IP PROTECTION WHEN YOU TRAVEL
meaning that it must always be protected in the countries businesses wish to penetrate. Protection of a trademark right will require the registration in the country’s national registry in accordance with its trademark law. However, a blanket trademark protection in several countries is provided for under the Organisation Africaine de la Proprietè (OAPI) and African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (Aripo). These regional bodies benefit one’s trademark by allowing registration under these bodies to protect the trademark in all or most designated members of OAPI and Aripo.
OAPI provides protection in 17 French-speaking member countries including Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Central African Republic, Mali, Chad, Mauritania, Congo, Niger, Equatorial Guinea, Senegal, Gabon, Comoro Islands and Togo.
Registering a trademark in one member state of OAPI provides protection in all member states of OAPI, unlike Aripo, which provides that businesses must designate the Aripo member states they intend to protect their intellectual property rights in. Aripo consists of 18 countries — Botswana, Malawi, Uganda, Gambia, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Ghana, Namibia, Zambia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Liberia, Somalia and Sudan.
Trademark protection may also provide a blanket protection in several member states of the Madrid Union as members of the Madrid Union are signatories to the Madrid Agreement and/or Madrid Protocol. There are 16 African countries, the European Union, US, India, Australia, Turkey, Iran, Japan and China in the Madrid Union. The African countries include Sao Tome and Principe, Morocco, North Sudan, Algeria, Kenya, Mozambique, Lesotho, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Egypt, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Madagascar and Ghana.
Protection under the Madrid Union gives companies the benefit of having a centralised single filing route registration in all or most of the designated member states.
Patents, like trademarks, are territorial rights which require that registration is done in the country a business wishes to penetrate, in accordance with the law of that country or region. International protection of a patent is administered under the Patent Cooperation Treaty and there are 148 countries which are members of the treaty. African country members include Angola, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, Mali, Uganda, SA, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Benin, Botswana, Central African Republic, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Senegal, Sao Tome and Principe, Chad, Togo and Tanzania, among others. Protection under the treaty provides a single “international” patent application which covers all or most countries designated in the application.
When it comes to industrial designs, these are also territorial rights which are protected by registering it in accordance with the law of the country intended to penetrate. However, international protection for an industrial design is given under the Hague Agreement.
The Hague Agreement consists of 61 member states which include the following African countries: Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Mali, Morocco, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Tunisia, Benin, Botswana and Côte d’Ivoire.
Businesses are able to designate protection of their trademarks in all member states or most member states of the Hague Agreement.
Copyright, being a right awarded to authors of film, books, music and computer programmes among other literary works, is an automatic right given to the expression of an idea, thereby making it an automatic right, meaning it is not necessary to register the right to get protection. In addition, Article 5 of the Berne Convention affords national statutory copyright protection to foreigners domiciled in or nationals of member states.
However, if businesses intend to register their copyright, they will be required to register that right with the national registry of the country they intend to penetrate.
The importance of businesses protecting their IP, in single or multiple jurisdictions, should never be underestimated when looking to expand into African markets and should always be a priority consideration in any merger and acquisition deal.
In some markets it is difficult to obtain information on the laws that govern IP or how IP laws work