Two separate media reports here and here indicate that Tunisia will host the African Intellectual Property Organisation (OAPI). These reports are indeed confusing since the francophone African Intellectual Property Organisation (OAPI) is based in Yaoundé, Cameroon – atleast according to the contacts page of OAPI’s official website available here.
This blogger believes that the news reports were referring to PAIPO and not OAPI. As many readers may know, PAIPO was established as a specialized agency of the African Union (AU) that would be responsible for intellectual property (IP) and other emerging issues related to IP in Africa. At the Twenty-Third Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union on 26-27 June 2014 in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, the Assembly made the following decision on PAIPO:
1. TAKES NOTE of the Report and the recommendations of the Extra Ordinary Session of the African Ministerial Conference on Science and Technology (AMCOST V) held from 16 to 18 April 2014 in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo;
2. RECALLS Assembly Decision Assembly/AU/Dec.453(XX) on the Creation of the Pan-African Intellectual Property Organization (PAIPO);
3. TAKES NOTE of the Draft Statute of the Pan African Intellectual Property Organization (PAIPO) and REQUESTS the Commission to submit it to the Specialized Technical Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs for consideration and appropriate recommendations;
4. RECOGNIZES ARIPO and OAPI as building blocks for the creation of a single Pan African Intellectual Property Organization and WELCOMES their support in the implementation of the Heads of State and Government decisions on PAIPO;
5. INVITES Member States, WIPO as well as development organizations and partners to lend support for implementation of the decision;
6. WELCOMES AND ENDORSES the offer by the Republic of Tunisia to host the Headquarter and Secretariat of PAIPO;
7. REQUESTS the Commission to prepare road map for implementation of PAIPO in coordination with the host country and to report progress in this regard to the Summit.
In light of these recent media reports, it may be interesting to consider some of the comments made by IP professionals on PAIPO’s founding statute and intended raison d’etre:
” The news that PAIPO is about to be launched (….) after being in the works for such a long time is alarming for two other reasons. The first of these is that although the draft statute has been long in the making, this has not been through an open or participatory process. There has been no public consultation on the continent nor have civil society, academics and public interest advocates been afforded an opportunity to engage with the proposal or participate in the crafting of the statute. (….) Secondly, the AU has not provided detailed information about its deliberations and decisions pertaining to the establishment of PAIPO. It is ironic that African states have been chastising WIPO for not being transparent enough (….) when the same can be said of them with regard to the establishment of PAIPO.
Is it asking too much of the AU to request that it defer the establishment of PAIPO until a more inclusive and transparent consultative process is carried out? Certainly not, these are the same demands African states make of WIPO. Are the calls for a more nuanced PAIPO statute with a preamble that resounds with developmental goals, public interest concerns and an emphasis on the appropriate balancing of stakeholder interests unreasonable or unachievable?” – Prof. Caroline Ncube, Associate Professor at University of Cape Town, Faculty of Law.
“(….)the lack of consultation and transparency in the process leading up to the production (and potential adoption) of the Draft Statute is something that should be condemned. Intellectual property has become a highly politicised issue, and it is imperative that there be an inclusive and transparent process when initiatives of this nature are embarked upon.
My principal concern at this point in time is of a more pragmatic nature. One has to question the wisdom of trying to establish an African centralised registration system. Would the resources which are to be spent in such an endeavour not be better utilised in ensuring that the intellectual property registries and laws of the various African states are improved in order for them to participate in existing international registration systems such as the Madrid Agreement and Protocol, administered by WIPO, for trade marks? There is no cogent argument for proliferating registration systems, and for focusing on, comparatively, parochial initiatives in an era of ever-expanding cross-border trade.
The fact that I spent about 20 minutes on the African Union’s website attempting to find the Draft Statute (and failed to locate it via that route), and that the ARIPO website was unavailable when I attempted to access it, convinces me that this is an ill-conceived initiative, built on structures that have proven to be dysfunctional (and largely ignored), and, therefore, unsuited to warrant the extra resources which would be dedicated to them.” – Dr. Sadulla Karjiker, Member of the IP Unit at Stellenbosch University, Faculty of Law.
“I do not see how Member States of the AU, African IP agents and other stakeholders can be expected to make a rational decision on the benefits of establishing a new continental IP body within the AU, and especially a continental registration Office, if the constitutive Protocol for such registration Office and the implementing regulations have not been formulated. (…) In my view Article 20 of the draft Statute appears problematic as some Member States of the AU do not provide for automatic ratification or accession to a convention or treaty or agreement, or automatic recognition of the legal status of an international body, without approval by the national Parliaments of Member States. (…)
Apart from the fact that the draft Statute does not define what such industrial property titles will be called (African patent, PAIPO trademark, etc.), the establishment of a supranational registration Office would appear to be a costly duplication of the registration function of current national and regional IP Offices” – Ms. Sara Moyo, President, Zimbabwe Institute of Patent and Trademark Agents (ZIPTA)
“The truth of the matter is that the proposal to establish PAIPO is a misinformed and misguided effort by a small subset of policy makers at the AU that undermines other policy initiatives at the AU and by Member States that seek to: (1) minimize the impact of patent monopolies on access to medicines and other public goods technologies, (2) minimize the impact of copyright monopolies on access to educational and cultural resources, (3) preserve the livelihoods and agricultural vitality of small-scale farmers that still make up the bulk of the Africa economy, and (4) retain policy space for other more creative mechanisms that promote both knowledge creation and cultural expression while preserving affordable access to the same.
This wrongheaded proposal must be stopped. Normative agency like UNAIDS and UNDP and WHO must immediately engage AU stakeholders and issue statements cautioning against adoption of the imbalanced PAIPO proposal in its current form. Other AU bodies must demand a review of the proposed legislation and determine its consistency or inconsistency with other AU policy objectives in the IP, health, education, and development arena. African civil society organizations and their allies must insist that the proposal be euthanized and that policy space be preserved for innovation and access measures that better meet human development needs.” – Prof. Brook K. Baker, Honorary Research Fellow, University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban, S. Africa.
The PAIPO saga continues…