ARIPO, OAPI To Harmonise Practices On Intellectual Property In Africa 21/02/2017 by Hillary Muheebwa for Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)The African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) and its sister organisation, Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle [African Intellectual Property Organization] (OAPI) have signed a memorandum of understanding to harmonise the intellectual property systems of the two institutions. OAPI and ARIPO directors general after signing the agreement According to the Cooperation Agreement (pdf) signed in Harare, Zimbabwe earlier this month, the two institutions pursue common missions, in particular: the grant of intellectual property titles and the dissemination of technical information; and public sensitization on IP aspects, including legal, technical, economic and strategic aspects. Other common interests include: training in IP; participation in the technological development of member states; and the promotion of innovation and creativity. According to Charles Satumba, Documentation and Communication Associate at ARIPO, two previous memoranda of understanding were signed in 1996 and 2005. The new agreement abrogates the two earlier agreements. It entered into force on the date of its signature and shall be valid for four years. This latest agreement was signed at the end of two events, a high-level Experts Meeting and the annual Joint Commission held jointly in Harare, from 7-9 February. The purpose of the agreement is to establish a comprehensive cooperation framework in IP between the ARIPO & OAPI. According to the agreement, cooperation between the two parties concerns the following areas: harmonisation of OAPI and ARIPO systems; documentation and technical information; training and capacity building; user awareness and technical assistance. Other areas of cooperation include common positions on major IP issues affecting the member states of the two organisations at the African and international levels. Directors General Paulin Edou Edou of OAPI and Fernando dos Santos of ARIPO signed the agreement on behalf of their respective organisations. OAPI has 17 member states found in the French-speaking West Africa region, while ARIPO has 19 member states mainly in the English-speaking African region. According to Maurice Batanga, Director of Legal Affairs, Cooperation and the Emerging Issues at OAPI, “OAPI is governed by the Bangui Agreement. While ARIPO is governed by several protocols including: the Lusaka Protocol, the Harare Protocol, the Banjul Protocol, the Swakopmund Protocol.” The Bangui Protocol first enacted in 1977 provides the legal framework for the creation of OAPI. The Lusaka Agreement laid a foundation for the creation of ARIPO in 1976. The Harare Protocol empowers the ARIPO Office to receive and process patent and industrial design applications on behalf of States party to the protocol. The Banjul Protocol on Marks establishes a trademark application filing system along the lines of the Harare Protocol. The Swakopmund Protocol on the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Expressions of Folklore still awaits a few signatories to usher it into operation, its regulations came into force as from January 1, 2012. It will come into operation once a sixth state has signed it. Maurice Batanga OAPI’s Director of Legal Affairs and International Cooperation and Emerging Issues “The principles of construction are not the same. At OAPI, only the regional Office delivers the industrial property titles valid in all member states. While at ARIPO, in addition to the regional offices that deliver the titles valid in the member states designated in the application, the member states have national offices which issue and register the titles of industrial property, together with the regional office,” Batanga explained. Licensing and registration procedures for IP issues amongst the two organisations have similarities and differences. Batanga was also the team leader for the high-level experts from OAPI. To harmonise the two systems, according to Batanga, “we will do a comparative study of the legislation governing the various objects of intellectual property to identify the similarities and differences. This will lead us to make proposals of modification of the divergent substantive provisions in order to have the same criteria of validity of intellectual property rights.” “We also examine procedures for the issuance of titles. We note the similarities and differences. This will allow each system to consider changes to have equivalent procedures in the two offices,” Batanga explained. When the laws of both systems and procedures are equivalent, it will be proposed to combine the two systems so as to facilitate access to industrial property titles in the two systems over the same procedures. To operationalize the agreement, OAPI and ARIPO have jointly developed and adopted a biannual work plan (pdf) for the period 2017 – 2018 that sets out specific aspects of collaboration and itemized activities to be pursued in the different areas of cooperation with agreed details on expected results, their coordination and administration as well as the timelines. Among the specific aspects of the collaboration are: Exchange of all the publications of the two organisations; and study trips of OAPI and ARIPO experts with a view to exchange experiences on intellectual property law, administration, patent examination activities, utility models, the registration of trademarks and designs and utilization of modern ICT tools. According to the agreement, the parties will exchange best practices on the valorisation of inventions, geographical indications, plant varieties, traditional knowledge and copyright. To train and build personnel capacity, the two parties will support each other in pedagogical cooperation through actions; mutual assistance in the development of training programs; cooperation in the field of pedagogical engineering and development of training tools; exchange of documents and teaching materials; and exchange of trainers. A joint commission established by the two will meet annually to assess the level of implementation of those agreed biannual work plans. Where necessary, the joint commission will be preceded by an experts meeting for purposes of implementing the recommendations of the commission and drafting of bi-annual work plans. “The ARIPO-OAPI cooperation relations are a fine example of South-South cooperation,” said Batanga. “OAPI, as ARIPO, have developed innovative, customized and potentially transferable and adaptable solutions to common challenges in the field of intellectual property. As a result, they have become vectors of technical cooperation. They play an important role in the sharing of knowledge, experience, expertise, solutions and technology data.” To harmonise the ARIPO and OAPI systems, according to the Working Program 2017-2018, the two organisations will develop proposals on common areas of harmonization of ARIPO and OAPI systems. The two organisations bring together thirty-six Africans states. Their activities are critical for the future of intellectual property in Africa. Image Credits: ARIPO Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Hillary Muheebwa may be reached at email@example.com."ARIPO, OAPI To Harmonise Practices On Intellectual Property In Africa" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.