Thursday, 31 July 2014

Ghana: IP policy will harmonise IP laws and address infringement

 WTC Accra appoints first MD
Mr. Doni-Kwame. Source: here
Last June, fellow Leo, Caroline Ncube, reported that Ghana is one of those few African countries with an intellectual property (IP) policy - be it in draft or not. Today, this Leo has picked up the news that Ghana's Ministry of Trade and Industry will hopefully approve the draft IP policy, soon. 

GhanaWeb reports Mr. Emmanuel Doni-Kwame saying: "...the draft Intellectual Property policy is ready and the Ministry of Trade and Industry will soon launch it so it becomes official. This will harmonise all I.P laws in the country..." 

This assurance apparently came to light on the day the Ghana Employers' Association (GEA) complained that piracy and counterfeiting are stifling the country's local manufacturing sector and quest to develop a knowledge-based economy. The textile and pharmaceutical sectors are of most concern to the GEA. This Leo also understands that the IP policy, if implemented, will support IP rights owners with enforcement.

ghGreat news! If Ghana can deliver on its IP reforms, then other West African countries might consider following suit. We hope that the policy - which this Leo couldn't find online - will also address the development or needs of Ghana's IP registry. Afro Leo finds it strange that there is a nice website (and perhaps, office) for copyright, but there isn't online evidence to demonstrate the same love for copyright's siblings. Whether this is due to the existence of ARIPO's capacity is anyone's guess.

UK decides against introducing private copying levies

Source: here
Over at the IPKat, Leo-friend, Eleonora Rosatireports that the UK Government will be introducing further exceptions into its copyright regime, but has decided against a 'levy'. Readers may remember that this blog reported the introduction of private copying levies in Nigeria [Afro Leo is interested to know how this is going and whether it's fulfilling the objective. Evaluation in a year or two?]. It's instructive to note how and why the UK Government finally arrived at its own decision. Below is an excerpt on the private levy point:

"Personal copies for private use do not come with a levy

With regard to this exception, the IP Minister started by saying that "[c]opyright law should not stand in the way of people being able to use and enjoy their own property.

However, compared to private copying in other EU Member States, the forthcoming UK exception for "personal copies for private use" will be narrower.

In particular "it will not allow someone to give or sell a copy they have made to someone else, or share copies from their personal cloud; it will not allow someone to obtain a copy from sources they do not own, such as rented copies, broadcasts or on-demand services; it will not prevent copyright owners from using technology to guard against copyright piracy, such as the copy protection for films found on DVDs and Blu-ray discs; and it will not prevent copyright owners from licensing additional services, such as cloud services which allow shared access to content."

Because of its narrow scope, UK Government decided against the introduction of private copying levies [which, for instance, have been recently at the centre of heated discussions in Italy], also on consideration that British consumers would not tolerate them. 

"They are inefficient, bureaucratic and unfair, and disadvantage people who pay for content", said the Minister, who added that the InfoSoc Directive leaves Member States free not to provide compensation where an exception is likely to cause minimal or no harm, or where appropriate payment has already been made. This view is also supported by UK-based IP profs. In any case, as readers might probably remember, the de minimis rule as per Recital 35 to the Directive is among the issues at stake in the pending Copydan reference [Merpel, who likes drama, says: it would be fun if the Court of Justice had a different opinion from UK Government and IP profs ...]."

Is it a levy, or is it a tax, or both? Try here

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Nigeria: Leading IP lawyers (2014), according to WHO’SWHOLEGAL

Image result for nigeria
Law practice in most jurisdictions in Africa can be a very tough business for one or two reasons not prevalent in the developed world. Intellectual property (IP) practice is a different kettle of fish, as we all know. Against all the odds, there are, indeed, IP lawyers who thrive by providing excellent services to IP rights owners and/or their foreign firms/agents. 

Who's Who Legal
Who? What?
WHO’SWHOLEGAL has now published its own list of leading IP practitioners in Nigeria for 2014. [Afro Leo has totally lost count of the number of 'ranking publications' that exist. Good they're all now noticing Africa] Some of these individuals and/or their firms are already well-known; so, we're equally glad to see new names. In no particular order, and as published: 

Name of Law Practice
Name of Practitioner
(1) Abdulai Taiwo & Co
Ladi Taiwo

Abdul-Rasheed Sadiq

Ayo Kusamotu

(2) Jackson Etti & Edu
Uwa Ohiku

Lookman Durosinmi-Etti

Koye Edu

(3) Allan & Ogunkeye
Obatosin Ogunkeye

Marlies Allan

(4) Aluko & Oyebode
Mark Mordi

Uche Nwokocha

(5) Chief GO Sodipo & Co
Professor Bankole Sodipo

(6) O Kayode & Company
Lara Kayode

(7) David Garrick Kayode & Co
Olugboyega Kayode

Theophilus Emuwa

(9) Stillwaters Law Firm
Afam Nwokedi

(10) Abraham & Co
Mena Ajakpovi

(11) Adepetun Caxton-Martins Agbor & Segun
Afolabi Caxton-Martins

(12) Chuma Anosike & Co
Chuma Anosike

(13) George Ikoli & Okagbue
Sam Okagbue

Says Afro Leo, thanks to positive media coverage of economic growth on the continent, African IP is gaining momentum and international prominence day by day. Hopefully, it won’t be long before we start hearing about essential reforms or improvement by government to bring about a more conducive environment for IP rights (e.g. swift access to justice).

