We are all familiar with the stereo-type of international companies that ignore Africa when it comes to protecting their trademarks. Searching is difficult, registration takes a long time and enforcement is impossible, so the argument goes. There are several countries in Africa that have good search tools, efficient registration systems and enforcement procedures in place. Yet, the stereo-types stick.
But there is good news. More companies are realizing the importance of African markets and seeking to register their trademarks. A larger desire to register means a more need for trademark tools. Afro-Leo had the opportunity at the INTA Annual Meeting to sit down with Stephen Stolfi of CT Corsearch. Stolfi explained what Corsearch is doing to develop trademark tools for international companies wishing to register in Africa and how attorneys in Africa can help. Here is a summary.
Corsearch uses three different approaches to serve its client’s search needs: watching, searching and screening. Two of these approaches are fairly well developed for Africa and the third is being developed. For all three, Corsearch is building on its experiences and practices on other continents, especially South America.
Because a large number of African countries publish trademark gazettes with all trademarks recently submitted for registration, the watching approach is easily handled by Corsearch. The company reviews all the gazettes from across the country, watching them for marks that might infringe their clients’ mark.
The searching is a little more difficult. Most searching in Africa needs to be done manually, inquiring at the local trademark offices. For searching in Africa, a network of associates who can do on-the-ground searching and report back to Coresearch.
Screening, where clients conduct a search themselves through online databases, is the approach currently most difficult for trademarks registered in African countries. Few African countries have o add as many of the trademarks registered in Africa as possible to the on-line search database, Corsearch uses a hybrid of agents, physical trips to the trademark offices and law firms that have their own databases of country marks registered in the country.
How African IP Attorneys Can Help Build Search Tools for the Rest of the World
Corsearch is interested in partnering with attorneys for on the ground searches and with law firms that have databases of local trademark registrations. The more partners and databases involved, the more trademark registrations available during search. Attorneys who would like to work with Corsearch and firms who would like to licence their databases to Corsearch are invited to contact the company.
Stephen Stolfi has been with CT Corsearch for the past 10 years and is Vice President of Sales and Global Partnerships at CT Corsearch. Afro-Leo thanks Mr. Stolfi for taking the time to discuss the future of trademark searches in Africa.