Africa: What You Need To Know About OAPI And ARIPO

more+
less-

For some, Africa is a continent of poverty and conflict, shaped by its colonial past and dictatorships or unrest that followed. Others are slowly beginning to realise that the concept of an African Renaissance, popularised by South African ex-president, Thabo Mbeki, may become a reality in time.

In terms of African economies, it is interesting to note that a number of African countries have had continued economic growth above 5% over the last couple of years, ie even during the Global Financial Crisis1.  In fact, the continent’s average growth in GDP is estimated to be about 4.8% in 2013 and projected to be 5.3% in 20142.  

According to the AEO, the total external financial flows to Africa reached a historic high of an estimated US$ 186.3 billion in 20123.  It is well-known that China is heavily investing in Africa, building railroads all over the continent to access commodities.  Some sources say that Malaysia is an even bigger direct investor through firms such as Petronas and Sime Darby.  Other investing countries are France, the US, Britain, India and South Africa, to name but a few.  The move of US giant Walmart in 2011 to buy Massmart , the third largest distributor of consumer goods in Africa, made it clear that the world’s eyes are turning to Africa as a market, not only for oil, mining, agriculture, telecommunications and the like, but also as a consumer market.

Africa’s growth and the investment focus on Africa should make the continent a region to consider in terms of intellectual property. In this regard it is important to note that Africa has two regional patent systems, OAPI (Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle or African Intellectual Property Organization) and ARIPO (African Regional Intellectual Property Organization).  Even though the larger African economies of South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt do not form part of the regional systems, the OAPI and ARIPO system provide a relatively cheap, easy and effective way of extending patent protection to a total of 35 African countries with a combined nominal GDP of US$ 420 billion.  

A comparison between the two regional patent systems is provided below.

OAPI

 

ARIPO

ORGANISATION BASICS

Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Union of the Comoros and Togo – 17 members

Members

Botswana, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe – 18 members

Yaoundé, Cameroon

Patent Office

Harare, Zimbabwe

No coexistence of national IP legislation in member states, with OAPI thus serving as national office for each country.
An OAPI application automatically extends to all member states and no designation of states is necessary.

Type of protection

Member states have retained their national IP legislation and applications may still be filed through national patent offices.
At filing of an ARIPO application, states of interest should be designated.
Member states should ratify relevant treaties.

FILING REQUIREMENTS

30 months

National phase deadline

31 months

Yes, extension of 3 months available

Power of attorney necessary?

Yes, extension of 2 months available

English or French
(day of filing)

Filing language

English
(day of filing)

EXAMINATION

After grant

Publication

On grant (ie publication of acceptance)

No request to be filed

Examination request

No request to be filed

Formal examination relating to patentable subject matter, fair basis of claims, unity and formality requirements

Grounds of examination

Formal and substantive examination.  Substantive examination either by ARIPO, arranged by ARIPO or based on search reports from other jurisdictions

Absolute, but certain exceptions eg, official or officially recognised international exhibition exception

Novelty standard

Absolute, but official or officially recognised international exhibition exception

No

Grace period

No

Not allowable
Products for such methods may however be patentable

Methods of medical treatment

Dependent on national laws of member countries, but may be raised as objection by ARIPO

Not allowable

Computer programs

Dependent on national laws, mostly not allowable as such

Yes – (exceptionally high) fees payable at time of filing for claims beyond 10

Excess claims

Yes – fees payable for claims beyond 10 at time of grant

No

Prior art disclosure obligation

No

Yes, within 6 months of receipt of lack of unity notification

Provision for divisional applications?

Yes

No

Post-grant amendments

Dependent on national laws

 OPPOSITION

None

Type

None
National patent office may advise ARIPO within 6 months that patent will have no national effect

 INFRINGEMENT

Proceedings to be brought in country where infringement occurs

Type

Dependent on the national law of the country where infringement occurs

GENERAL

Yes

Signatory to Budapest Treaty

Yes

No

Extension of term for pharmaceuticals

No

Annually, from first anniversary of filing date

Renewals

Annually, from first anniversary of filing date

 

1. http://www.economist.com/blogs/baobab/2013/05/development-africa

2. http://www.africaneconomicoutlook.org/en/outlook/forecast, Chapter 1, Economic outlook

3. http://www.africaneconomicoutlook.org/en/outlook/forecast, Chapter 2, Foreign investment, aid, remittances and tax revenue in Africa

Topics:  Africa, ARIPO, Economic Development, Foreign Investment, NGOs, OAPI

Published In: Intellectual Property Updates, International Trade Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Freehills Patent Attorneys | Attorney Advertising

Don't miss a thing! Build a custom news brief:

Read fresh new writing on compliance, cybersecurity, Dodd-Frank, whistleblowers, social media, hiring & firing, patent reform, the NLRB, Obamacare, the SEC…

…or whatever matters the most to you. Follow authors, firms, and topics on JD Supra.

Create your news brief now - it's free and easy »