African Regional Industrial Property Organization (ARIPO)




Release time:2016-05-12

The African Regional Industrial Property Organization (African Regional Industrial Property Organization, referred to as ARIPO) was established on December 9, 1976. The organization is a regional organization for the protection of industrial property rights in English-speaking countries in Africa. It has 15 member countries with a total area of 7 million square kilometers and a population of about 0.2 billion.


Creation of ARIPO

The history of ARIPO should be traced back to a regional seminar on patents and copyright held in Nairobi in the early 1970 s by English-speaking African countries, which recommended the establishment of a regional industrial property organization. In 1973, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) responded to a request from these English-speaking African countries to support the consolidation of their resources in the field of industrial property. Following a series of meetings at ECA Headquarters Addis Ababa and WIPO Headquarters in Geneva, the Draft Agreement Creating an Industrial Property Organization for English-speaking African Countries (ESARIPO) was developed.

The agreement, currently known as the Lusaka Agreement, was adopted at a diplomatic conference held in Lusaka, Zambia, on 9 December 1976. ESARIPO was born on December 9, 1976. The Lusaka Agreement entered into force on 15 February 1978. From then on, ECA and WIPO acted as joint secretariats of the ESARIPO until 1 June 1981, when the organization established its own secretariat.

In December 1985, the Lusaka Agreement was amended to make the membership of the organization open to all UNECA or Organization of African Unity (OAU) member states and to change its name to the Regional Industrial Areas of Africa Organization (ARIPO) to reflect the new pan-African situation.


Reasons for creating ARIPO

ARIPO was established primarily to consolidate the resources of member countries in the field of industrial property in order to avoid duplication of human and financial resources. Thus, the preamble to the Lusaka Agreement clearly states that the Member States are "aware of the benefits to be derived from an effective and continuous exchange of information and from coordination and collaboration on industrial property law and activities". At the same time, the Member States recognize that "this purpose would be best achieved by creating an African regional industrial property organization to conduct research, improvement and cooperation in the field of industrial property.


Objectives of ARIPO

The objectives of the organization indicate that, as stated in Article 3 of the Lusaka Agreement, cooperation in the field of industrial property is aimed at providing technical support for the economic and industrial development of the member States. This cooperation is reflected in the following objectives of the organization:

(a) the harmonization and development of industrial property law and related matters to meet the needs of the region as a whole and of the Member States;

(B) To promote close relations among Member States on matters relating to industrial property;

(c) the establishment of a common service or agency necessary for the collaboration, coordination and development of industrial property activities between the Member States;

(d) develop programmes for the training of staff of industrial property administrations;

(e) To organize conferences, seminars and other meetings in the field of industrial property;

(f) to promote the exchange of ideas, experience and research on industrial property matters;

(g) To promote and develop common views and practices among Member States in the field of industrial property;

(h) give appropriate assistance to its members in the acquisition and development of technology relevant to industrial property matters;

(I) To carry out all activities necessary for the attainment of these objectives.

It is clear from the above objectives of ARIPO that the main thread running through them is cooperation. The idea of cooperation has played an important role in the functioning of the organization.


Legal situation prior to the establishment of ARIPO

In determining its objectives, the founders of the organization took into account the fact that most of the countries concerned had "independent industrial property legislation" but did not establish an autonomous authority or registry, and that the effects of industrial property acquired in foreign countries (in many cases the United Kingdom) could only be extended to the territory of those countries. That effect often depends on foreign law.

This is the basis for the harmonization and development of industrial property law as described in ARIPO's target list. Since its establishment, the organization has ensured the establishment of independent industrial property systems in its member States.


Member States

According to Article 4 of the Lusaka Agreement, the membership of ARIPO is open to member states of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa or member states of the Organization of the African Union (OAU). At present, there are 15 parties to the Lusaka Agreement, which is the member states of ARIPO, namely Botswana, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Article VI of the Lusaka Agreement also authorizes ARIPO to cooperate with non-member states. In accordance with this provision, ARIPO has cooperated with the following potential member States attending major ARIPO meetings as observers: Angola, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Liberia, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Seychelles and South Africa (10 in total).


Cooperation with other organizations and industrial property offices

Article 5 of the Lusaka Agreement authorizes ARIPO to establish and maintain close and continuous working relationships with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), WIPO and the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Article 6 further authorizes ARIPO to cooperate with non-ARIPO member states, organizations, institutions and entities (cooperating countries and organizations) that are willing to support ARIPO in achieving its objectives.

In accordance with the foregoing, the organization has established a close and continuous working relationship with WIPO, in particular within the framework of the bilateral agreement between ARIPO and WIPO of 4 July 1981 and the Quadripartite Agreement between ARIPO, OAPI (African Intellectual Property Organization), ARCT and WIPO of 22 July 1985. ARIPO has established long-term close cooperation with the European Patent Office (EPO) and the Benelux Trademark Office (BBM). In June 1999, ARIPO signed a memorandum of understanding with the European Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trademarks and Designs)(OHIM). In 2001, ARIPO entered into a similar agreement with EAPO.

In addition to the four-party agreement, ARIPO and OAPI signed a cooperation agreement in November 1996. ARIPO and WTO signed an agreement allowing ARIPO to participate in the TRIPS Council meetings as an observer, hoping to promote further cooperation among ARIPO member states in the implementation of the TRIPS Agreement.

