it would allow enough space for other researchers to operate. They believe that twelve months grace period has the tendency to stifle creativity. In that regard, a six – month grace period should be enough for any researcher with intention to protect his invention to do so.

I would like to provide a short background for clarity and better understanding:

Researchers and innovators protect their inventions with Patents. These patents, like any title document, protect your inventions over a limited period, usually 20 years from the date that you file for protection. The filing date is critical in determining whether your “invention” is indeed new and deserving protection from the State. When an inventor discloses his invention to the public before filing for protection, his own disclosure would be used as prior art against him and the examiner would conclude that his invention is not new and cannot be protected.

In Ghana, the law provides a grace period of 12 months to inventors who for one reason or the other, disclosed their inventions before filing for protection. It is this grace period that the MIP 1st cohort has recommended a reduction to 6 months.

Now, my question, would you prefer the grace period after disclosure to be amended to six months or maintained at 12 months? Kindly give the reason for your preference?