Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Morocco: ABSOLUT EVENTS is absolutely opposed

From the email newsletter of Jordan-based IP practice NJQ & Associates comes news that Enjoy Media, a Moroccan company, filed a trade mark application for ABSOLUT EVENTS for goods in class 16 back in February 2012. After the application was published for opposition on 8 March 2012 (there's a window of two months for opposition purposes), V&S Vin & Sprit Aktiebolag, the Swedish producer of ABSOLUT vodka, opposed the application. This opposition was based on the following grounds:
• Similarity to Vin & Sprit's mark ABSOLUT, registered in Morocco for goods in classes 16, 35, 41, and 43 since January 2010;

• The mark ABSOLUT was previously registered in its country of origin (i.e. Sweden) back in 1993, and

• The fact that ABSOLUT is a well-known trade mark which enjoys has a world-wide reputation.
Having heard both parties in full, the Register for Trade Marks upheld the opposition.

Note: NJQ & Associates acted for the successful party in these proceedings.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

The race for Rooibos: a fight brews in France

"South Africa fights to protect rooibos tea name after French trademark bid" is the title of a piece published last Thursday in the UK, in the Guardian (here), and brought to this blogger's attention via the excellent Retail+IP LinkedIn Group.  According to the article, in relevant part:
"... Rooibos ("red bush" in Afrikaans) has been grown exclusively in South Africa for generations and is now worth an estimated 600m rand (£40m) a year for the country. So a French company's attempt to trademark its name was never going to be dismissed as a mere storm in a teacup.

The South African Rooibos Council has written to French authorities demanding clarification of the audacious move by Compagnie de Trucy, fearing that it could prevent South African companies from selling tea under the rooibos name in France.

First, however, it had to hastily find a translator, since challenges to trademark applications must be submitted in French. "We only had four days' notice of this," said the council co-ordinator, Soekie Snyman. "Fortunately there is an ex-Capetonian working in the embassy and a French research institute who were extremely helpful."

Snyman said she had no problem with rooibos-related trademarks anywhere in the world, but would object if it transpired that the French company was seeking exclusive ownership. "We had to file an observation with the French trademark authority to say we don't want just one company to have the right to use the term rooibos. We are still inquiring about their intentions."

... Last year it successfully blocked another French company from making a similar application.

... The council ultimately aims to secure a status like that of champagne, darjeeling tea, basmati rice and Colombian coffee. "If we can get protection of rooibos in the EU as geographic indicator, any other country in the future that managed to grow it would not be allowed to call it rooibos," Snyman said. "People pay a lot for champagne as opposed to sparkling wine because of its exclusivity. It would be good if we could make rooibos something exclusive too."

To this end the council is seeking to have rooibos legally protected in South Africa and then in the EU. This month the South African trade ministry proposed regulations to protect rooibos under the Merchandise Marks Act, stating: "The name rooibos can only be used to refer to the dry product, infusion or extract that is 100% pure rooibos – derived from Aspalathus linearis and that has been cultivated or wild-harvested in the geographic area as described in this application. ...".
This blogger hopes that this episode will serve as a wake-up call to all African nations that are sitting on home-grown products with potentially vast commercial value: the time to take stock of your assets was a decade ago. You've only still got them because opportunists elsewhere in the world have been sleeping too. There is literally not a minute to lose. The rights are there for you to assert. If you don't, you may be blocked from exporting and selling your valuable crops under their normally understood name because it has been snapped up as a trade mark.

Friday, 26 July 2013

More copyright-related treaties and no domestic laws

According to an undated report by the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Nigeria joined other International Negotiators at a Diplomatic Conference convened by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) on 27 June, 2013, to adopt the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or otherwise Print Disabled (Marrakesh Treaty). The Director-General (DG) of the NCC gave assurances that the Treaty will be swiftly ratified and effectively implemented.

