African Intellectual Property Organization

African Intellectual Property Organisation known more commonly by its acronym (OAPI) was established through the Bangui Agreement and is headquartered at Yaoundé, Cameroon with 16 member states;

Cameroon, Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Congo, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Chad, Togo.

OAPI is a treaty for the registration of patents and designs in the African Region mostly French speaking Countries with the intent of harmonising laws related to Intellectual Property amongst these member countries to OAPI.

However, understanding the functioning of OAPI to a great extent helps in choosing one’s options in protecting IPR of which patents and designs form an important element in a business undertaking.

OAPI has ratified WTO TRIPS treaty on industrial property rights to come on par with global regimes.

OAPI’s aim & objective is to enhance creativity and the protection of the intellectual property rights to ensure investment, facilitate technology transfer thus contributing to the economic growth of member states.

The procedures for obtaining industrial property rights such as patents, trademarks, products or services, securities in the OAPI are centralised at the OAPI regional office which are valid in all the 16 member countries.

Filing of applications directly with the OAPI office at Yaounde or with branch offices situated in any of the 16 member states is at par with all of the states.

However, infringements of Industrial Property Rights shall be dealt by courts of each member states where infringement occurs. Such adjudications are valid and authoritative in all the member states excepting those adjudications based on public order and morals. Registration Process:

  • The applicant may file patent and design applications directly at the OAPI office in Yaounde, Cameroon or via the Industrial Property Office of the contracting member countries as mentioned above which is known as the Receiving Office.
  • The applicant may file the application himself / herself or through an authorised representative such as an attorney. Applicant will have to mandatorily file the application through a representative when the applicant’s principal place or residence or business is outside the Contracting State.
  • Filing date will be the date of receiving the application which could be either at the OAPIO office Yaounde or at the branch office.

Other Processes:

Matters pertaining to:

– Rejections

– Maintenance

– Extensions of time

– Reinstatements

– Oppositions Are the subject matter of the High Commission of Appeal of OAPI which is a panel of 6 members.

Matters pertaining to:

– Infringement

– Litigation

Are the subject matter of the Domestic Courts of the respective designated Contracting Member Countries. Scrutiny Process:

  • Upon receipt of the application at the OAPI Office, the application is scrutinised regarding formality compliances. In the event objections found by the examiners, the applicant is informed regarding the same to which the applicant has to respond within the prescribed time as indicated, if not the application is deemed abandoned by the office.
  • Post formalities examination, patent applications are subjected to substantive examination pertaining to novelty, inventive steps, industrial applicability. Application Process:
  • The patent and design applications can be filed through a legal practitioner having the authority to represent applicant before the receiving offices of the contracting member countries.
  • A valid Power of Attorney is required at the time of filing of the application.
  • Parity Patents’ attorneys are able to help you with the application and registration processes. Priority:
  • Applicants can claim priority of an earlier application filed in a convention country within 6 months for design applications from the filing date of such application.
  • Applications for patents should comply with regional phase entry within 31 months
  • It is important that, the applicant furnish priority details of the earlier application within 2 months of filing of the design applications at the OAPI office.

Registration and Publication:

Upon the design or patent being granted, it shall be recorded in the register and published in the OAPI journal

Term of Registration:

Designs are protected for a term of 15 yrs. from the date of filing of the application with OAPI. Patents are valid for 20 yrs. from the date of filing of the application with OAPI.

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