There are currently 19 States which are party to the Lusaka Agreement and therefore members of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO). These are: Botswana, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
ARIPO patents, utility models and industrial designs are governed by the Harare Protocol on Patents and Industrial Designs and Regulations whilst the ARIPO trade marks are governed by the Banjul Protocol on Marks and Regulations. This was updated on 17 November 2015 and has led to the implementation of various developments including fee increases from 1 January 2016.
The definition of a ‘mark’ has also been expanded to include ‘a sign, name, word, device, brand, heading, level signature, letter, numeral or a combination thereof’. Another welcome development will be launch of electronic filings, expected in near the future.
The ARIPO system covers all Member States but the regional system complements the national industrial property system of its Member States. The sovereignty of Member States remains with each designated State having a significant say as to whether any industrial property right given by ARIPO would have effect in the State concerned.
Generally, it is a recommended route when looking to obtain patent and design registrations in the Member States. However, this is not the case with trade mark protection and it is often advised not to rely on an ARIPO trade mark registration and rather apply for protection in the individual states.