Source: here
But will these promises be kept?
As reported in this blog here, the NCC commenced a consultative process for stakeholders in the copyright industry in order to ascertain how best to reform the copyright industry in Nigeria. Going by the roadmap of the reform process, the consultative process was the second stage in the Reform Agenda and commenced about 3 months past the proposed timeline. The drafting of a Copyright Reform Bill was to commence straightway after the consultation process, and last for about 3 months.
Till date, there has been no report on the consultative forum which held in Abuja and Lagos. There has also been no report on the progress of the drafting of the Reform Bill. No Bill has been submitted to the National Assembly for its consideration.
Nigeria signed the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) in March, 1997. The present Reform which was supposed to take cognisance of these and other treaties has not moved beyond the consultative process. No further information has been posted on the website dedicated for the Reform for over 5 months now.  
While signing the Marrakesh Treaty is a welcome development for Nigeria, this Leo cannot help but feel that given the above-mentioned antecedents, the ratification and implementation of this Treaty may not happen as swiftly and as effectively as the DG of the NCC has promised.

African countries and their IP offices in 2012/2013: Recap

As promised in this Leo's last post (see here), below is a recap of all the countries he reviewed in the A-Z series in the 2012/2013 tour. Please beware that this recap is based on the information found and reported during the tour. Therefore, it does not take into account any changes or development that may have occurred since each country was last reviewed.

No.          Country (official name)                                       Improved since 2011/12? 
                
