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Delegates meet to analyse the state-of-play of Intellectual Property management and legislation on the continent.

What are we as professionals doing to preserve the legacies and intellectual capital of Africa? This was the question that renowned actor, director, writer and playwright, John Kani, asked the intellectual property law professionals who had gathered for the recently held 4th Africa IP Network Meeting at the offices of Adams & Adams in Pretoria. Kani, who was opening the Meeting as Guest Speaker, captivated the audience with stories of his upbringing and of his time in Hollywood – including his latest role as an African monarch in the Marvel Captain America film franchise.

“I was cast as an African monarch in a fictional North-African kingdom, and I asked them very nicely whether I could speak Xhosa instead of that ‘Tarzan’ dialect that Hollywood loves so much,” he jokes. “We need to think carefully about how we protect and advance our continent’s rich history, legacy and inherent intellectual property.” It was a sobering thought for the delegates. Adams & Adams has been particularly active in the area of Legacy Intellectual Property rights, with recent work being undertaken for the Steve Biko Foundation by Partner, Darren Olivier, and his team. READ DARREN’S AFRICA NETWORK BLOG ENTRY HERE. 

In welcoming the attendees, both Chairman, Gérard du Plessis and Partner, Simon Brown, stressed the importance of IP law professionals and IP administrators in sharing their experiences and updates on IP developments and legislations as the firm and its associated offices continue to develop best practice IP strategies for clients.

Then it was down to business as the Meeting discussed and debated industry matters such as IP commercialisation, the handling of opposition IP proceedings in multiple jurisdictions, and registry practices and search capabilities.

High on the agenda was the issues currently being experienced with the Madrid Protocol – a system of international registrations, administered by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) that allows for the centralised registration and management of trade marks. Of the 37 African territories that are currently members of the Madrid Agreement / Protocol, only seven have properly “domesticated” the protocol through appropriate amendments to their national trade mark legislation, together with the implementation on enabling regulations. Speaking at a recent Madrid system think-tank at Adams & Adams, Partner, Stephen Hollis noted that “one of the core issues with the national applicability of IP treaties such as the Madrid Protocol is that additional direction, procedures and mechanisms need to be put in place, on a national level, to ensure that the national IP Office is equipped to deal with and process International Registrations and also how to deal with objections, oppositions and so forth. Even national trade mark legislation is not considered to be enacted properly until the so-called ‘enabling regulations’ have been promulgated. Enabling regulations supplement and complete trade mark legislation by formally determining the processes and procedures through which the provisions of the legislation can be practically implemented and fulfilled by the national trade marks office concerned.”

Strategies to deal with Madrid, as well the current implementation of the Industrial Property Automation System (IPAS) system in registries across the continent, were also discussed; followed by regional updates from Associates from offices in Egypt, Ghana, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

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