The bricks-and-mortar economy is being replaced with one of ideas in which intellectual property has become a major currency. In the new global economy, wealth is generated through creating and harnessing the value of knowledge and this requires special protection, as Adebambo Adewopo, Professor of Intellectual Property Law, Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies explains...
In December 1982, the Administrative Council of ARIPO adopted the protocol on Patents and Industrial Design, otherwise called the Harare Protocol; this empowered ARIPO to grant patents and to register utility models and industrial designs and to administer such patents, models and designs on behalf of contracting States. In November 1993 the council adopted a protocol on Marks at Banjul, the Gambia that established a filing system similar to the Harare Protocol. Under the Banjul Protocol, an applicant may file a single application either at one of the contracting States, or directly with the ARIPO office and designate in the application those countries where he wishes his mark to be protected.
Further to administering its protocols, ARIPO offers other services towards the advancement of intellectual property in Africa. In order to improve registration and granting procedures it initiated the Polite Projects. This is a software product funded by the European Patent Office (EPO) intended to automate the ARIPO office procedure for administration and management of patent, trademark, industrial design and utility models. It is expected that in due course the project will network all ARIPO National Offices.
ARIPO also has in custody worldwide patent documents. Using its documentation and information retrieval system, it offers the following services:
- Novelty Searches: to determine patentability of inventions and registration of utility models and industrial designs
- State-of-the-art searches: to investigate existing technology in a given field; mainly used for licensing and other negotiation
- Selection and dissemination of information (SDI): this is a periodic technological information delivery service extended to select enterprises and institutions
- Validity searches: for patents, utility models, industrial designs and trademarks
- Similarity searches: for marks and industrial designs
ARIPO activities have gone beyond administering mainly industrial property to include copyright and related rights, traditional knowledge, genetic resources and folklore. It is working on a strategic plan that will include programmes to facilitate the compatibility of copyright management systems of its member states with international standards and systems such as accession to the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT). It is also working on access to international databases and data distribution networks such as the proposed WIPO Africa Copyright Common Network (ACCN), AFRINET and the development of anti-piracy and anti-counterfeit programmes.