SADC & West Africa conclude trade negotiations with EU, any IP provisions?

Following on from our recent post on GI for Rooibos (not forgetting the WTO TFA deadlock), this Leo wishes to round up that the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations between the South African Development Community (SADC), 16 West Africa countries, and the European Union have now concluded. The next stage for all parties is to sign and ratify their respective agreements.

For West Africa, the ECOWAS Heads of State have now endorsed their EPA and urged Member States to swiftly ratify and implement it. The other three regional trading blocs have a little bit to thrash out, albeit that one or a few of the countries within these blocs already have an interim EPA in place. To view the current stage for all the EPA negotiations, click here. [Afro Leo thinks that it’s easier to deal with a basket of oranges than deal with individual oranges, and that the European Commission would probably bite your hand off if you offered it an African Union deal]

Here are excerpts from the European Commission's press release after the acceptance by SADC:

"... It will be very important to consolidate this achievement by signing and ratifying the EPA as swiftly as possible, and no later than October 2016." [Oh, that's another deadline for you]

The members of the SADC EPA group will continue being able to shield sensitive sectors from European competitors in their domestic market. In addition, they can invoke a number of safeguards incorporated in the agreement. This will offer them all the necessary flexibility, so that trade can work for and not against development. Following the same logic, the EU has also taken a commitment to refrain from subsidising its agricultural exports to the region.

In their mutual interest, the EU and South Africa have also reached an agreement to protect a short list of 251 EU geographical indications (GIs) in South Africa and 105 South Africa GIs in the EU. Each side's GIs will benefit from high-level protection while allowing coexistence for already registered trademarks. The EU is also committed to cooperate in the development of geographical indications with the other partners in the EPA...” [Well, South Africa’s Trade and Industry Minister, Mr. Rob Davies, is generally satisfied that this deal will be beneficial to his country’s agricultural sector. Anyway, the EU Commission is planning to extend GI protection to non-agricultural products]

EU-West Africa EPA
Here are excerpts from the European Commission's press release after the acceptance by the 16 West African countries:

“...The agreement fully takes into account the differences in the level of development between the two regions. The EU will provide West African firms with conditions that are more advantageous than those that apply to European exports to Africa. 

In the negotiations, the EU committed itself to open its market to all West African products as soon as the agreement enters into force. In exchange, the EU accepted a partial and gradual opening of the West African market. Only if and when West Africa will be ready to grant more far-reaching concessions to the Europe's main competitors, will the EU be able to claim those same improvements. [The U.S. takes a swipe at the EU? "...European companies have preferential access to Africa’s markets while we are giving African firms preferential access to the U.S. market..."]

Under the terms of the agreement, West Africa will continue to be able to shield its sensitive agricultural products from European competition either by keeping tariffs in place or, when necessary, by imposing safeguard measures. To support local agricultural production, the EU has also agreed not to subsidise any of its agricultural exports to West Africa.

West African companies will also have more flexibility to use foreign components while still benefitting from free access to the EU market.

The EU will complement the market opening effort of the West African partners with a generous development assistance package...”  

This Leo didn't spot any substantive talk or mention of IP. However, looking at previous agreements such as the CARIFORUM-EU EPA, the interim EPA with Cameroon; and the mention of GIs for SADC, one should expect a fair bit of IP provisions in the final text. If SADC and ECOWAS countries have not already wrapped up the IP provisions, then lessons could be learnt from the CARIFORUM-EU EPA. In any case, one would expect any IP provisions to be in accordance with the EU’s IP policy towards least-developing and developing countries.

Lastly, despite the positive statements above, some experts have criticised the EPA - including the October 2014 deadline set for African countries to agree - as detrimental to African economic integration, and their interests with other trading partners. There is also the concern that African countries will lose tax revenues and policymaking sovereignty. Whichever side one sits, the EU Commission was/is quite clear about the objectives of the EPA, one of which is opening up markets. Whether the EPA is more advantageous to the EU countries than African countries will be widely debated. 

Further reading
For a history of the EPA, visit here, here and here
Interim SADC-EU EPA is here
EU doesn’t have the resources to police trade agreements here
Can African countries benefit from GIs? See here and here
Case study for GI in South Africa here and Rooibos is here
IP provisions in EU trade agreements and implications for developing countries, here

Last Updated: 30/07/2014 at 14:00 BST