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...
Up till 1962, French Laws governed patent rights in the majority of the francophone Member States of OAPI (l'organisation Africaine de la Propriété intellectuelle). The French National Patent Rights Institute (INPI) was the national authority in each of these States. On becoming independent most of them felt the need for a common body for their territory with regard to conventions on patent rights. Consequently, these French-speaking African countries established the African and Malagasy Office of Industrial Property under the 1962 Libreville Agreement. At a revision conference in Bangui, Central African Republic in March 1977 the present OAPI was created in what is now known as the Bangul Agreement. This agreement was further amended in February 1999 with the establishment of OAPI’s headquarters in Yaounde, Cameroon.
Recognising the important role that intellectual property plays in the development of their member states and appreciating the need to strengthen cooperation between the two bodies in order to facilitate economic integration, the two bodies entered into a cooperation agreement in Harare in November 1996. The agreement commits the two bodies to cooperate in the area of intellectual property, as well as other areas dealing with the development of Africa. They are to exchange experts and information in areas of common interest and carry out joint projects as the need arises. They are also to undertake joint awareness training programmes and inform the public of opportunities offered by the two agencies.
Unfortunately, many countries in Africa do not belong to either of the regional organisations. While ARIPO currently has 16 members, OAPI has 15, but here are 51 countries in the continent. Most importantly some of the countries with the strongest economies, such as Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt are not members. There is still a feeling in many quarters that even though intellectual property is vital to economic development, Africa has not built the necessary infrastructure and technical know-how to be able to take advantage of the various international treaties.