On 14-15 June 2017, the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) held its first Intellectual Property (IP) awareness creation with universities and research institutions that was hosted at the Njala University in Sierra Leone.

This is an initiative by ARIPO to reach institutions of higher learning in Africa so that they utilize the IP system nationally and regionally so that IP rights can bring economic development to the universities, rights holders and the country at large.

Organized together with the University of Sierra Leone, more than 100 participants took part in the seminar. They were from the University of Sierra Leone, The University of Makeni, Ernest Bai Koroma University of Science and Technology, Eastern Polytechnic, Milton Margai College of Education and Technology, Freetown Teachers’ College, The Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute and representatives from the Tertiary Education Commission.

From the seminar, it emerged that there was a low uptake of IP in Sierra Leone. To counter this, it was recommended there be inclusion and the development of IP Policies in universities and tertiary institutions, to undertake awareness raising initiatives, teaching of IP and establishment of IP Units in the different institutions.

This seminar was the first of this new approach by ARIPO that will directly involve universities and research institutions in awareness raising about IP. ARIPO will organize similar initiatives in Swaziland and Zambia in 2017.

On 5 June 2017, a three day symposium on copyright and related rights began at the headquarters of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) in Harare under the theme: "Shaping the Copyright and Related Rights Systems in Africa". The symposium brought together copyright offices, collective management organisations in ARIPO Member States and entrepreneurs together to discuss pertinent issues on copyright and related rights and ARIPOs role on shaping the copyright and related rights system in Africa. A number of copyright and related rights issues including: the economic importance of copyright and the creative industries for African countries; the legal framework for copyright; essential components in the administration of copyright at the national level; using copyright to create an enabling environment and the content industry in the digital environment are being discussed.

The symposium will end on Thursday, 7 June.  Seventy-three participants from the ARIPO Member States are participating in the symposium, which was officially opened by Mrs Virgina Mabhiza, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs of the Republic of Zimbabwe. The opening ceremony was graced by several member states and potential member states’ Ambassadors to Zimbabwe or their representatives.

The resource persons are all experts in copyright and related rights at the regional and global levels. Ms Sylvie Forbin, the Deputy Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and Ms Caroline Morgan the Chief Executive of the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organizations (IFFRO) are among the global experts taking part.

Regionally, heads of copyright offices, heads of national Intellectual Property Offices, heads of collective management organizations, as well as some cooperating partners and academics are participating.

Delegates from various Member States are also showcasing literature, products and services from their respective countries’ creative industries in an Exhibition running concurrently with the symposium.

The Director General Mr. dos Santos today met officials from the University of Alicante, to discuss and exchange information on a potential cooperation agreement between ARIPO and the University.
The potential cooperation agreement will bring on the possibility of training students from ARIPO Office and its member states in the Master of Intellectual Property programme offered by the University of Alicante.
The Alicante University delegation was led by Mrs Esperanza Gallego, Professor of Commercial Law and Member of the Board of Directors of the Magister Lucentinus, whilst Mr. Charles Pundo, Head of Formality Examination accompanied the Director General.
The Magister Lucentinus is structured in separate modules, such as patents and technology transfer (I), trademarks, designs and competition (II), Copyright and Information technology rights  (III). Students can decide to attend one or several modules or the entire master program.
Since three years the Master has started offering a two days intensive course on Plant Variety Rights, which fall under the first module on patents.  
This programme has already been extended to the State Intellectual Property Office of China (SIPO), patent examiners attend the patents and technology transfer module of the Magister Lucentinus.
If concluded, this may result in the programme commencing under the agreement as early as the last quarter of 2017.

São Tomé, April 25 and 26, 2017

The National IP Office of São Tomé and Príncipe (SENAPI) organized a seminar to assess the level of implementation of the National Plan for the development of IP 2013 – 2018. The seminar was attended by stakeholders in the IP arena, namely: government institutions, private sector, patent agents and trademark attorneys, academic community, creative industries and artists in general.

The opening ceremony was presided over by the Minister of Finance, Trade and Blue Economy, Honourable Américo Ramos who stressed the importance of IP in the implementation of the government vision encapsulated in the Agenda of Transformation of São Tomé and Príncipe.

