WIPO Welcomes Accession by OAPI to Key Industrial Designs Treaty

Geneva, June 16, 2008

The Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Dr. Kamil Idris, welcomed the accession by the African Intellectual Property Organization (known by its French acronym OAPI - Organisation africaine de la propriété intellectuelle) to the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs on June 16, 2008. The Geneva Act is one of the three treaties that govern the Hague System for the international registration of industrial designs and offer businesses in all participating countries a simple, affordable and efficient way of obtaining and maintaining their industrial designs portfolios.

"The accession of OAPI is an important step towards broadening the geographical scope of the international design registration system", said Dr. Idris. He added “The accession of OAPI creates an interface between WIPO’s international industrial design operations and those of OAPI allowing users to obtain protection in all 16 OAPI countries as well as the other members of the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement by filing one single application for the registration of their industrial designs.”

An international registration submitted under the Hague System will have effect in as many members as identified in the application for registration, except those that refuse protection within the required time-limit. 

OAPI’s instrument of accession was deposited by OAPI Director General Dr. Paulin Edou Edou with the Director General of WIPO on June 16, 2008 and its accession will become effective as from September 16, 2008. Dr. Edou Edou said, "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, but above all for our creators with 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".

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,”.

Under the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement, intergovernmental organizations with an office in which protection for industrial designs can be obtained for the territories of such an organization are able to join the Hague system. OAPI is the second inter-governmental organization to have acceded. The EC acceded to the Geneva Act last January. Following the accession by these two intergovernmental organizations, the Hague System now has a total number of 49 contracting parties covering 70 states. The Geneva Act has effect in 27 of these contracting parties covering 61 states.

The Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement enhances the Hague system by making it more compatible with the procedures for the registration of industrial designs in countries where protection of industrial designs is sometimes contingent on a more complex examination to determine the acceptability of an application, so as to allow these countries, such as the United States and Japan, to accede to the Hague System. 


An industrial design is the ornamental or aesthetic aspect of a useful article, in other words, that aspect which makes the article attractive and appealing. It may consist of three-dimensional features, such as the shape or surface of an article or two-dimensional features, such as patterns, lines or colors. These features add to an article's commercial value and increase its marketability. An industrial design is essentially non-functional; it is something primarily of an aesthetic nature, and does not relate to technical features of an article.

Designs are a valuable intellectual property resource, often determining the success of one product over a comparable one. For example, it is the distinctive "look" of a watch that will prompt a consumer to choose one model over another. In view of this, companies invest large sums of money and expertise in the development of winning designs. The international protection offered under the Hague system is a means by which creators may protect themselves against unlawful imitation. This WIPO-administered treaty offers users a cost-effective and user-friendly means of obtaining protection for an industrial design in any of the countries that have signed up to the system by filing a single application. Without the system, a designer would have to file separate applications in each of the countries in which protection is sought. This is because, as a general rule, industrial design protection is limited to the territory of the country where protection is sought and granted.

Under the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement, contracting parties have a period of six months to examine whether a new international registration can be granted protection in their territory. This period may be extended by a further six months for those contracting parties whose law requires examination of the novelty of the registered design. It also introduced a modified fee system, the possibility of deferring publication of a design for up to 30 months and the ability to file samples of the design rather than photographs or other graphic reproductions. The latter features are of particular interest to the textile and fashion industries.

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