A press release from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, "USPTO and African Regional Intellectual Property Organization Sign Historic Workplan for Bilateral Cooperation", dated 25 September, heralds a new era for IP administration in Africa. According to the release:
" ... USPTO and ... ARIPO have signed a historic Workplan for Bilateral Cooperation on intellectual property issues. Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property David Kappos and Director General of ARIPO Dr Gift Huggins Sibanda signed the Workplan in Geneva at the United States Mission to the United Nations on September 24. This Workplan marks the first cooperative agreement between the USPTO and ARIPO and will serve to promote the development of effective intellectual property systems in ARIPO member countries.Afro Leo hopes that the first thing to benefit from the cooperation will be ARIPO's website, which is about the last place he'd go if he wanted to know about IP in Africa. As of the date of posting of this item, ARIPO's website still contains no mention of this cooperation.
“We look forward to working with our new partner to strengthen cooperative efforts and promote innovation,” noted ... Kappos. “By working together, our efforts to address common global challenges will meet with success.”
The Workplan will strengthen the bilateral relationship between ARIPO and USPTO; improve the administration of intellectual property protection systems [and about time too!]; increase public awareness about the importance of intellectual property issues; and develop professional skills through information sharing and capacity building [let's hope that demand, and user confidence, will rise commensurately with capacity]. As part of this agreement the USPTO plans to train ARIPO patent and trademark examiners to further develop their technical expertise and their capacity to respond to increasing workloads.
ARIPO, an intergovernmental organization comprised of 16 African countries, operates as a central intellectual property filing system. Signing an agreement of this type, with an organization having such a large and significant regional presence, will promote a level intellectual property rights (IPR) playing field for U.S. right holders in the burgeoning African marketplace. It will promote the protection and enforcement of IPR in the global market place by creating a more efficient and consistent application and registration process for U.S and African right holders".