The Director General of ARIPO, Mr. Fernando dos Santos pledged support to the Government of São Tomé and Príncipe through SENAPI for better use of IP to promote social, economic and technological development and the realization of the noble objectives of the Agenda of Transformation of São Tomé and Príncipe. The Director General informed the audience that since the accession of the country to the Harare Protocol on Patents, Utility Models and Industrial Designs and the Banjul Protocol on Marks in 2014, users worldwide filed through the ARIPO system 369 patents, 159 industrial designs, 110 marks and 6 utility models designating São Tomé and Príncipe.

The half-way assessment of the National Plan for the development of IP 2013 – 2018 concluded that the country is in the right path in the development of their IP system and there is a call for more collaboration between the stakeholders.

The African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) of the People’s Republic of China signed a new Memorandum of Understanding at the ARIPO headquarters in Harare, Zimbabwe on 30 March 2017.

The Honorable Minister of SAIC, Mr. Zhang Mao, and the Director General of ARIPO, Mr. Fernando dos Santos signed the MoU on behalf of the respective parties. The new MoU abrogates two previous MoUs signed between the two Parties on 31 March 2011 and 8 September 2014 respectively.

This MoU establishes a general framework for bilateral cooperation between ARIPO and SAIC on activities aimed at improving the quality of administration and effectiveness of the trademark systems through the exchange of information and best practices, as well as through capacity-building activities.

The objective is to streamline the trademark application process and deal with protection issues of well-known trademarks and geographical indications.

ARIPO and SAIC have agreed to work on initiatives to promote awareness and encourage the use and understanding of the IP system relating to trademarks in each’s respective territory. In that regard, they shall develop and institute capacity-building activities, such as comparative research studies, workshops, training on examination, opposition and dispute resolution as well as on IT.

With regard to having geographical indications stimulate economic development, the Parties will increase efforts to promote value addition of agricultural products, and facilitating rural economic development by the registration and protection of trademarks and GIs for agricultural products thereby enriching farmers.

The Parties will meet annually to evaluate the cooperation activities for the year and establish the cooperation plan for the following year.

For ARIPO, the MoU is timely in that, while China is increasingly becoming the single largest investor in the region, there is very little IP rights protection being sought by those Chinese investors in the same region.

The 2017 edition of ARIPO’s flagship programme of roving seminars kicked off with two seminars being organized by the Organization, jointly with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Japan Patent Office (JPO) and in cooperation with the Government of the Republic of Malawi in the cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe from 20 – 21 and 23 – 24 March 2017 respectively. The year’s series of the seminars is running under the general theme “Fostering creativity and innovation for economic growth and development in Africa”.

The Blantyre leg of the roving seminars focused on the protection and promotion of patents, utility models, industrial designs, trademarks and computer software through the ARIPO system, while that of Lilongwe focused on economic benefits of copyright and related rights, and also on the benefits of protection and utilization of traditional knowledge, genetic resources and expressions of folklore to the people of Malawi and Africa in general.

Each of the two roving seminars attracted more than 70 participants from a diverse cross-section of IP users and potential users in Malawi. The presenters were also people of diverse backgrounds. Amongst them, were some experts from the local universities, the Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA), ARIPO, and Department of the Registrar General of Malawi.  

The Honorable Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs of the Republic of Malawi Mr. Samuel Tembenu, officially opened the Lilongwe seminar with a call on ARIPO and the national IP office of Malawi to add value on traditional knowledge and genetic resources for the benefit of the knowledge and rights holders. The national offices were also urged to take leading roles in the establishment of the enabling legislation to adequately govern these new areas of IP.

The Director General of ARIPO, Mr. Fernando dos Santos, in his remarks expressed appreciation to Malawi for her support of ARIPO’s initiatives, which have seen the country ratifying the Harare Protocol on Patents and Industrial Designs, the Banjul Protocol on Marks and the Swakopmund Protocol for the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Expressions of Folklore. He however urged Malawian innovators, entrepreneurs and all other IP rights holders to take full advantage of the country’s membership to ARIPO to protect their rights through the ARIPO regional system.

The main purpose of the roving seminars is to promote the use of IP in the ARIPO Member States. Since the programme started in 2013, the Roving Seminars have been organized in 14 Member States and have since benefited more than 2000 participants who went on to share the information with their respective constituencies.