Susan Mwiti, Documentations and Communications Officer’ at ARIPO explains why you should make your IP registration with them.

Why you should make your Trademark application with ARIPO

Throughout the world, an efficient and equitable Intellectual Property system is a powerful tool for economic development and social and cultural wellbeing as it rewards creativity and human endeavour by providing an environment for creativity and invention to flourish, to the benefit of national economies and individuals alike.

At the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO), awareness creation on IP in Africa has been one of its key activities in line with its Value and Growth Transformation Strategic Plan running from 2016 to 2020.

According to the ARIPO Director General, Mr. Fernando dos Santos, ARIPO’s current vision is to be pan-African and the leading IP hub in Africa. He says, Having grown from humble beginnings from its birth in 1976, ARIPO has matured into an IP giant today. “ARIPO adopted the current vision to foster creativity and innovation for economic growth and development on the continent.”Membership to ARIPO is open to all African states who are members of the African Union or the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). Currently, ARIPO has 19 Member States being; Botswana, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Creating incentives to solve problems innovatively ARIPO has been key to protecting Africa’s intellectual property rights through patents, trademarks, utility models, industrial designs, traditional knowledge and expressions of folklore and is endeavoring to protect copyrights, plant varieties and geographical indications in the same manner as well as contributing towards the shaping of the African and global intellectual property landscape. In fact, when you apply for registration/grant of a trademark, patent, utility model or industrial design with ARIPO you have a choice of all or some contracting states to a protocol in a single registration.

According to the ARIPO Director General, Fernando dos Santos, “The IP system creates incentives for people who come out with innovative ideas to solve problems facing society.” It does so by protecting their rights so that they are not robbed of the products of their minds.

Thus, efficient IP systems have become even more critical today, as “the world has shifted to the knowledge economy of which IP is the main driving force,” says Mr. Dos Santos.

Filing trademarks with ARIPO

The Banjul Protocol, adopted in 1993, entrusts ARIPO with the function of registration of marks and administration of such registered marks on behalf of the contracting states in accordance with the provisions of this protocol. Ten states are currently party to the protocol and these are Botswana, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. In addition, strong intentions by two member states to be party to the system have been shown recently.

The ARIPO route for the registration of marks is very easy!

It has become even smoother with the use of new technology especially the availability of the ARIPO e-services of online filing. The online services allow applicants, attorneys, agents and other users to conduct their ARIPO business electronically in a secure state of the art environment. This facility allows for online filing of IP files, online payment of fees, sending and receiving notifications and general tracking of filed applications. Currently on average, 60% of the applications are now being filed online. By filing online, one also gets a 20% discount on the application fee. It is also easier to process the applications internally.

Since December 2015 ARIPO has made its published Trademarks information available on the TMView platform and in April 2018, ARIPO was integrated to the TMClass that offers users the opportunity to search and translate goods and services to and from many languages available.

ARIPO has developed a pilot database with more than 350,000 Trademarks from ARIPO and its member states which include; Botswana, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The objective is to create a centralized database for its published IP titles and those of its Member States.

As to the enforceability of ARIPO registrations, it is important to note that, many of the Contracting States are adopting new legislations on Trademarks and, importantly, they are formally domesticating the Banjul Protocol on marks in the framework of ARIPO. The most recent is Malawi that dedicated a schedule in its new Act on the procedures applicable to ARIPO registrations. There are also other contracting States that do not even need to formally domesticate the Banjul Protocol or any other international treaty they ratify or accede to simply because of their legal tradition that recognizes any international treaty duly ratified as part of the legal arsenal. This is the case for Namibia and São Tomé and Príncipe.

There are also countries that, though not yet contracting parties to the Banjul Protocol, have already enacted provisions in their domestic laws that pave way to the immediate implementation of the Banjul Protocol if these countries became party. This is the case of Kenya and Mozambique. Additional services ARIPO also offers other services to promote the use of the IP system by its Member States and Africa as a whole. ARIPO carries out substantive examination of patent applications, grants patents, registers trademarks, industrial designs and utility models and administers the same on behalf of the Member States. The office also conducts several search services for the public (in most instances for free to citizens of the member states). Some of these are; state-of-theart searches, novelty searches, validity searches, bibliographic searches, infringement (Freedom to Operate) searches, patent family searches, copy searches, as well as trademark searches.

Supporting training & helping to build the future

As part of its mandate, ARIPO also trains staff of industrial property offices from its member states in proper administration and processing of intellectual property under the ARIPO treaties. The Organization also assists member states nationals and institutions to acquire and utilise foreign appropriate technologies and encouraging indigenous inventors to utilise available patent information and technologies to start their small business enterprises.

ARIPO has also been creating a critical mass of IP experts on the continent, in partnership with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and the Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe. Together with these partners, ARIPO has supported a Masters in Intellectual Property (MIP) programme at the Africa University, which has so far produced 252 graduates drawn from over 25 African countries. In furtherance of the programme, ARIPO, in partnership with the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, Ghana, and the Intellectual Property Office of Ghana, enrolled the first intake of MIP students at the KNUST in February 2018. Another programme targeting East Africa is in the pipeline, to be hosted by the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.