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ARIPO - the Anglophone countries regional filing system

ARIPO is the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization which began in December 1976 under the Lusaka Agreement.

Its HQ is in Harare, Zimbabwe and there are 19 Member States: Botswana, the Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, which cover 450 million people.

ARIPO has numerous promotion and capacity building initiatives and runs a regional IP filing system. A series of 4 Protocols govern the various IP filings systems (Patents, Utility Models, Designs, Trade marks, Plant Varieties and Traditional Knowledge. The problem is not every member has acceded to every protocol. This means that ARIPO IP filings may govern only some of the ARIPO members but not all. In each case a filer has to know which countries they wish to designate and whether they have adopted the relevant IP protocol, not just assume a filing covers all ARIPO members.

For example ARIPO trademark filings at present can only cover 9 of the 19 members; but even then enforcement is possible in fewer members. Not every ARIPO member has adopted Madrid so international trademark applications can only be designated in 8 ARIPO members.

ARIPO patent pendency is around 2 years. The top filers are almost all pharma companies, with Pfizer the largest user. In recent years Chinese companies have increasingly used it. At present 17 ARIPO members may be designated if the PCT filing date was before 18 August 2014 and 18 ARIPO members if the PCT filing date is after 18 August 2014.

ARIPO is growing and simplifying over time, and now has online filing and search systems, so its use is growing.

For more information, please contact Nick Redfearn.

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