1.  Algeria (People's Democratic Republic of Algeria) .......................Maintained (Good)

2.  Angola (Republic of Angola) .......................................................No

3.  Benin (Republic of Benin) ............................................................No

4.  Botswana (Republic of Botswana) ...............................................No

5.  Burkina Faso (Burkina Faso) .......................................................No

6.  Burundi (Republic of Burundi) .....................................................Regressed

7.  Cameroon (Republic of Cameroon) .............................................No

8.  Cape Verde (Republic of Cape Verde) .......................................No

9.  Central African Republic (Central African Republic) .....................No

10.  Chad (Republic of Chad) ...........................................................No

11.  Comoros (Union of the Comoros) ..............................................No

12.  Democratic Republic of the Congo ............................................  No

13.  Republic of the Congo ................................................................No

14.  Côte d'Ivoire (Republic of Côte d'Ivoire) ....................................No

15.  Djibouti (Republic of Djibouti) ....................................................No

16.  Egypt (Arab Republic of Egypt) ..................................................Maintained (Good)

17.  Equatorial Guinea (Republic of Equatorial Guinea) .......................No

18.  Eritrea (State of Eritrea) ..............................................................No

19.  Ethiopia (Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia) .....................Maintained (Good)

20.  Gabon (Gabonese Republic) ....................................................... Yes

21.  Gambia (Republic of The Gambia) ...............................................No

22.  Ghana (Republic of Ghana) ..........................................................No

23.  Guinea (Republic of Guinea) .........................................................No

24.  Guinea-Bissau (Republic of Guinea-Bissau) ..................................No

25.  Kenya (Republic of Kenya) ..........................................................Maintained (Good)

26.  Lesotho (Kingdom of Lesotho) .....................................................No

27.  Liberia (Republic of Liberia) ......................................................... No

28.  Libya (Republic of Libya) ..............................................................No

29.  Madagascar (Republic of Madagascar) .........................................Maintained (Good)

30.  Malawi (Republic of Malawi) .........................................................No

31.  Mali (Republic of Mali) ..................................................................No

32.  Mauritania (Islamic Republic of Mauritania) ....................................No

33.  Mauritius (Republic of Mauritius) ....................................................No

34.  Morocco (Kingdom of Morocco) .................................................. Yes (Impressive)

35.  Mozambique (Republic of Mozambique) ........................................ Maintained (Good)

36.  Namibia (Republic of Namibia) .......................................................No

37.  Niger (Republic of Niger) ............................................................... No

38.  Nigeria (Federal Republic of Nigeria) ...............................................Maintained (Good)

39.  Rwanda (Republic of Rwanda) .........................................................Yes (Impressive)

40.  São Tomé and Príncipe ....................................................................Yes

41.  Senegal (Republic of Senegal) ..........................................................Maintained (Good)

42.  Seychelles (Republic of Seychelles) ..................................................No

43.  Sierra Leone (Republic of Sierra Leone) .......................................... No

44.  Somalia (Somali Republic) ............................................................... No

45.  South Africa (Republic of South Africa) ............................................Maintained (Good)

46.  South Sudan (Republic of South Sudan) ........................................... No

47.  Sudan (Republic of the Sudan) ..........................................................Regressed

48.  Swaziland (Kingdom of Swaziland) ...................................................No

49.  Tanzania (United Republic of Tanzania) ............................................ Maintained (Good)

50.  Togo (Togolese Republic) .................................................................No

51.  Tunisia (Tunisian Republic) ............................................................... Maintained (Good)

52.  Uganda (Republic of Uganda) ........................................................... No

53.  Zambia (Republic of Zambia) ........................................................... Maintained (Good)

54.  Zimbabwe (Republic of Zimbabwe) .................................................. No

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Why the next decade will belong to Africa - Freshfields

Freshields' Africa Group have produced a study on the last decade's investment into the continent and suggest that their findings explain why the "next decade will belong to Africa", according to Africa co-practice head Shawn Van Kinderen. Their neat infographic below sums it up and their "expanded report" can be downloaded here.


The study may not reveal anything particularly new. This blog has tracked the rising interest on the continent,  its readership interest pretty much mimics the findings of the report and the rising number of foreign law firms on the Sandton skyline provide our own daily infographic. However, what is interesting is the relative interest of the different countries (China and US investment is perhaps less (relatively) than expected) and the significant spend on consumer items confirms the anticipated rise of the African middle class, which is good for so many reasons not least because it helps reduce unemployment and the poverty gap.

Not all investment is regarded as good though, especially if it does not empower local industry as this recent article indicates, highlighting the need for Chinese money to "create jobs".  

The relative interest in IP is not tracked by the report but is likely to follow the trends indicated in the report, especially for consumer investment. Oil, gas, metals and mining investors are very much less interested in IP as part of the deal although this may change as competition increases or for example, where local policies force tech transfer or local ownership, in essence creating a licensing model as part of the deal structure. For consumer items, all forms of IP become paramount except that, in the race for the attention of the African consumer, it is often a post deal concern which also often leads to complications. 

With all this anticipated investment onto the continent, especially for consumer items, there is an opportunity for Africans to understand how their own innovation and creativity can be protected by IP which will then be very beneficial when negotiating with potential investors.

And, if it were up to Freshfields, WIPO would probably set up in South Africa but according to the poll here, Zimbabwe is leading the vote. Do you agree?

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Tunisia signs up for Madrid this autumn

Here's some good news from Tunisia: from 16 October the Mediterranean-facing North African republic will be a fully-fledged participant in the Madrid Protocol scheme for the international registration of trade marks. While at present Tunisia is a net importer of trade mark registrations, it will soon be easier and cheaper for Tunisia to register its own trade marks for products it exports to other Madrid countries -- of which there is a large and still-growing number.

The full text of the WIPO announcement appears below.
Madrid (Marks) Notification No. 201

Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks

Accession by the Republic of Tunisia

The Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) presents his compliments and has the honor to notify the deposit by the Government of the Republic of Tunisia, on July 16, 2013, of its instrument of accession to the Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks, adopted at Madrid on June 27, 1989 (“Madrid Protocol (1989)”), as amended on October 3, 2006, and on November 12, 2007.  The said instrument contained the following declarations:
  • in accordance with Article 5(2)(d) of the Madrid Protocol (1989), under Article 5(2)(b) of the Protocol, the time limit of one year to exercise the right to notify a refusal of protection referred to in Article 5(2)(a) thereof is replaced by 18 months and under Article 5(2)(c) of the said Protocol, when a refusal of protection may result from an opposition to the granting of protection, such refusal may be notified to the International Bureau after the expiry of the 18-month time limit;  and
  • in accordance with Article 8(7)(a) of the Madrid Protocol (1989), the Republic of Tunisia, in connection with each international registration in which it is mentioned under Article 3ter of the said Protocol, and in connection with the renewal of any such international registration, wants to receive, instead of a share in the revenue produced by the supplementary and complementary fees, an individual fee.
The Madrid Protocol (1989) will enter into force, with respect to the Republic of Tunisia, on October 16, 2013.
How a Tunisian company built a global brand here

