Monday, 13 April 2015

OAPI Suspend Agents

Aminou Ndala TITA based in Cameroon reports that there has been significant tension between OAPI and some its agents over OAPI's decision to join the Madrid Protocol. OAPI has responded banning certain members from practising. The full story:

"A month after joining the Madrid Union, the dust has not settled on why OAPI chose that option. The in house fighting between the Director General of OAPI and some of his accredited agents has raised so much doubt on the competence of the organization’s hierarchy.

Accredited agents are those who have been granted special license by the Director General of OAPI to represent clients. They are usually legal experts or those with a background in IP and have fulfilled special conditions laid down by the organization.

It should be recalled that the decision to join Madrid was arrived at the 53rd session of the Board of Directors of OAPI held in Malabo on the 14th December 2013. Resolution No. 53/25 of 14 December 2013, authorized the accession of OAPI to the Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks. The Director General of OAPI was mandated to submit the instrument of ratification with WIPO which he did on the December 5, 2014. The official entry is dated March 5, 2015.

The accession of OAPI to the Madrid Protocol has not been welcome my most IP legal practitioners within the OAPI Jurisdiction. These legal minds who now branded themselves as « Collectif des Conseils en propriété industrielle » have labeled the OAPI accession to Madrid illegal and are bent on reversing this decision. The arguments advanced by these group are:

1.       That OAPI as an international organization does not have the mandate to ratify a treaty on behalf of member states.
2.       That the Bangui Agreement does not allow the Organization to ratify a treaty through a resolution of its Board of Directors;
3.       That only independent states have the power to ratify such a  Protocol;
4.       That accession to the Madrid Protocol will have negative economic and strategic impact on member States of OAPI.
5.       The professional / accredited agents of OAPI will experience a decline in the volume of their activities.

This action has been met by stiff resistance from the organization. The organization hierarchy has suspended (http://oapi.int/index.php/fr/toute-lactualite/507-note-dinformation-sur-le-protocole-de-madrid) all agents involved in this action which to him is an attempt to discredit and destabilize the organization. The communique from the D.G reads:

“The patent attorneys involved in this campaign and the firms they are attached to, will not be allowed to represent clients at OAPI for any action which include but not limited to Patent, trademark and design applications, opposition, appeals, recordals etc.;

 - They are also banned from advertising their firms as official agent / attorneys of OAPI”.


The list of agents and firm suspended by OAPI has not been made known to the public but one thing is clear, this will definitely be a long fight."

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