African Union Declares It Will Proceed With Pan-African IP Office

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The heads of state of the African Union (AU), the regional body working on African integration, have decided to proceed with the establishment of a Pan-African Intellectual Property Office (PAIPO), despite misgivings about the potential impact on their local economies.

A press release from the 28 January AU Summit states: “The Heads of State also decided to create the Pan-African Intellectual Property Organization (PAIPO). They requested the Commission to convene a meeting of all stakeholders dealing with intellectual property in the implementation of the Decision by May 2013 Summit.”

Public information is difficult to obtain from the African Union, and nothing further is known at this time.

A meeting of the AU ministerial conference on science and technology last autumn put off decision on the PAIPO proposal after concerns were raised (IPW, Developing Country Policy, 24 October 2012).

A copy of the draft PAIPO proposal, which appears would place a new layer of control over the continent’s IP offices, is available here (IPW, Developing Country Policy, 27 September 2012). It is unclear whether changes have been made to the draft text since that time.

Perhaps foretelling the welcome the proposal would receive by leaders, the 20th Ordinary Session of the African Union Summit met from 21-28 January in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, under the theme: “Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance.”

The AU website states the Union’s goals as “accelerating the process of integration in the continent to enable it play its rightful role in the global economy while addressing multifaceted social, economic and political problems compounded as they are by certain negative aspects of globalisation.”

It continues: “The main objectives of the OAU were, inter alia, to rid the continent of the remaining vestiges of colonization and apartheid; to promote unity and solidarity among African States; to coordinate and intensify cooperation for development; to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States and to promote international cooperation within the framework of the United Nations.”

It might be asked whether signing up to the global IP system, in which nearly all of the IP rights are owned by non-African entities, fits with these objectives.

There is currently no IP office for all of Africa. There are national offices and two regional offices: the African Regional Intellectual Property Office (ARIPO), and the Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle (OAPI).

In another action, the heads of state endorsed the creation of an African Observatory on Science, Technology and Innovation (AOSTI) to be hosted by the Republic of Equatorial Guinea. The leaders “called on Member States and Development partners to avail the necessary technical and financial support for sustaining the AOSTI and its programmes,” the release said.

William New may be reached at wnew@ip-watch.ch.

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