Monday, 22 July 2013

A review of the IP office websites across Africa: An opinion summary

Having come to the end of the A-Z review, this Leo would like to summarise together with a list for your reference (to follow). During the yearlong review, we witnessed a few countries that tried or managed to improve their websites and many reluctant to do so. Readers may remember that, in his first tour, this blogger also commented on the web presence of both regional intellectual property (IP) offices, ARIPO and OAPI; thankfully, the former, under the leadership of Fernando Dos Santos, now maintains a neat informative website. 

Like this Leo commented in his last review post (and sure many would agree with him), most modern websites are almost like walking into one's office or business to see what they have on offer. For a government department, it often exudes a sense of confidence and transparency. To his mind, there may well be an arguable correlation between maintaining a respectable IP office website and taking IP seriously (whether pro-development or otherwise) as a country. (Says Afro Leo, having a website does not always mean that an IP office is doing well in reality and fulfilling the expectations of its users) But this Leo can think of countries like: Morocco (home to the recent remarkable IP Treaty and a country which added a bit of finesse to its website on review) and South Africa (who maintains an exceptional website and a country which crops up in African economic growth discourse. (Afro Leo also reminds readers that RSA hosted the Africa IP Forum here). 

We also recently learned of the TRIPS deadline extension for least-developed countries (LDCs) - most of which are on the continent and among those without a website for their IP offices. Because of this development, it would be counterintuitive to expect LDCs to expend funds on their IP offices (if they already have one). 

Generally, it is a fair assessment to say that my observation last year is largely similar this time around. So, as WIPO contemplates establishing external bases on the continent, it may find it helpful to use Afro-IP's A-Z lists (2011/12 or the forthcoming 2012/13) as a starting point for its shortlist. (Afro Leo only recommends this (with a disclaimer) if WIPO wants to avoid the embarrassment where its host nation may not even have a website for its own IP office like currently seen in Cameroon for OAPI and Zimbabwe for ARIPO).

Blogging sabbatical

Little Leo is not actually putting his feet up, yet.
Source: here 
This Leo wishes to announce his absence from next week until, at least, December 2013 in order to fully focus on his research as well as other pressing commitments. To this end, he would like to use this opportunity to thank our readers (old and new) for participating and following the A - Z series. He hopes to return reinvigorated to deal with other matters of interest (yet to be decided) but would now leave a 12 months gap before revisiting the IP websites of these countries.

If you have any ideas or issues that you would like to see dealt with by this blog, please do leave your comments below or send us an email.  I'll be back!


Saturday, 20 July 2013

Poll Alert - Can you help Francis?

Fellow bloggers Caroline and Chijioke reported yesterday that WIPO is establishing regional offices in Africa. Daniel Smart commented that Egypt is in contention for good reason. But what about Nigeria or Kenya - hotspots of the West and East, Cameroon - prominent in the OAPI region, South Africa - the traditional gateway to Africa and economic powerhouse, Zimbabwe - home to ARIPO, Malawi - Africa's Brussels or Angola - host to one of fastest growing economies, Mauritius - Africa's star on innovation indices or Botswana - mirroring WIPO's own Swiss HQ? Just to name a few...

Mr Gurry is in a pickle. Help him out with a quick vote on the right hand side of the blog.

Friday, 19 July 2013

WIPO External Offices (ABC): Africa, BRICS and Capacity Building

(c) istockphoto.com

It was reported earlier this month that WIPO will be setting up five new external offices in China, Russia, the US and Africa in the next two years (see IP-Watch and Managing IP reports). WIPO's plans comprehensively outlined in a Program and Budget Committee document minuting the discussions at the committee's twentieth session held from 8 - 12 July.



