World Intellectual Property Organization

OAPI Joins International Industrial Designs Treaty

August 2008

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African designers have invested time, energy and expertise to create designs that have become popular the world over. OAPI registered some 149 such designs in 2007.

The Organisation africaine de la propriété intellectuelle (OAPI) (African Intellectual Property Organization) on June 16 deposited its instrument of accession to the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs. The Geneva Act is one of the three treaties that govern the Hague System for the international registration of industrial designs, which offers businesses in all participating countries a simple, affordable and efficient way of obtaining and maintaining their industrial designs portfolios.

OAPI’s instrument of accession, deposited by OAPI Director General Dr. Paulin Edou Edou, will become effective as from September 16. “OAPI’s participation in this system is designed not only to promote the flow of protection for foreign creations on the territories of our Member States,” said Dr. Edou Edou, “but above all for our creators, who have few economic resources, to make use of the facilities offered by the system in order to obtain protection from the abuses to which they are frequently subject and to benefit fairly from their creative work".

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The designs range from shoes to text material such as these by John Walkden et Cie S.A., a Beninese company.

OAPI groups 16 member states, namely: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Togo. Dr. Edou Edou added, "these countries have only a tiny share of the volume of international trade and for their creators and businessmen, the Hague System offers the opportunity to extend the protection of their creations of form abroad without being subject to innumerable requirements, and this, at lower cost.”

Carving out a Role for the Future

Under the guidance of Dr Edou Edou, OAPI is carving out a new role for itself, in which accession to the Hague system is just a start. Elected in August 2007, Dr Edou Edou’s vision is to create an Organization that “serves as a laboratory of analysis able to grapple the most difficult and complex questions in the area of development and intellectual property.” His goal is to modernize OAPI to make it a catalyst for further growth and development in its member states – a pivotal role defined in the Organization’s mandate.

OAPI’s research has shown that in most of its member states scientific researchers do not think of their work in terms of IP and even less in terms of business development. The case is similar for business developers who do not look towards IP to find business potential or show any interest in institutional research. Scientific researchers, businesses, and IP titles seem to exist in separate worlds rather than as complimentary pillars that work in harmony toward a country’s economic development.

Over the next five years, OAPI plans to tackle the challenge of bringing IP to market. The Organization wants to promote the exploitation of IP and fill the economic void that results from the inability to bring IP to market or the inability to transform IP into an economic asset. The solutions already exist. OAPI is working to identify the most suitable to its circumstances and environment, and to use them to help turn IP titles into IP assets.

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