The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) is proposing to open 5 new regional offices around the world in 2014. Proposed offices are to be located in China, Russia, the US and two yet-to-be-named African countries.
China, Russia and the United States were chosen because of their respective large population, language (China’s national language, Mandarin is one of WIPO’s official languages), size of trademark, patent and designs offices (largest in the world) and creative and vibrant IP sector, number of patent application filed.
Africa was chosen for its rising economic growth and need for capacity-building which would increase its use of the IP system. The choice of location for Africa’s regional offices is being discussed by the African Group within WIPO.
Intellectual Property Watch reports that discussion on this matter was quite intense as most Member States took the view that activities in existing external offices were more country-focused than region-based and that rather than increase the strength of information technology protection, more external offices may hamper same.
Does Africa need WIPO-regional offices? Where in Africa should these regional offices be located? Should the same parameters used to select China, Russia and the US be applied to select the location of Africa’s Regional Offices?
Africa does need regional offices. As stated above, Africa’s use of IP systems will grow from increased capacity-building. The technical assistance which the Regional offices will provide to national IP offices may be invaluable. As this Leo reported here, national offices have sought technical assistance from WIPO on many occasions. Kingsley’s periodic review of African official IP websites reveals that most African countries are floundering in their respective management of their national IP offices.
If the same parameters for China et al are used, Nigeria may score high on population and language (English being Nigeria’s official language) but score quite low on size of trade mark, patent and design offices as well as number of patent applications filed.
How would other African countries score on the same parameters?
Do you think host countries will “convert” regional offices to their national IP offices?