The first thing that occurred to this Leo was that WIPO is stepping up its presence in the BRICS. It already has an office in Brazil and with the creation of offices in Russia and China, it will be physically represented in 3 of the 5 BRICS. There is as yet no clarity on where in Africa the external offices will be located (another Leo discusses this in another post here). However, if the office ends up in South Africa, that will be 4 out of  5. Beyond 2015, an office may be set up in India as India has already requested such an office (para 28 WIPO Program and Budget Committee document). What is the significance of WIPO's presence in the BRICS?

The main aim of the external offices in Africa will be capacity building (para 27 WIPO Program and Budget Committee document). This will include conferences, training seminars, technical training for patent and trademark examiners and academic programs (para 12 WIPO Program and Budget Committee document). Some of WIPO's capacity building activities in Africa are detailed on the Africa Bureau's webpages.  Capacity building is a thorny issue because it raises difficult questions like: what IP ideology should inform capacity building? How can capacity building be best tailored and delivered to promote Africa's developmental priorities and realities? What do Afro-IP readers think of these and other issues related to IP capacity building?

WIPO Regional Offices in Africa - Which host countries?

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?

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Canny marketing - getting to yes he can

It is not uncommon for trade mark attorneys to berate marketing people about their choice of names for trade marks. Indeed, in many cases it is a significant cause of friction between legal and marketing departments. This is because, from a trade mark attorney's point of view, a strong trade mark is one that it is invented or only alludes to the characteristics of the goods, whereas from a marketing point of view the most attractive names are often descriptive and in some cases, even generic names. There is also a want to use trademarks as verbs, which has traditionally been banned by trade mark attorneys.

Yet, descriptive and even generic names can be very strong brands and so can some trademarks that are used descriptively or as a verb. Think about Arsenal (football), Polo (shirts), Wimbledon (tennis), Kettle (chips), Google (search engine), Skype (online calls), the Springbok and the English Rose or World Cup (rugby), Econometrix (actuaries) or The Economist, Wall Street Journal , The Lawyer and Financial Times (publications) or the Extreme Sports Company (sports). These words are either descriptive, generic or normal trade marks sometimes used as verbs (eg I skyped my friend), yet they are all strong brands.

Attractive - the flexible attorney
Sometimes descriptive names are  the result of unimaginative creatives. However, in other cases descriptive branding is quite deliberate. Consider how it is used to mask attempts at ambush marketing or to fight for consumer attention when the marketer does not have the budget or time to spend educating the customer about a name that bears no meaning relative to the service or product. The consumer need for instant gratification and personalisation has also lead to the concept of using brands as verbs (known as brandverbing) which is quite deliberate, despite the possible long term negative effects on the trade mark. Having a flexible trade mark policy for canny marketers has therefore become important.


Here are some considerations:

·        Trademarks remain territorial in nature. What is generic in one country may not be known or a well known trade mark in another in another (Polo in the UK v Polo in RSA; Kettle in the USA v Kettle in Europe; Xerox in the US and Xerox is RSA etc). Similarly, a process coined in one country could be branded in another.
·         Descriptive or generic terms mark may work well as trade marks for closely related or complimentary goods or services and used there to grow a brand eg EAT for juices or EXTREME for hotels.
·         File, file, file and then police, police, police – obtain the trade mark and protect it vigilantly to educate the public that it is a trade mark.
·         Using ™ and ® is useful educational tool for marketers because is illustrates what is proprietary and what is not.
·         Educate your own staff on what is proprietary and what is not but be careful if the intention is to brandverb or deliberately use marks descriptively. Internal guidelines may be discoverable and disgruntled ex employees subpoenaed.
·         Try to protect consumer surveys conducted by the company that could be damaging to your brand, with legal privilege.
·         Give the industry some other way to describe the product or service. This is often used in the pharma sector for new drugs – one name is the trade mark and the other given to the industry to describe the drug. The timing of this strategy is important because the marketing department may wish to first try to monopolise the industry using the brand as a descriptor to gain market share but there is a real and almost irreversible risk of the mark becoming generic and free for all to use.
·         File for the word mark and the descriptor with a logo. One will go through to registration, the other can more often than not be kept pending until the mark has developed a secondary meaning if that is possible or otherwise serve as a deterrent to those who search registers before launching products.
·         Be prepared to spend money on a legal budget and allow for consistent engagement with your advisor.
·         Make full use of the first to market advantage and closely monitor how your brand is being used.
·         Use other forms of intellectual property protection to keep competitors away eg patents, copyright and designs.
·         Use no-challenge clauses in licenses and co-existence arrangements to protect the trade mark.
·         Be aware of trade mark legislation and public policy safe havens for the legitimate (and sometimes, not so legitimate) hunt for market share through branding using descriptive terms. This is important if you intend to use them or for keeping competitors from doing so.


Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Diary of a Patent Attorney in Kenya: Patent Drafting Courses

In August, two separate courses related to patent drafting are planned in Nairobi.
A Master and His Pupil
Giovanni Do, c. 1637-8

The first course is five days from 5th to 9th August, and is sponsored by Kenyatta University (KU), a public university. The course is on Patent Drafting and Dispute Resolution, and includes two “Patent Specialists” as instructors.

The second course is four days from 12th to 15th August, and is co-sponsored by the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI, the Kenya patent and trademark office) and the Center for Intellectual Property and Information Technology (CIPIT). The focus here is Patent Drafting and Patent Prosecution, and the instructors include this Leo and KIPI examiners.

The very existence of two (quite substantial) courses in one month indicates that Kenya is now focusing resources and attention on patents. The question for this Leo is whether such focus is an indication that Kenyans are embracing patenting. Over the past decade or so, KIPI has been issuing less than about 15 patents per year to Kenyan applicants. Do these new courses signal that an increase in the number of applications is occurring or is likely to occur in the near future? Only time will tell, but there is a Buddhist proverb that says, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."

One thing should be kept in mind about these courses. Learning to draft patents is a process that typically takes many months (or years) under the supervision of an experienced patent attorney/agent. A one-week course can, at best, be only an introduction to the patent drafting process. Further classes and significant direct tutelage is required for an aspiring drafter to learn the trade.


This Leo will be teaching in the KIPI/CIPIT course, and looks forward to identifying a few individuals with “the right stuff” – i.e., a passion for writing, an interest in science/technology, and the time and patience to learn a skill that is currently almost unknown in Kenya.

Monday, 15 July 2013

A review of African official IP websites: no.54: Zimbabwe

Finally, this Leo reaches the 54th country in the A-Z series and finds nothing positive to report on. Last year, he was particularly shocked that the host nation for ARIPO does not have a website of its own. One could be forgiven to be curious as to whether Zimbabwe feels that ARIPO's own website already covers it. (It may well be, says Afro Leo).


Not to worry; at least this Leo is glad that, earlier this year, ARIPO did something about its website which meant that its users (and other interested parties) can access certain key information as well as keep up-to-date with the organisation. In this day and age, a website (especially for a public sector organisation), more often than not, resonates transparency and confidence in the minds of the public. 


Indeed, internet access is still a struggle in most countries across Africa and it is the role of government to tackle this together with the private sector. However, government departments across Africa should endeavour to embrace ICT, as far as practicable, considering that it is gradually contributing to the continent's success stories.
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Why IPRs should be taking seriously in Zimbabwe, see here
African success stories according to the World Bank, see here
WIPO plans to open 2 new offices on the continent, see here

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Ethiopia to join WTO in 2015?

Ethiopia flagThis Leo has just learned from Reuters that Ethiopia may officially join the WTO club in 2015. According to the report, Ethiopia will 'apparently' not be signing off a lot; for example, by significantly liberalising its economy. Perhaps, this may well be as a result of the streamlined entry standards agreed last year for least-developed countries (LDCs). 

As a LDC and currently a non-WTO Member, Ethiopia would, generally, not be concerned with the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) extension for LDCs last month. But a little scratch  beneath the surface reveals an already-established interest in IP.

Click here to return to homepageIn fact, Afro Leo feels that Ethiopia has generated tangible publicity in relation to IP (for example, see here, here, here and here) than some African countries who are current WTO Members. And, when it comes to the A-Z series, Ethiopia's IP office has a commendable web presence when compared to some - not to mention others who do not even have any.

