Liberia Joins ARIPO
With effect from 24 March 2010, Liberia will become a member of ARIPO.
Liberia deposited its Instrument of Accession to ARIPO on the 24th of December 2009 for both the Harare and the Banjul Protocols. Liberia becomes the 16th member state party to the Harare Protocol (patents, industrial designs and utility models) and the 9th member state party to the Banjul Protocol (trademarks).
Liberia is also a member of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) since 27 August 1994 and a member of the Paris Union from 27 August 1994.
It will therefore be possible to designate Liberia in an ARIPO application filed on or after 24 March 2010.
The consequences of the accession are affected by the manner in which it is treated under national law and specifically the Liberia Industrial Property Act 2003. That measure was reviewed on this site in August 2009, when we mentioned doubts whether the Act was in legal effect and were intensifying inquiries about the precise position in law and practice. Click here for article. As a result of our research, it has been concluded that the Act which was published in 2003 has not in fact been passed by Parliament. Nevertheless by virtue of an executive decision and with the encouragement of WIPO and ARIPO, it is being implemented in practice by the competent national authorities. In this firm we have taken our own pragmatic decision to recognise that fait accompli and are accepting Certificates of Registration, etc. issued in terms of the said Act.
Specific provisions are made in it for recognition of ARIPO patent and trade mark registrations designating Liberia and the Industrial Property Office is expected to comply with those requirements. However the absence of a formal statute leaves areas of uncertainty including:
- The detailed procedure remains to be ascertained, for processing those applications once received from ARIPO in the Liberian Office.
- The possibility remains of a challenge in court, against the validity of the Act and ARIPO registrations recorded thereunder.
A connected issue is the Madrid, international trade mark registration system. Liberia joined the Madrid Agreement with effect from 25 December 1995 and the Protocol from 11 December 2009. The Industrial Property Office has been recording Madrid trade mark registrations for several years but without references to them in the 1972 law, their validity used to be doubtful. The 2003 Act recognises the Madrid system implicitly, in that international treaties are stated to apply to matters dealt with in the Act and in case of conflict between a treaty and the Act, the treaty is to prevail. Subject to the underlying query about the efficacy of the 2003 Act, the status of Madrid trade mark registrations is therefore clearer, but still open to similar questions as apply to ARIPO, above.
We continue to explore these matters. Productive meetings have been held in Monrovia amongst representatives of the Government, WIPO and practitioners, on the future of Liberian IP law and interaction with ARIPO, Madrid and other IP treaties. Specialists have been appointed to propose detailed law reform and practical requirements. Developments in all such directions will be reported as they emerge.
Spoor & Fisher / Spoor & Fisher Jersey.