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The Banjul Protocol on Marks

African economies are growing at an incredibly fast pace. It has been said that next destination for business and investment is Africa as the economic growth in various countries on the continent is on an upward trajectory.

Coming to Africa to invest and/or explore business opportunities or bringing in an already established businesses, will at some point entail protecting your intellectual property rights. With 53 countries on the continent, the task of registering your intellectual property in several countries at one time can be daunting. Fortunately there are two regional intellectual property organs that cover French speaking countries in Africa through the African Intellectual Property Organisation (OAPI) and English speaking countries through the African Regional Industrial Property Organisation (ARIPO). It is through these organs you can protect your intellectual property in more than one African country by simply filling out one set of forms, which in turn makes more economic sense than registering your trade marks, patents and design in each individual African state.

ARIPO was established based on the Agreement on the Creation of an African Regional Industrial Property Organisation (ARIPO). The agreement was concluded in LUSAKA, Zambia, on December 9, 1976. ARIPO then adopted two Protocols, the Harare Protocol on Patents and Industrial Designs (the Harare Protocol) and the Banjul Protocol on Marks (the Banjul Protocol).

The Banjul Protocol was adopted by the Administrative Council at Banjul, Gambia on November 19, 1993 and the Regulations for implementing the Banjul protocol were adopted by the Administrative Council at Kariba, Zimbabwe, on November 24, 1995.

The Banjul protocol in line with the ARIPO’s objectives was adopted to promote the harmonisation and development of intellectual property laws and to establish common services necessary for the co-ordination, harmonisation and development of intellectual property activities affecting its members.

The member states that have acceded to the Banjul protocol include Botswana, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe. The Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe being the latest member state to accede to the protocol. Currently, Botswana, Liberia and Zimbabwe are the only countries who have incorporated the provisions of the Banjul Protocol into their national laws and are therefore the only member states in which an ARIPO trade mark registration may be enforceable. The other member states that have acceded to the Banjul Protocol do not have legislation in place to recognise ARIPO registrations.

The Banjul Protocol provides for the filing of trade mark, either at the ARIPO office, located in Harare, Zimbabwe or at the industrial property office of an Aripo member state, Once a mark is accepted for registration at ARIPO, if no objections from the designated states are communicated to the ARIPO Office within 12 months, the registration shall have the same effect in each designated state as if the mark was filed and registered in such designated state. However, the national laws of each contracting state shall apply for the cancellation of a registration. The mark as registered, is valid for a period of ten years from the filing date. The registration may be renewed for further periods of ten years upon payment of the renewal fee.

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