The African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) on 3 October signed a Memorandum of Understating (MoU) on mechanisms for bilateral cooperation in activities related to trademarks and industrial designs as well as enforcement.  

The 5 year agreement renews the cooperation between ARIPO and the EUIPO {formerly Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs) [OHIM]}, which was first entered into on 8 June 1999 and was further reviewed and extended in 2011.

This agreement calls for the two parties to cooperate on several areas that include; the publication of trade mark and industrial design data on EUIPO online information and classification systems, namely, TMview, DesignView, TMclass and Designclass; on activities concerning harmonization of trade mark and design examination practices and on awareness raising activities, such as seminars on the protection of trademarks and designs and also on enforcement related matters.

The Offices also agreed to cooperate on training programmes including joint seminars or workshops and other training initiatives.

The Offices will hold annual meetings of experts to discuss major pending issues in the field of trade mark and design.

Further, there shall be cooperation in the development and expansion of IT, automation and modernization schemes as well as in the exchange of statistical data regarding trademarks and designs.

Additionally, there shall be secondment opportunities to either office of examiners or other staff as may be mutually agreed. 

The parties also agreed that the EUIPO may consider exporting and sharing with ARIPO the EUIPO-developed Similarity Tool, Harmonized Database and the CESTO Examination Tool.

They also agreed to cooperate in other areas like Quality / ISO certification, setting up of IP economic-related studies, such as the EUIPO/EPO study on IP intensive industries and their contribution to economic performance and employment.

On the topical issue of enforcement, the Offices will exchange information on their respective IP enforcement related activities and may identify areas for developing common initiatives.

A Sub-Regional Workshop on the Development and Effective Use of Intellectual Property Statistics for ARIPO Member States, which was held in Harare, Zimbabwe, has called on African IP offices to value the importance of IP statistics reporting. The workshop, which was organized by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Japan Patent Office (JPO) in cooperation with the Government of Zimbabwe and ARIPO at the request of the Director General of ARIPO, Mr. Fernando dos Santos, began on 14 September and ended on 16 September. Ms Virginia Mabhiza, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in the Government of Zimbabwe, officially opened the workshop.

The important workshop came after the realization that most African countries, particularly in the sub-region, seem not to value the importance of generating and publicizing statistics with regard to their intellectual property activities. According to WIPO, only 25 out of the 54 African countries have been consistently availing their data to the international body. In the workshop therefore, it has come out that, had all African states been providing their statistical data to international and regional bodies, the gloomy picture of Africa’s contribution to global intellectual property transactions would be significantly different. Mr. Mosahid Khan, Head IP Statistics Section at WIPO and the Director General of ARIPO, Mr. Fernando dos Santos said that Africa has but itself to blame for the sad picture that is portrayed globally and urged ARIPO Member States to realize that statistics also help them in forecasting, planning and monitoring their IP activities. They urged them to develop a culture of basing decisions on accurate and validated data as incorrect data leads to wrong decisions being taken.

Mrs Joyce Banya, Senior Counsellor, in WIPO’s Regional Bureau for Africa, said that the workshop was one of the best and most successful of all the workshops she has organized in the region. Each year, WIPO’s Economic and Statistics Division sends out questionnaires, which IP offices worldwide are expected to complete and return. Regrettably, many African countries including some ARIPO Member States do not respond to the questionnaires. In their presentations, most of the Member States acknowledged that they indeed should start to take requests for statistics from the ARIPO Secretariat and WIPO seriously and thanked the organizers for convening the workshop and Mr. Dos Santos, in particular, for requesting for the workshop.

A KOICA team visited the Republic of Zimbabwe from August 22 to 26, 2016, for the purpose of doing an end of project evaluation of “The Project for the Upgrade and Modernization of the ICT Infrastructure of the Zimbabwe Intellectual Property Office (ZIPO), African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) and its Member States”. The team comprised of two KOICA evaluators, Professor Ho-yeol KWON and Mr. Chul-hee LEE.

The evaluation team held meetings with the management and staff of ARIPO, ZIPO and various stakeholders who included trademark and patent agents, to measure the performance of the project, check the actual system and equipment installation status compared to the project plan and evaluate the necessity for potential follow up projects.

The project was launched in 2013 with the goal being to upgrade and modernize ICT infrastructure of ARIPO and that of the 19 national patent offices of the Member States. The overall objectives include enhancing efficiency in business processing and other IP administrative work between the ARIPO Office and its Member States, the facilitation of accessibility of intellectual property information and the strengthening of ICT institutional capacity in the ARIPO region and beyond.

The project focused on upgrading ARIPO’s IP administration system, development of a member states’ module for online electronic data communication with the upgraded IP administration system of the ARIPO Office and those of its Member States and the development and provision of online services to users and the public at large.

The project has been a success and some of the benefits of the project to date include reduction of paper records in IP file processing, elimination of duplicate records and processes across the ARIPO region, substantial productivity and efficiency gains amongst ARIPO stakeholders, significant savings on time and money and improved service to stakeholders.

At the kind invitation of the Embassy of Japan in Zimbabwe, the Director General of ARIPO, Mr. Fernando dos Santos participated on behalf of the Organization at the just ended Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) summit, which was held in Nairobi, Kenya from 27 to 28 August 2016.

This TICAD initiative according to the President of Kenya, H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta affords Africa access to, “Japanese support to a whole range of transformative programmes … by way of grants, loans and through technical cooperation [which] is already giving Africa some clearly great dividends in infrastructure; energy, agriculture as well as human resource capacities and education.”

ARIPO is benefitting from the kind assistance extended to the developing world by the Government of Japan through the country’s Funds-in-Trust held at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Through these funds, Japan is supporting IP training and awareness programmes at ARIPO, including scholarships being provided to some Masters in Intellectual Property students at Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe. In the 9th cohort of students enrolled this year for the programme at the university, 10 students from different countries in Africa are beneficiaries of the scholarships provided through these funds.

As ARIPO seeks to promote an IP driven economic agenda for Africa, it is at platforms such as this that the Organization can position itself to become a significant player in the continental economic and development discourse.

The Summit was co-organized by the Government of Japan, African Union Commission, United Nations Development Programme, The World Bank Group and UN’s Office of the Special Adviser on Africa.

Three Technical Committees of the Administrative Council of ARIPO are meeting in Harare from 17 – 19 August 2016. The three committees are; Technical Committee on Industrial Property, Technical Committee on Plant Variety Protection and Technical Committee on Copyright and Related Rights.

They are meeting to deliberate on several issues including proposals to amend among others the ARIPO protocols and the consolidated Rules of Procedure of the Technical Committees to incorporate the specific functions of the individual committees.

The three technical committees are also considering reports on the various activities and initiatives carried out by the Secretariat in the year in discharging its mandate. After these considerations the committees will then make recommendations to the next session of the Administrative Council for possible adoption of the proposals and other technical matters under discussion.

With regard to the Plant Varieties Protection mandate, one of the matters the responsible committee is considering is the draft regulations for implementing the Arusha Protocol reviewed by an expert meeting that was held in June 2016.

The Director General of ARIPO officially opened the sessions of the Technical Committees in a joint ceremony attended by Ambassadors from four of the ARIPO Member States namely; Ghana, Kenya, Namibia and Sudan.