Thursday 10 December 2015

Afro Ng'ombe

Singapore Treaty to be in Force for OAPI by Mid-February

Trademarks and Valentines, a natural pairing.
With all the attention Africa’s been getting globally and our pride’s attention drawn to happenings hitting even close to our hearts, some details have slipped through the grass.  But never fear, like all good lions, we manage a pounce in the end.  This time, this straggling little leo has rounded back on a WIPO announcement from a few weeks ago: OAPI has joined the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks.  Full WIPO press announcement here.

Administrative Harmonization

The Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks, known as STLT in the WIPO community, seeks to harmonize the administration of trademarks.  It covers everything from registration to license recordation.  It does this by setting limitations on the types of processes and information that can be required by a trademark office.  For example: trademark offices cannot require notarization of application signatures (Article 8(3)(b)); there are 16 pieces of information that trademark offices may require be included in an application (Article 3(1)(a)); and applicants must use the Nice classification system (Article 9).

But License Redecoration Remains

Interestingly, although the purpose of STLT is to harmonize administrative procedures, parties are able to opt out of provisions under certain circumstances (in Article 29), and OAPI has done just that.  Articles 6 and 19(2) will not apply to OAPI.  Article 19(2) of STLT prohibits parties from requiring the recordation of licenses for enforcement.  However, Article 27 of the Bangui Agreement, which governs OAPI, requires the recordation of a trademark license with the OAPI Special Register of Marks in order for the license to be enforceable against third parties.  The pre-existing Bangui Agreement rule stands.
Article 6 of STLT says “Where goods and/or services belonging to several classes of the Nice Classification have been included in one and the same application, such an application shall result in one and the same registration.”  Little Leo has to admit, she’s not really sure what it means to opt out of this.  [And based on the way WIPO presented it in the press release, neither are they.]  Perhaps it means applications listing goods or services in multiple Nice classes will result in multiple registrations.  Conjectures, explanations from wiser readers and wild guesses are welcome.

A Growing Party

The addition of OAPI brings the official number of STLT members to 41.  That number is a little misleading since OAPI itself includes 17 countries.  Seven OAPI members are signatories to STLT, dating back to 2006 and 2007, but only Mali (2009) and Benin (2012) ratified the treaty as individual countries.  The treaty comes into effect for OAPI, and Benin and Mali individually, all on the same day: February 13, 2016.  Just in time for Valentine’s Day.  That will bring the number of countries participating in the STLT harmonization to 54*.  The full list is available from WIPO here.

*If the math doesn’t seem to work out, it’s because there are other multi-state members whose countries are also individually members.

Image information: “Little Debbie Valentine Snack Cakes, 2/2015, by Mike Mozart of TheToyChannel and JeepersMedia on YouTube” CC-BY 2.0 Mike Mozart, available at

Afro Ng'ombe

Afro Ng'ombe

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