The 7th annual Adams & Adams Africa IP Network Meeting took place in Pretoria, South Africa recently, providing a unique opportunity for agents, practitioners and registrars from across the continent to share experiences, challenges, progress and learnings on intellectual property prosecution and litigation in their respective jurisdictions and regions.
The meeting was overshadowed by the recent appalling incidences of xenophobic violence in South Africa, a subject addressed by Adams & Adams Chairman, Gérard du Plessis. “The senseless acts are not only difficult to understand but go against the constitutional values of our nation and our firm.”
Event keynote speaker, Redi Tlhabi echoed the views of du Plessis and recounted her own experiences with the challenges faced by our continent’s citizens, particularly women, every day. She reminded the delegates that raw conversations are desperately needed to help address previous injustices and that the focus should not be to rehash the disputed events, or even dwell in great detail on the causes, but that it should be about the restoration of dignity, rights, identities, and life.
Indeed the following guest speaker, Fernando dos Santos, Director General for ARIPO, explored the strategies required to restore Africa to her rightful place on the world IP stage. He quoted the words of WIPO DG, Francis Gurry, “Ultimately, the source of all innovation and creativity is human and Africa is the cradle of humanity, so it is in this sense the origin of all innovation and creativity that characterizes our species as human beings.”
Currently, Africa only accounts for 0.5% of all patents and 1.9% of all trade marks filed worldwide. He proposed that Africa, particularly IP practitioners, overcome this challenge by assuming their role as stakeholders of the IP system and contribute on:
- IP awareness creation and education
- Improvement of the policies, legal and institutional framework
- Assist local creators and innovators. (e.g. Pro-bono initiatives on patent drafting)
- Improve the image of the African IP systems
- Sensitize the global IP fraternity on the important developments of IP in Africa and promote trust
Breakout sessions included robust discussions on non-traditional trade marks, copyright and trade marks in the digital space, domain name complaints, regional organisations such as ARIPO and OAPI, and the interplay between designs, copyright and trade dress.
Simon Brown, Partner and Meeting MC, hailed the event a great success. “Each year, or delegates are becoming more excited about the future of IP’s role in Africa’s economic growth. And we were reminded this year that it will take a team effort to harness all that is wonderful and inspiring about our continent – toward that common goal of restoring Africa to its rightful place.”