First, Afro Leo would like to use this opportunity to thank readers for joining with him in sharing moments of excitement as well as enduring despair throughout the A-Z series. On a personal note, this Leo is grateful for the emails and Twitter messages that he received during his tour across this continent, which is endowed with natural beauties and resources; extremely diverse, even within each country, and home to some of the world's fastest growing economies.
It is now just over 12 months since this Leo took on the challenge to tour all 54 countries in Africa -beginning with Algeria and ending with Zimbabwe - in search of their intellectual property (IP) offices online. Over these months, you would have gathered that each week's conclusion was clearly inconsistent with conclusions drawn from other weeks: one week may be exciting, while another is clouded with despair and/or perhaps, measured, when other factors are put into consideration.
All Afro Leo wanted to experience on this tour was a 'decent' website. ["So what do you mean by a 'decent' website?", Afro Leo asks] Basically, this Leo is thinking of a website which is not only instructive to users --be it IP owners or their representatives-- but also treats them like customers. Another feature which this Leo particularly admires is a functioning database of registered IP rights which generally helps in IP due diligence.
Without naming them, certain countries disappointed -- in particular, those that are well-positioned in economic and social terms, to accrue the benefits of a better tailored but organised IP regime – one or two met the required expectation, and a handful exceeded expectation. But the key observation in the series was the apathy among most members of the two regional IP organisations, OAPI and ARIPO, to ensure their IP offices own and/or maintain a 'decent' website. This, Leo hopes, is not complacency on the part of these member countries or a national office decline due to the existence of the regional system. And, for those that disappointed, one can only speculate as to the reasons why we found no website at all for some and, where we found one for others, it appeared inadequate. Are these offices not just bothered at all to own and/or maintain a decent website? Or is funding and/or human capital an issue?
This Leo is not just aware that you trust computers or IT in general at your peril (see recent examples here and here), but also that having a website is not a panacea for the state of IP in these countries. In addition, we must never lose sight of the fact that advanced economies once had IP offices without websites [Afro Leo thinks this is providing the ammunition of 'unwarranted' excuses or defences and even complacency]; so, perhaps, this Leo might have to make himself a bit more useful by finding out how these advanced economies coped before the advent of the internet [Afro Leo says, "good luck with that"]. Nevertheless, he hopes readers can agree with him that since we now live in the digital era, a website for the IP and business names registry should be seen as a necessity in order to ensure an orderly and fair environment for commerce.
Coming soon: a detailed analysis and consolidation of my findings, but for the moment, what do readers think?
Algeria: a year on and what has changed?
Last year, we found functioning websites for both the copyright and the industrial property offices in Algeria. Nothing has changed on National Office of Copyrights and Related Rights’ (ONDA) website apart from visitor numbers to the site which has grown from 601,000 to over 657, 000.
Afro Leo continues to admire how INAPI keeps its users informed with changes, seminars and so on; but he would also like to see either office or both, utilise social media for user interaction.