Patents In The World Of Technological Advancement In Kenya

In a world driven by innovation, Kenyans in the creative industry, now known as “Hustlers”, rely on creativity to propel economic growth. 

The Industrial Property Act, No. 3 of 2001 defines a patentable invention as a novel and useful solution resolving a specific problem. Patents provide inventors with exclusive rights to their creations and consequently incentivizes research and development, encouraging inventors to take risks and invest time and resources in the pursuit of revolutionary products.

This article explores the significance of patents in Kenya, their key features, examples, and a comparison with industrial designs.

Features of Patents

A patentable invention must possess the following:

  1. Novelty – the invention must be new and not anticipated in previous work. It must be unique and possess an element of originality, standing out amidst the existing ideas.
  2. Inventive step – the invention must not be obvious to someone skilled in the area. It should have a transformative unexplored dimension to it. 
  3. Industrial applicability – the invention should have the ability to be used in an industry. It must have utility, i.e a practical use in an industry. This ensures that the invention ignites practical progress, leading to real-world applications and benefits.

Patents are protected for a limited period of 20 years from the filing date. A Patent owner must pay the annual fees to maintain the protection. 

A Patent owner shall have the right to make, import, sell and use the patented product, and shall consequently be entitled to claim damages and compensation from persons who use the patented product/service without their consent. 

Examples of Patents

An example of a patented invention is Bluetooth, which was registered in 1994 by Jaap Haartsen, Bluetooth allows nearby electronic devices to connect using frequency waves.

Another example is Apple’s new invention “NameDrop” that allows users to share contacts and emails through airdrop. The patent is titled "Location Systems for Electronic Device Communications". 

Airbnb also has multiple patents, one being a system for updating a booking entry for an accommodation listing using a model that determines the probability that the accommodation listing would be available for booking.


There are exceptions to patent protection. Discoveries, scientific theories, and mathematical methods cannot be patented and neither will schemes for business, mental games, or playing strategies. While methods for treating bodies or making diagnoses are also not patentable, the specific products used in those methods can be patented. Another exception is presentation of information in a unique way which is not subject to protection, e.g., if someone develops an innovative way of arranging data in a spreadsheet that enhances readability and usability, the unique arrangement of the information may not qualify for patent protection, as it falls under the exception for presenting information in a distinctive way. Plant varieties, inventions contrary to public order

and methods involving substances for public health, are also not patentable. 

MPESA is an example of an invention that is not patentable as it is considered a way of doing business, which is excluded from patent protection. 

Application procedure 

Applications are made to the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) with the following documents:

  1. A filled in application form (request form).
  2. Description of the invention- details of the invention, and at least one mode for carrying it out. It should state the title of invention, specify the technical field to which the invention relates and how it is industrially applicable. 
  3. Claim(s) –information that would determine the limit of protection for the patent. 
  4. Drawing(s) of the invention (if applicable) - visual representation of the invention. 
  5. An abstract with the title and summary of technical details of the invention- this provides the technical information. It should have a summary of the disclosure included in the Description which should also indicate the technical field to which the invention relates and its primary use (s). 

Patents vs. Industrial Designs vs. Utility models

Patents protect the functionality and technical elements of an invention, ensuring its unique features remain shielded from imitation. On the other hand, industrial designs protect the aesthetics i.e., the visual aspects of a product e.g. shape, pattern, texture or decoration of a product. A utility model refers to any new and useful form/arrangement/model of an object, that enhances its functioning, use, or production, providing benefits or effects not previously available.

Using the iPhone to distinguish the three forms of intellectual property, features like the camera technology and display features of the phone will be protected by a patent. The appearance of the phone will be protected by industrial designs. The enhanced battery efficiency technology implemented in the phone would be protected by utility models. 

In conclusion, protecting inventions can safeguard creative efforts, attract investment from potential Investors, enhance marketability and protect competitive edge. Protection creates a conducive environment for SMEs to invest in research and development without fear of unauthorized exploitation. It could also be an opportunity to monetize inventions through licensing agreements or partnerships. 


CM SME Club is happy to help you in protecting your inventions through registering a Patent. We will guide you through the required documentation for registering a patent and assist in the registration process. In case of any clarifications or need for assistance kindly contact us through

Written by Rosario Kamuti

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