According to Article IV of the Lusaka Agreement that created ARIPO, membership in the Organization is open to States which are members of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) or of the African Union (AU).
Any State to which membership is open (and which is not a member already) can become an ARIPO member through one of two methods. One of these is by depositing an instrument of ratification to the Lusaka Agreement (in the case of those States which signed the treaty when it was open for signatures before closure on December 31, 1977). Under this option, furthermore, a State to which the membership is open (and which did not sign the treaty before closure) can join ARIPO by depositing an instrument of accession to that treaty. The instrument of ratification or accession under the Lusaka Agreement should be deposited in a single copy with the government of Zambia.
The second option is to deposit an instrument of ratification or accession under any one of the ARIPO protocols, namely the Harare Protocol, or Banjul Protocol or Swakopmund Protocol.
If using the Harare Protocol, an instrument of ratification should be deposited under the protocol (in the case of those States which signed the protocol when it was still open for signatures) or an instrument of accession to that protocol (in the case of other States to which membership is open under Article IV of the Lusaka Agreement). The instrument of ratification or accession, as the case may be, should be deposited with the government of Zimbabwe.
This explanation applicable to the Harare Protocol (including the depository authority) is the same if joining through the Swakopmund Protocol except that, in the case of the latter protocol, the application of the protocol will take effect in the country (should the country be amongst the first five States to ratify or accede to the protocol) three months after the sixth State deposits its instrument of ratification or accession, as the case may be. Equally, once the protocol becomes operational, the effect of the Swakopmund Protocol to a State will become operational three months following the date of deposit by that State of an instrument of ratification or accession.
If joining ARIPO through the Banjul Protocol, procedure applicable for ratifying or acceding to that protocol is literally the same as applicable under the Harare Protocol except that the instrument of ratification or accession, as the case may be, should be deposited with the Director General of ARIPO.
In the case where a State opts to join ARIPO by way of ratifying or acceding to any one of the three protocols, such act will entail that the State has become fully bound by the Lusaka Agreement as from the date of depositing the instrument with the relevant depository authority. The operation of the protocol with respect to that State, however, will commence three months from the date on which the instrument was deposited or, in the case of the Swakopmund Protocol, three months following the date of deposit of an instrument of ratification or accession by a sixth State.
There are currently 19 States which are party to the Lusaka Agreement and therefore members of ARIPO. These are: Botswana, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. (Total: 19 Member States.)
Article VI of the Lusaka Agreement mandates the Organization to cooperate with non-member States. In line with this provision, ARIPO has cooperated with the following potential member States which have observer status in the meetings of its main organs: Angola, Algeria, Burundi, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Libya, Mauritius, Nigeria, Seychelles, South Africa and Tunisia. (Total: 12 potential member States.)
Advantages of ARIPO Membership
Membership in the Organization brings several advantages to Member States and individual users (corporate or natural persons). As the Organization was formed to pool resources together to avoid duplication of human, material and financial resources, Member States have an advantage of economies of scale. This in turn releases scarce national resources of each Member State for spending on more pressing needs of the State’s citizens.
The ARIPO regional industrial property system covers a total area of nearly 7 million square kilometres with a population of over 200 million inhabitants. Membership in ARIPO therefore opens up new markets for its Member States while at the same time improving their investment climate and encouraging access to technical information, particularly that contained in patent documents.
Seventeen out of the 19 ARIPO Member States are currently Harare Protocol Contracting States and are also signatory to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) governed by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). With the recent signing of the protocol by the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe, however, this number will increase to 18 as from August 19, 2014, when the protocol becomes operational in that country.
As the Harare Protocol is linked to the PCT, these States are made open to the super flow of patent applications available through the PCT realm. This means more applications from abroad designating these States, more jobs in the industrial property offices to meet this increased flow, and higher national income emanating from the Harare Protocol. In fact, the current annual earning of each Harare Protocol Contracting State from the Harare Protocol enables it both to settle ARIPO membership subscriptions without a direct call on its national treasury and to leave a reasonable balance which is sent to its national treasury.
The ARIPO regional system complements the national industrial property system of its Member States. The sovereignty of Member States is therefore preserved wherein each State which is designated has a significant say, subject to appeal though, as to whether any industrial property right given by ARIPO would have effect in the State concerned. Flexibility to the users’ advantage is that applicants are enabled to choose the option of ARIPO route or the national route as to the channel of filing their applications and what extent of protection (i.e., national territory or regional market involving multiple national territories simultaneously). For individual users, furthermore, the ARIPO route cost-saves money and other resources since the focus of deployment of these resources is only one application, only one central process and only one attorney all meant to bring about a multiple-effect protection simultaneously extended to the number of Contracting States designated.