On 5 December 2014, the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI), comprising 17 African countries, has deposited its instrument of accession to join the Madrid Protocol, which will enter into force on 5 March 2015.
Thanks to the Madrid System, a brand owner may apply for trademark protection in multiple countries being parties to the system through one international application. This allows applicants to avoid filing a large quantity of national applications and at the same time facilitates time and cost savings.
OAPI’s Member States - Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, the Republic of Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Guinea Bissau, Senegal and Togo - will provide its brand owners with easier access to trademark protection through one international application. It will equally enable international brand owners to cover 17 African countries with one single designation. This accession does not only benefit new trademark applications, but owners of existing registrations will also be able to extend the protection of their trademarks to OAPI.
Nevertheless, for the accession to take effect, OAPI needs to amend its national law to give effect to international registrations; otherwise, registrations designating OAPI will not be enforceable.
As there are no indications when the amendment is to take place, we currently do not recommend that brand owners rely solely on OAPI designation for trademark protection until further notice.
Our trademark attorneys at Dennemeyer & Associates are prepared to provide further advice or assist you in filing trademark applications in the OAPI region and other African countries. Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.