Liberia: ARIPO Bemoans Low Ratification of IP Protocols

Delegates at the 46th Session of the Administrative Council of ARIPO.

...“As ARIPO, we must be intentional in ensuring that Intellectual Property addresses challenges not only of our Member States, but the Continent at large,” Bemanya Twebaze, the organization's Director General said.

The Director General of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) has called on member states to double efforts to ensure that intellectual property be used to address challenges that include access to medicines, food security, employment creation, and climate change. 

Bemanya Twebaze’s appeal comes as he complained of low ratification and domestication of some of the ARIPO protocols, such as the Banjul Protocol, the Swakopmund Protocol, and the Arusha Protocol, among the organization’s member states.

This, he said, is a threat to ARIPO's drive to ensure that Intellectual Property addresses challenges not only of our member states, but the continent at large.

The Banjul Protocol, for example, provides for the filing of a single trade mark application, filed either at the ARIPO office, located in Harare, Zimbabwe, or at the industrial property office of a member state, to have effect in those member states designated in the application.

The Swakopmund Protocol called for protection of traditional knowledge and expressions of folklore, while the Arusha Protocol focused on the protection of new varieties of plants.

These protocols however, are yet to be ratified and domesticated by more of ARIPO’s 22 member states, including Liberia, which then create problems of harmonization and development of Intellectual Property laws among member countries as well as common services for the coordination and development of Intellectual Property activities, among others. 

“As ARIPO, we must be intentional in ensuring that Intellectual Property addresses challenges not only of our Member States, but the Continent at large,” Twebaze said in his opening address at the ongoing ceremony of 46th administrative council meeting of ARIPO, which is in being held in  Mozambique from November 21- 25.

“Despite the challenges, ARIPO has demonstrated resilience with its operations running undisrupted and has recorded remarkable successes with respect to IP operations, finances, and collaborative initiatives. Among other things, Industrial Property applications have increased by 26%, the revenue generation increased, surpassing its target by 30%.”

“Compared to last year, revenue generation grew by 19%. The partnerships are continuing to be recalibrated and refined for more focus and impact and most importantly for addressing the needs of the member states,” he said.

ARIPO is Africa’s leading Intellectual Property hub that fosters creativity and innovation for economic growth and development in Africa. Its mandate covers Patents, Utility Models, Industrial Designs, Trademarks, Copyright and Related Rights, Traditional Knowledge and; Expressions of Folklore, Geographical Indications and Plant Variety Protection.

The meeting of its administrative council, which is second highest decision making body of ARIPO, comprising of heads of offices responsible for industrial property and copyright in the member states including Liberia, are currently meeting in Maputo, Mozambique, from November 21st- 25th to discuss proposals to amend some protocols on Industrial Property to make them more user-friendly and align them to relevant international treaties and best practices.

The council will also discuss, among others, the draft Regulations for the Implementation of the newly adopted Kampala Protocol on Voluntary Registration of Copyright and Related Rights. The Administrative Council will also consider administrative matters regarding Human Capital, Audit, and Finance, including the proposed budget and programme of activities for 2023.

The 22 member states of ARIPO are Botswana, Cape Verde, Kingdom of Eswatini, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Kingdom of Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principé, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe and two Observer States from Angola and Burundi.

Meanwhile,  the European Patent Office (EPO) has firmly committed itself to supporting ARIPO  to leverage the full power of intellectual property rights to drive economic growth, while securing societal progress.

The commitment comes as the EPO’s flagship initiative, Regional Patent Examination Training Programme (ARPET), which is the most comprehensive training programme delivered by the EPO to a non-member state, is on track to keep its promise to develop the capacity of ARIPO members to examine and grant world-class patents. 

The programme, according to Fernando dos Santos, EPO Senior Advisor for Africa, has seen the first pool of examiners receive training and expect to benefit from first-hand experience with European examiners when “they finalize their course next year.”

“EPO’s bilateral cooperation activities extend right across the African continent but ARIPO has cemented itself as a special partner. This can be attributed to our shared interest in developing a robust patent system that is aligned with international best practices.” 

“The fourth industrial revolution and the benefits of its technologies are sweeping across Africa and rejuvenating its economies. If previous revolutions bypassed the continent, Africa is certainly reaping the rewards of this new revolution.  [However] an efficient and reliable patent system is critical to enable these innovations to scale and to flourish.” 

dos Santos noted that 26 universities in ARIPO member and observer states have benefited from the programme in the initial phase which, when combined with the Knowledge Transfer to Africa Initiative, will stimulate technology transfer and help local innovation to thrive.

The EPO, he said, also endeavors to transfer knowledge and skills to African universities to search and exploit patent information using the EPO’s free-to-use patent search platform, Espacenet, which contains more than 140 million patent documents from around the world. Patent, according to the World Intellectual Property Rights Organization, is an exclusive right granted for an invention — protecting the right to a product or a process that generally provides a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem.