Improving access to medicines in the SADC region through patent opposition: Law reform inspirations from an unlikely jurisdiction
Author Lonias Ndlovu
Affiliations: Associate Professor and Interim Director, School of Law, University of Venda, Thohoyandou, South Africa
Source: South African Intellectual Property Law Journal, 2022, p. 105 – 130
This article surveys the patent opposition legal landscape in the SADC region and justifies the importance of patent opposition for access to essential medicines by SADC citizens. The article uses Thailand as a comparative jurisdiction and, after taking a closer look at the patent opposition provisions of the laws of Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, the article advances the view that the SADC patent law reform agenda can learn a lot from its Thai counterpart on pharmaceutical patent opposition. Most SADC members with patent opposition provisions in their laws provide for pre-grant rather than post-grant opposition. Generally, pre-grant and post-grant patent opposition procedures ensure that only deserving patents may be successfully applied for and granted. The article concludes that the Thai pre-grant opposition procedures are an example of progressive law, which the SADC region should consider emulating to improve access to affordable essential medicines. The Thai experience may provide helpful and practical pointers for some SADC members when their patent opposition procedures are eventually tested before the courts and intellectual property tribunals.