African Countries Updating IP Laws - The WIPO Initiative

In an article New IP Law in Cape Verde published on this site on 1 November 2006, we told of the revival in Cape Verde of a Portuguese IP code dated 1940 and proposed new IP legislation there. We are happy to reveal that the new Cape Verde Industrial Property Code was brought into effect by Legislative Decree No. 4/2007 on 20 August 2007, supplemented by Decree No. 22-2007 of 27 August 2007.

The Decrees provide a consolidated law relating to: Patents; Utility models; Trade and service marks including collective marks; Designs/models; Topographies of integrated circuits; Commercial names/insignia; and Appellations of origin - geographical indications. We are reviewing its details in comparison with the corresponding national statute of Portugal which it is said to resemble. It is however clear that the transitional provisions allow trade mark applications filed under the 1940 Code to be processed under the new system and further, importantly, that trade mark registrations made under the old Code are recognised.

The November 2006 news about Cape Verde appeared also in that month’s issue of Managing Intellectual Property ("MIP"). In the April 2007 MIP briefing we reported that Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda were likewise preparing new intellectual property legislation. That process is still under way, at least so far as Burundi and Rwanda are concerned. Unlike those two countries whose drafts are on the standard WIPO model, the current proposal for Uganda resembles the United Kingdom Trade Marks Acts before 1994. There may be a pause in Uganda whilst that factor is considered, together with the East African Community’s wish to harmonise the relevant laws of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, which have diverged in recent decades.

The developments described above reveal a campaign by The World Intellectual Property Organization as an agency of the United Nations, dedicated to developing an international IP system and making all countries TRIPS-compliant.[1]

The same influence is increasingly apparent elsewhere in Africa and surrounding islands. For example Mauritius is considering a draft Act on Industrial Property Rights and Their Enforcement For the Republic of Mauritius, promoted by the WIPO International Bureau. If adopted, this would repeal that country’s Patents, Industrial Designs and Trademarks Act and Protection Against Unfair Practices (Industrial Property Rights) Act, which have only been in force since 2002, and would substitute a unified body of law covering all headings of intellectual property. The text includes a codification of the powers of the Court and detailed enforcement provisions including border measures. Its tenor and evident intention are similar to the proposals for Rwanda and Burundi. Some Mauritian authorities are in favour of the WIPO offering and observations by practitioners (including Spoor & Fisher Jersey) are being considered.

Within the same initiative, Zanzibar is part of the United Republic of Tanzania but has its own laws on IP amongst other subjects. The existing Trade Marks Decree reflects UK law before 1938 and patents are protected by re-registration of UK rights. The WIPO team has presented and discussed a draft, consolidated Act on Industrial Property Rights and their Enforcement for Zanzibar. It resembles the Mauritius version closely. The Law Officers are reviewing it and Spoor & Fisher Jersey has also submitted some views. The influence of the East African Community may, however, become a factor in Zanzibar as in Uganda.

[1] See "What is WIPO? at http://www.wipo.int

Date published: 2007/11/12
Author: Mac Spence

Tags: ip laws wipo african countries