Monday, 8 October 2012

A review of African official IP websites: no.13: Republic of the Congo (RC) and PAIPO


Reviewing the Republic of the Congo (RC), twelve months on, is actually nothing but exciting because this Leo gets to briefly comment on an apparent ground-breaking intellectual property (IP) regional development in Africa since 1979. Like its neighbour, there is nothing to report on how RC plans to develop its domestic IP regime or set up a website for its IP office. 


Pan-Africa Intellectual Property Organisation (PAIPO)
This Leo has learned, from this post by Darren, that PAIPO will be created - while maintaining the autonomy of national offices and the two current regional organisations, ARIPO and OAPI - under the aegis of the African Union (AU). The final draft statute establishing PAIPO will be presented before the 5th AU Ministerial Conference on Science &Technology on the 12th to 16th November 2012, in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo (Afro Leo can see a pattern developing here: remote or obscure countries tend to host landmark international agreements or discussions e.g. Central Africa Republic and the Bangui Agreement, see here). 

Comment
As expected, this move has already attracted criticism from a global health advocate who argues that PAIPO is not only incoherent with AU's and WIPO's development agenda, but also restricts access to medicines in Africa. Having skimmed through the draft, PAIPO appears – in terms of structure - no different from the two existing regional organisations except that it would be supported by the AU – the latter aiming to emulate Europe. However, this Leo agrees that on the face of it, the draft appears to give PAIPO a supranational status to potentially enter into bilateral and multi-lateral agreements on behalf of its members. (Afro Leo wonders, as the case may be, if this will be any worse than what African countries have, in the past, entered into by themselves. For example, the Bangui Agreement which some - in support of a regional system - see as “TRIPS-plus”)

Looking at the vision and objectives of the AU, this Leo is also now slightly confused on who and what to believe after former President Thabo Mbeki apparently said that AU policies do not originate from its Commission. (Afro Leo would like to know who sets AU's policies. He also says, "perhaps, African countries do not need a collective, coherent and responsible voice on global IP issues since they can make-do with open letters by civil society on how to run their affairs before the mighty WTO. This is not to disregard the remarkable achievements by civil society on IP issues in Africa, for instance, this project in Ethiopia.")

But before we all know whether this is a dangerous path, we need to see, for instance: (a) what IP laws PAIPO would go for and whether it would go beyond the already existing 'TRIPS-plus' Bangui; (b) how many countries would sign up for membership; and (c) if some or all do sign up, will the benefits of having a co-ordinator and/or technical assistant in PAIPO, outweigh the negatives for those countries? (Afro Leo would rather see efforts and energy on how African countries can cope or navigate through the same international set of rules which other countries like India (see here, here and here) have managed to utilise for itself, and in the process, have grown a global generics powerhouse. Essentially, there needs to be a great shift in discourse for the pertinent question to be about what resource-rich countries, in particular, can and/or should do for its people.)

In as much as this Leo has mooted his preference (here, here and here) for a robust regional institution championing IP development in Africa, he urges caution as there are lessons to be learned from Europe. We can already see this IP development resembling the co-existent and co-operative European structure: PAIPO acting as EPO and OHIM; OAPI and ARIPO as Benelux IP office; and then national offices acting almost like satellite offices for the "preferred" regional rights. 

Whether the PAIPO will reverse the somewhat decline in activity or complacency on the part of national offices - as we have seen throughout the A-Z series - is something this Leo is keen to observe.



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For the decision on the establishment of PAIPO, see here 
For a Concept Paper on PAIPO, see here 
Report on WIPO’s support to NEPAD, see here 
AU plans to rebrand Africa’s image, see here
South Africa emerging as generic drug powerhouse in Africa, see here
Generic-drug solution for Africa not needed?, see here
Joseph E Stiglitz on IPRs and public health, see here
Can China become an IP powerhouse?, see here
Has TRIPS hindered India?, see here
For TRIPS and Public Health: What should African countries do? see here
EU Commission's Roadmap on Community Trade Mark, see here
On how to Max out on Trade Mark Reform in Europe, see here
For Unitary Patent debate in Europe, see herehere and here
Has the European Union experiment failed? See hereherehere here and here 

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