Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Making ARIPO more attractive to brand owners

When it comes to trade mark options, ARIPO has not been the success it ought to have been. In this very useful contribution, Sara Moyo, neatly sets out where we are and the recommendations of the recently established Working Group, chaired by Nancy Samuriwo.


The Banjul Protocol on Marks (Banjul Protocol) within the framework of the African Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) was adopted by ARIPO member states in 1993 and came into force in 1997. Membership of the Protocol is open to any state which is a member of ARIPO. It is also available to any state which is a member of the African Union or the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

Unlike the Harare Protocol on Patents, Industrial Designs and Utility Models which came into force in 1984, has 17 member states and is linked to the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the Banjul Protocol has 9 member states only.


The Banjul Protocol has perennially under performed. The total number of trademark applications filed under the Banjul Protocol since the Protocol came into force is less than 2 000. Of this number 22% are applications filed by Applicants within ARIPO member states whilst 29% are filed by Applicants based in African countries that are not members of ARIPO. The remainder of trademark applications are filed by Applicants outside Africa.

To date trademark registrations under the Banjul Protocol number less 800. Of these 14% have been registered in favour of Applicants within the ARIPO member states. 9% are registered in favour of  Applicants based in African countries that are not contracting states to ARIPO. The remainder are registered in favour of Applicants outside the continent.
In contrast, the Harare Protocol has since its inception, received in excess of 6 000 patent applications (excluding industrial designs and utility models) and has registered in excess of 2 000 patents.

Dos Santos - ARIPO DG
In addition whilst ARIPO member states have domesticated the Harare Protocol, only 5 of the contracting members of the Banjul Protocol have done so.

Working Group Established

ARIPO recently convened a meeting of intellectual property (IP) stakeholders at Harare to discuss proposals for making the Banjul Protocol on Marks more attractive to users and to contracting states. The meeting was held as a follow up to the first meeting held on 21 March 2013, and was also aimed at putting together a formal Working Group structure that is mandated to discuss and submit concrete proposals to the Technical Committee of ARIPO for the improvement of the Banjul Protocol.

Whilst invitation to the meeting was extended to ARIPO member states, IP agents within member states and other IP stakeholders, participants at the ARIPO meeting were delegates from the ARIPO member states of Liberia, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and IP agents in attendance were from Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Ms Nancy Samuriwo of Gill Godlonton & Gerrans (Zimbabwe) was elected Chairperson of the Working Group and Ms Loy Mhando of the Business Registrations and Licensing Agency (Tanzania) was elected Vice Chairperson.


The deliberations of the meeting included:

1. The recommendation to ARIPO to embark on a membership drive for the Banjul Protocol and to encourage contracting states to make legal provision for the enforcement of Banjul marks under their national laws. Presently only 9 of the 17 ARIPO member states are party to the Banjul Protocol and only 5 contracting states have domesticated the Banjul Protocol. These are Botswana, Liberia, Namibia, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

2. The recommendation to ARIPO to  undertake users’ meetings and exhibitions so as to market the Banjul Protocol to users, member states and prospective contracting parties.

3. The recommendation that ARIPO undertake a review of its fee structure under the Banjul Protocol as this is in certain instances a barrier to membership of the Protocol.

4. The recommendation that ARIPO consider reducing the period for substantive examination of Banjul marks from 12 months to 9 months so as to shorten the period from filing to registration – more so as the majority of Banjul member states do not, owing to technical and capacity constraints, issue substantive examination reports.

5. It was noted that a number of ARIPO member states are party to the Madrid System or are in the process of joining the System and that there is a need to investigate the possibility of linking the Banjul Protocol with the Madrid System.

This article was written by Sara Moyo.

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