Monday, 4 April 2011

ECOWAS and the Community trade mark

Afro Leo is grateful to Kingsley Egbuonu (Postgraduate, Management of Intellectual Property, Centre for Commercial Law Studies, Queen Mary College , University of London) for putting together this useful piece of guidance on the extent to which some African countries have made use of Europe's Community trade mark system -- which has just celebrated its 15th birthday.  Kingsley has focused on the ECOWAS countries.  As he explains:

Brief overview of ECOWAS

Established by a treaty signed in Lagos (Nigeria) on 28 May 1975, The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is a regional group of fifteen countries (Member States) with a mission to promote economic integration in “all fields of economic activity….” within the region. Almost identical to the EU in terms of its aspirations i.e. (an internal common market), its institution comprises of the Commission, Community Parliament, Community Court of Justice and the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID). Strategically, its two main institutions -- the Commission and the Bank -- are designed to implement policies, pursue priority programmes and carry out pressing development projects in Member States.

Intellectual property features in its policy agenda, albeit in the shadows, due to close cooperation with the EU in recent years (see eg here). To this end, it intends on further consultation in strengthening existing regional IPR(s) management organisations e.g. ARIPO and OAPI for English and French-speaking countries respectively (see here).

Current members        CTMs received/registered, Type and period
Benin …………………………    4/2 (majority = WORD MARK) – 2003-10
Burkina Faso  …………………   Unreported
Cape Verde …………………     2/2 (maj= 100% WORD MARK) 2000-10
Gambia ………………………    Unreported
Ghana …………………………  10/5 (majority = WORD MARK) 2001-11
Guinea ………………………… Unreported
Guinea-Bissau …………………..Unreported
Liberia ………………………… 23/19 (majority = WORD MARK) 1996-2010
Mali …………………………… 1/1 (majority = FIGURATIVE MARK) 2009-10
Niger …………………………   3/2 (maj. = 100% WORD MARK) 1999-2009
Nigeria ………………………… 44/31 (majority = FIGURATIVE MARK) 1998-2011
Senegal ………………………   14/5 (majority = FIGURATIVE MARK) 1999-2010
Sierra Leone …………………….Unreported
Togo ……………………………12/5 (majority = 50/50) – 2009 - 2011

Suspended member(s)
Côte d'Ivoire ……………………21/15 (majority = FIGURATIVE MARK) 1997-2010

Significance

Despite the overwhelming challenges faced by several sub-Saharan Africa countries, their undertakings (Large and SMEs) do value IPRs at domestic and/or international level. These figures however meager, still drives home the message that, the CTM is still the most convenient if not the best asset protection strategy for any undertaking looking to Europe.

As one would imagine, South Africa tops the chart outside West Africa with a whopping, 1,728 registered CTMs (majority = WORD MARK) from period 1998 – 2011.

Nigeria as the dominant force in West Africa as well as an N-11 country, is shown to value IPRs despite its shortcomings at domestic level. Undertakings from the financial and food sector were major proprietors. In addition, this evidence corresponds with the popularity of trade mark law and practice as compared to other IPRs.

Finally, readers would also like to note that the representatives for over half of the above CTM applications were based in the United Kingdom.

Comment

With its institutional framework or potential capacity, ECOWAS should be seen as the proper supra-national organization able to revamp and strengthen IPRs within its region. The EU model (with lessons learnt e.g. co-existence) may fit Africa at a regional level but not continental. Though the last thing anyone would like to see in practice is a Benelux (BOIP) type decision on genuine use.

Source: Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) website, accessed and correct as of 3 April 2011.

3 comments:

Solomon Nkem said...

This is interesting! I hope this would encourage the Nigerian legislature to do more in terms of strengthening the IP laws that we have.

As for enforcement, a third-way may be needed to ensure the system work.

Am I right in saying that Nigeria is not a party to ARIPO or OAPI?

Kingsley Egbuonu said...

Nigeria holds an observer status in ARIPO. That's quite different from being a member.

Nigeria in my opinion should be a member in order to share or show leadership in IP development in the region.

Yes I agree, since e.g. piracy and counterfeiting are not just problems in or of the developing world.

martin smith said...

Hi

Would love to read more regarding actual figures. Do we know in money terms what affect IPs have on a country or in this case ECOWAS, do they use a Frame work from USA or is it internal (externally connecting)

"IP-intensive industries" are estimated to generate 72 percent more value added (price minus material cost) per employee than "non-IP-intensive industries".

Martin Smith
MSc Student
Nott Trent Uni
Engineering Mang