Let's see what happens in 2015.
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Why the WTO thinks open trade is good, see here
Is Ethiopia a signatory to the Marrakesh Treaty? Yes she is!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Patent reform in Brazil - lessons for the global South

Photo: iStockphotos.com / skibac
Brazil is undertaking a legislative review that will probably lead major patent law reforms. The full report is yet to be launched but a  brief technical overview is available on infojustice. Some of the proposals include:
  1. Limiting patent terms to 20 years with no extensions
  2. Disallowing patents on new uses or new forms of existing medicines
  3. Heightening the inventive step requirement
  4. Adopting opposition procedures

The technical review explains how these, and other proposed reforms, are TRIPS compliant. 

This Afro-Leo believes that there are important lessons about  how to craft a properly nuanced or calibrated patent system within the confines of the existing international framework to be learnt from the Brazilian reform process for other countries in the global South.  

Monday, 8 July 2013

A review of African official IP websites: no.53: Zambia

It seems like yesterday when this Leo began the review of the intellectual property office websites across Africa. Now we are one away from the last country. On review of Zambia, we find an impressive up-to-date website where we learn that the Patents and Companies Registration Agency (PACRA) has opened a new office in Choma. Click here to read more amongst others.


IP-related news from Zambia
The Intellectual Property Unit (IPU) of the Zambian Police seems to be doing its job as the force is reported to have intercepted a truck loaded with fake sanitary towels. To read all about this, click here.




Thursday, 4 July 2013

Much ado about acronyms?

Recently, 3 of the major political parties in Nigeria
Congress for Progressive Change (one of the  merging parties)
indicated to Nigerians and the rest of the world that they had merged into a single “mega” political party to be called All Progressive Congress (APC). Upon submitting the requisite documents for registration with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC pronounced “eyenek”), “mega party APC” was informed that it could not proceed with registration of its proposed name as another political party already exists with the same APC-acronym. This “early bird APC” is known as African Peoples’ Congress (APC).

Ballot paper (party logos and acronyms only)
While “mega party APC” has threatened to sue INEC for refusing to register the party, “early bird APC” has also threatened to sue INEC should the electoral commission attempt to register “mega party APC”.

Even though issues of criteria for political party registration might not readily fall with the purview of intellectual property protection, it is interesting (at least for Nigeria) that acronyms are important for the success of any political party. Only acronyms and party logos are written on ballot papers. Parties chant their acronyms on the campaign trail.

To the extent then, that acronyms form an important part of a party’s “brand identity”, what should be the criteria for registration? First-come-first-serve?  Likelihood of success in elections? National spread?

However, what if the scenario was on a commercial turf? It is not unusual for companies to register their acronyms as trade marks. See Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Asset and Resource Management Limited, etc.

Would acronyms possess the “distinctiveness” quality required for trade mark protection? In the case of The Procter and Gamble Company v. Global Soap and Detergent Industries Limited and the Registrar of Trade Marks (discussed elsewhere on this blog), the Nigerian Court of Appeal seemed to suggest that regular words would be considered distinctive if the proprietor of the mark can show that it was the first to use the mark in relation to the goods in question.

Further, Section 9 of the Trade Marks Act permits the use of the name of a company, individual or firm as a trade mark but requires that such name be represented in a “special” manner. Whether acronyms will qualify as “special” representation, will depend on the goods on which the proposed mark is to be used and perhaps other features such as colour, font and the like.

Acronyms may be too generic (in most cases) to be distinctive as they are, by their very nature, open to conventional use (For instance, both Guaranty Trust Bank Plc and Ginika Teka Balls Limited can lay claims to "GTB"). However, after all is said and done, a company wishing to use an acronym as its mark would have to ensure that another party has not registered such acronym as a trade mark and that no prior domain name registration has been obtained with the acronym.

For government agencies that use the same acronym, see Nigerian Copyright Commission and the Nigerian Communications Commission, both referred to by their acronyms, “NCC”.

For “distinctiveness” in the Procter and Gamble case, see page 32 here.