The African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) hosted Member and Observer States for a Workshop on the Accession to ARIPO Protocols in Balaclava, Mauritius, from 31st May to 2nd June 2023. Hosted in collaboration with Mauritius’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Industrial Property Office of Mauritius (IPOM), and Intellectual Property Rights and Innovation in Africa (AfrIPI), the workshop aims to promote the accession to ARIPO IP Protocols by the ARIPO Member States.

Following the prevailing trends in the uptake of protocols and the year-on-year statistics for applications and registration of industrial and intellectual property, consultations with Member States revealed the need to expound on the benefits lying dormant within the ARIPO Protocols.

The three-day event was officially opened by Mauritius’ Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration, and International Trade, Honourable Soomilduth Bholah. In his keynote address, the Honourable Minister indicated that Mauritius is in the process of considering accession to all the available ARIPO Protocols, citing that “…this Workshop comes at an opportune time to further engage with ARIPO and AfrIPI on the benefits to be derived from accession to these Protocols, especially in relation to our economic development.” Further efforts in the IP Industry by Mauritius were detailed by Mr. Ranjive Beergaunot - Acting Controller IPOM.

Director General Bemanya Twebaze expressed his concerns surrounding the undocumented losses for Member States that may be associated with the delayed uptake of the strategies enshrined in the Protocols. In his remarks, DG Twebaze highlighted that “…joining the Protocols means that users from all over the world will be enjoying protection in the Member States through the ARIPO system. Once a Member State is bound by the Protocols, the ARIPO system will start receiving applications designating that Member State.”

He added that “As these designations keep on growing, the long-term socio-economic benefits will start to be realized, therefore, accession further contributes to the increase of the Member State’s market value for trade and investment purposes.”

Through these, ARIPO aims to harmonize the intellectual property laws and procedures in ARIPO member states, facilitate the registration and protection of intellectual property rights, and promote innovation and creativity in the region toward the Member States’ socioeconomic and technological development.

Representing AfRIPI, His Excellency (H.E) Vincent Degert, the European Union Ambassador for Mauritius and Seychelles gave remarks detailing the EU’s commitment to supporting the development of intellectual property in Africa. He stated that their focus is on “The creation of an environment which enables researchers, scientists, authors, companies and universities to continue producing innovation and Research and Development, which inevitably involves the protection of the Intellectual Property Rights, such as trademarks, patents, designs, geographical indications and appellations of origin, and copyright”, said H.E Degert.

The AfrIPI Team Leader, Ms. Aida Galindo echoed H.E Degert’s sentiment, detailing past and future support activities under the AfrIPI Project scope.

There are five (5) ARIPO Protocols that govern different aspects of Intellectual Property protection in its Member States, and they are undergirded by the founding agreement of the Organization, which is the Lusaka Agreement. 

1. The Harare Protocol on Patents and Industrial Designs: This protocol provides a regional system for the registration and protection of patents and industrial designs in the ARIPO Member States.

2. The Banjul Protocol on Marks: This protocol provides a regional system for the registration and protection of trademarks in ARIPO member states, providing a low-cost solution for obtaining protection in multiple markets.

3. The Arusha Protocol on the Protection of New Varieties of Plants: This protocol provides a regional system for the protection of new plant varieties. Once effective – with your valuable support – Arusha Protocol will enable ARIPO to grant and protect breeders’ rights and administer such rights on behalf of the designated Contracting States. So far, 6 Member States have signed the Protocol, and 3 instruments of ratification have been deposited. 

4. Swakopmund Protocol on the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Expressions of Folklore: This protocol provides a regional framework for the protection of traditional knowledge and expressions of folklore in ARIPO member states. You will agree with me that as a Continent we are rich in traditional knowledge-based resources. The downside is that these resources are now being enjoyed by those that are not the rightful beneficiaries – much to the chagrin of our communities.

5. Kampala Protocol on Voluntary Registration of Copyright and Related Rights: This protocol ensures that copyright and related rights, as well as creative industries, accelerate their contributions to the countries’ socio-economic development while also assuring the creators of the protection of their rights.