OAPIOrganisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle
OAPI, the Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle, is a union of 17 predominantly French-speaking countries which was formed when the former Libreville Accord (concluded in 1962 by 12 countries) was revised in Bangui in 1977 and the Bangui Agreement was concluded. The Accords of Libreville and Bangui established common intellectual property laws and a single Intellectual Property Office, situated at Yaoundé, Cameroon, to have effect in all member countries.
- Burkina Fasi
- Central African Republic
- Republic of Congo
- Ivory Coast
- Equatorial Guinea
Three principles governed the Libreville Accord, which principles were confirmed in the Bangui Agreement:
- the adoption of uniform legislation to create a uniform system of intellectual property rights protection with a common administrative procedure
- the creation of a common authority to serve as a national intellectual property rights protection office for each of the member states
- the centralisation of procedures so that a single title would issue creating national intellectual property rights in the individual member countries.
OAPI is unique in that its member countries were required to ‘renounce’ their national sovereignty in the area of intellectual property, to afford the right holder a single regional title of protection valid in each country, obtained via an OAPI application and registration procedure. Hence designation of specific countries is not required in an OAPI application, ie all OAPI applications are in respect of all member countries.
In concluding the Bangui Agreement, the signatory countries undertook to accede to the international treaties and conventions as listed in the Agreement. OAPI thus recognises the membership of its members of international conventions and agreements, so that convention priority can, for example, be claimed.
OAPI member countries are members, inter alia, of the Paris Convention, the Lisbon Agreement, the Nairobi Treaty and the WTO/TRIPS.
OAPI trade mark registrations afford protection in all 17 member states.
The Bangui Agreement, in Annex III, provides for the protection of trade marks, including service marks, and for well-known marks. Specific provision is made for the registration of collective marks. In Annex V provision is made for the protection of trade names; and in Annex VI for geographical indications
OAPI member countries are also members of the Paris Convention, the Budapest treaty, the PCT and the WTO/TRIPS.
OAPI patent registrations afford protection in all 17 member states. OAPI member countries have renounced their national IP laws since an OAPI registration will provide the patentee with a single title of protection valid in each OAPI member country. Designation of countries is not required as all 17 member countries are automatically included when an OAPI patent application is filed.
Patent matters are dealt with in Annex I of the Bangui Agreement. Patent applications must be filed at the OAPI office. Alternatively, member states may require that applicants domiciled in the territory of a member state must first file the application with the national administration of the member state. In that case, the application must be transmitted to OAPI by the national administration within a period of five days.
Since OAPI is a member of the PCT, patent protection may also be obtained by way of a PCT application.
OAPI member countries are also members of the Paris Convention, the Hague Agreement and the WTO/TRIPS.
OAPI design registrations afford protection in all 17 member states. As indicated above, OAPI member countries were required to renounce their national IP laws. As such, an OAPI registration will provide a single design title of protection valid in each OAPI member country.
Design matters are dealt with in Annex IV of the Bangui Agreement. Design applications must be filed at the OAPI office or with the Ministry in a member state responsible for industrial property. In the latter case, the Ministry must transmit the application to the OAPI office within five days.
OAPI is a member of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Deposit of Industrial Designs. As such, design protection in OAPI can be obtained either via an OAPI application or via an international application under the Hague, designating OAPI.
OAPI member countries are also members of the Berne Convention, the Rome Convention, the WIPO Copyright Treaty, the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, and the WTO/TRIPS.
Copyright protection afforded under the Bangui Agreement extends to all 17 member states. The provisions of Annex VII cover copyright; the rights of artists, performers, producers of phonograms and broadcasts; and expressions of cultural heritage.
However, the position in regard to copyright in the OAPI member countries is not entirely clear. Although the Bangui Agreement provides for copyright protection, some member countries have retained their copyright laws or have enacted new copyright laws. It is not clear how this dual legal dispensation will apply in practice. Reliable and up-to-date information on the copyright laws and their application in individual countries is not always generally available. The commentary given below is based on the information available at the time of writing.
Plant Breeders' Rights
Although OAPI is not a member of the UPOV Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, the UPOV Convention is listed in the Bangui Agreement as a convention to which member countries are to accede. Annex X of the Bangui Agreement also incorporates UPOV provisions and requirements.
OAPI plant variety registrations and issuance of plant variety certificates afford protection in all 17 member states. Protection can be obtained for new varieties of any kind of plant.
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The OAPI IP Office recently published a notice informing trade mark owners, agents and all other users of the OAPI regional system that the Trade Marks Registry applies the current version of the Nice Classification system as adopted by WIPO, namely the 11th edition (2019 version).