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A Brief Look at OAPI and the Madrid System.

OAPI acceded to the Madrid Protocol for the International Registration of Marks in December 2014 and the Protocol entered into force on 5 March 2015. This provides brand owners in French West Africa with potentially faster and cheaper access to international brand protection. The Madrid System provides for brand owners to potentially protect their products through one international application covering about 100 countries.

The protection of intellectual property rights in most African French speaking countries is obtained via OAPI and comprises: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, the Republic of Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Guinea Bissau, Senegal and Togo. With the Madrid System, applicants can apply for a trademark covering more than 100 countries by filing a single international application at a national or regional IP office of a country or region that is party to the system. Advantages include a simplified process which requires a single international application and this reduces the requirement to file an application at the intellectual property office in each country in which protection is sought.

However, the accession of OAPI to join the Madrid System was not welcomed by some accredited agents. Accredited agents are legal experts with a background in IP who have been granted special license by the Director General of OAPI to represent clients. These agents have been very vocal in their criticisms and argue that: OAPI does not have the mandate to ratify a treaty on behalf of member states; that the Bangui Agreement does not allow the OAPI Organization to ratify a treaty through a resolution of its Board of Directors; that only independent states have the power to ratify such a protocol; that accession to the Madrid Protocol will have negative economic and strategic impact on member States of OAPI; and that the accredited agents of OAPI will experience a decline in the volume of their activities.These criticisms have had an effect and OAPI has responded by withdrawing the accreditation of these agents.

For further information on this, kindly contact Oswald Alembong

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