In 1995, ARIPO concluded a cooperation agreement with the African Regional Standards Organization (ARSO). A similar agreement was reached with COMESA in early 2002. ARIPO is currently negotiating a cooperation agreement with SADC.

ARIPO has also signed cooperation agreements with the following industrial property offices to ensure technical cooperation and mutual exchange of literature and information:

the UK Patent Office;

the Swedish Patent and Registration Office;

Brazil's National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI);

United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The organization also cooperates with the Austrian Patent Office, the German Patent Office and the Korean Industrial Property Office.


Cooperation with the OAU/African Union

Article 5 of the Lusaka Agreement empowers the organization to establish and maintain a close, ongoing working relationship with OAU.

At the second extraordinary session of the OAU "Assembly of Heads of State and Government", held in Lagos, Nigeria, on 28 April 1990, dedicated to improving the economic situation in Africa, an action plan for the implementation of the "Monrovia Strategy for the Economic Development of Africa" (Lagos Plan of Action) was adopted.

In adopting the Lagos Plan of Action, the Assembly of Heads of State and Government called on all OAU Member States to take special measures at the national, regional and continental levels to implement the Lagos Plan of Action. Paragraph 154 of the Lagos Plan of Action reads as follows:

"Lack of information is the greatest obstacle to the selection, availability and use of appropriate technical solutions. Knowledge of the local environment and the assignee's situation and characteristics is as important as the technology to be provided. Care should therefore be taken to ensure that the technology to be provided is compatible with local needs. Mechanisms should be established to assess and facilitate the availability and dissemination of information on multiple alternative technologies, methods and processes for a particular application area. The following measures are recommended:

"… to actively support and strengthen ARIPO-like African regional organizations in the field of patent documentation and information......".

Despite the above statements, a strong desire to establish a close relationship with OAU has only recently emerged.

Negotiations are under way between the two organizations on a cooperation agreement to grant ARIPO observer status at meetings of a number of important OAU bodies.

In line with this idea, the ARIPO Ministerial Council, at its sixth meeting in Mombasa (Mombasa), Kenya, in May 1998, adopted a policy declaration to be adopted by the "Assembly of Heads of State and Government. The declaration strongly called on African countries to support the two regional industrial property organizations, namely ARIPO and OAPI, and to accelerate the process of joining the two organizations.

ARIPO considers its cooperation with the OAU to be particularly important in the context of the establishment of the African Economic Community within 34 years proposed by the Treaty of Abuja in OAU1991. After OAU became the African Union (AU) in July 2001, ARIPO saw itself as one of the obstacles to the formation of the AEC and AU.


Substantive activities of ARIPO

Since the Lusaka Agreement only created the organization, but did not specify in detail its powers and functions as an industrial property organization, additional legal documents were required to be signed to grant the organization specific functions on behalf of member States in the field of industrial property. These additional legal documents include:

Protocol on Patents and Designs under the ARIPO Framework (Harare Protocol);

2. Banjul Protocol on Trademarks.

The Harare Protocol

For any country that wants to conduct substantive examination of patent applications and provide extensive technical information services based on patent documents, it should collect a large number of patent documents and hire a large number of engineers and scientists.

This is because it is estimated that there are 30 million published patent documents in the world. Each year, about one million patent documents reflecting about 400,000 new technical solutions and problems are added to this library.

For any African country, the human and financial costs required to establish and maintain an effective industrial property agency would be astronomical. This is why the Member States decided to establish a common body to establish the Patent Information and Documentation Centre to process patent applications and provide information services to Member States.

Guided by this thinking, in December 1982, the Administrative Council of ARIPO adopted the Harare Protocol in Harare, Zimbabwe. The Protocol authorizes the ARIPO Office to receive and process patent, design and utility model applications on behalf of the Protocol's member countries.

The Protocol, which entered into force in 1984, is currently a party to 14 member States: Botswana, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Under the Protocol, a patent application or design registration application requires only one application to designate any member country that wishes to protect the invention or design. The Protocol requires that the application be filed in one of the Contracting States or directly in the ARIPO Office.

Upon receipt of a patent application, the ARIPO Office determines that the application meets the form requirements and grants a filing date. The Bureau then conducts a special substantive review to ensure that the invention is patentable (that is, the invention is new, inventive, and can be applied in industry). When the application meets the requirements for substantive examination, a copy of the application is sent to the designated Contracting States. The Contracting State may, on the grounds set out in the Protocol, notify ARIPO within six months that if ARIPO grants a patent, the authorization will not be effective in its territory.

ARIPO's substantive examination makes an ARIPO patent very effective because the examination strengthens the validity hypothesis of the patent.

For design registration applications, only formal examination is conducted. If the application meets the form requirements, the ARIPO Office grants the registration effective in the designated State. However, States reserve the right to notify the ARIPO Office within six months that the registration is not effective in the relevant designated State.

At its second extraordinary session, held in April 1994, the Administrative Council adopted amendments to the Harare Protocol and its implementing regulations to establish a link between the Protocol and the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). The link entered into force on 1 July 1994 and has the following effect:

(a) any applicant filing a PCT application may designate ARIPO, which means designating all countries that are members of both the Harare Protocol and the PCT;

(B) the Office of ARIPO becomes the receiving Office for PCT applications;