Wednesday, 27 February 2008

ARIPO's first trade mark appeal decision

ARIPO's Board of Appeal is celebrating its first appeal decision (The Matter Of Trademark Application No. Ap/M/2005/000303 Fones 4 U in the name of Langton Nyatsambo) which involved competing applications for the marks FONES 4 U by two different proprietors filed on separate dates. The Board of Appeal criticised ARIPO for mishandling the applications (in particular rejecting the later filed application on the basis that it was not "new" sic) and ordered ARIPO to accept both applications and inform the national offices of the competing rights, stressing that ARIPO should “strictly observe the Protocol with respect to time limits information delivery, procedure and processing of application, procedure on appeals and rules of natural justice.”

Apart from the sluggishness of the system and errors highlighted by the judgment, ARIPO has been criticized by some who reason that because all eight members are common-law countries in which an international agreement can only become part of domestic law when enacted into the national law by the national legislature, and because only a few countries have amended their national legislation to give effect to ARIPO registrations, ARIPO filings in the other countries may not have any effect. That said, it is a system which is still oft used to obtain protection in number of countries cost effectively.

AFRO-IP welcomes comment from users of the ARIPO system and wishes to find out exactly which countries have amended their national legislation following conflicting reports that only Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Swaziland may have done so. AFRO-IP has also come across complaints concerning enforcement of ARIPO marks and would welcome feedback in that regard too.

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