Current Edition

Intellectual Property Matters for Economic, Social, Technological, Scientific, and Industrial Development

Q: SPL – Please tell us about ARIPO. Why was ARIPO formed and what are your core functions and visions of ARIPO?

A: The African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) is an intergovernmental organisation established on 9 December 1976 under the Lusaka Agreement signed in Lusaka, Zambia. It facilitates cooperation among Member States in intellectual property matters to pool financial and human resources and seek technological advancement for economic, social, technological, scientific, and industrial development.

ARIPO’s Vision is to be Africa’s leading intellectual property organisation that promotes socio-economic development. The mission is to foster creativity and innovation for the socioeconomic growth of our Member States through an effective intellectual property system.

Membership in the Organisation is open to all the States members of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) or the African Union (AU). Currently, there are twenty-one Member States, namely, Botswana, Kingdom of Eswatini, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Kingdom of Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The Republic of Cabo Verde is to become ARIPO’s 22nd Member State. On the 7th of January 2022, the Cape Verdean Parliament approved the country’s accession to the Lusaka Agreement, Banjul, and Harare Protocols. On the 27th of January, 2022, the Parliament further approved the accession to the Swakopmund Protocol. The Instruments of Accession were deposited with the ARIPO Director General on 14 July 2022 at a ceremony held at the Embassy of Cape Verde in Geneva, Switzerland, in the margins of the 63rd WIPO General Assemblies.

Substantive activities of the Organisation are implemented through three treaties, each focusing on a specific field of intellectual property. These treaties are the Harare Protocol on Patents and Industrial Designs, the Banjul Protocol on Marks, and the Swakopmund Protocol on the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Expressions of Folklore. The other treaties are the Arusha Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants and the Kampala Protocol in Voluntary Registration of Copyright and Related Rights. The two Protocols are yet to enter into force.

The protocols were established to form legal frameworks to supplement national frameworks. Currently, the Harare and Banjul Protocols are active, thus, the article will seek to explore the usage of the Harare and Banjul Protocols.

The Harare Protocol empowers ARIPO to grant patents and register industrial designs and utility models on behalf of the contracting States. All Member States of ARIPO, except for Somalia and Mauritius, are party to this Protocol. The Harare Protocol also incorporates other international treaties of relevance, such as the Paris Convention and the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), enabling applicants from the African region and elsewhere to file international applications and obtain the protection of their intellectual property rights. The Harare Protocol has also been linked to the Budapest Treaty, which enables applicants to provide information on new micro-organisms claimed in patent applications.