intellectual property (IP)
BY Pravin Barthia
Mauritius to strengthen protection of IP rights
There have been some encouraging developments following Mauritius’ announcement that it planned to strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights (“IPR”), amid global concerns. For example, much-awaited amendments to industrial property law, including incorporating international treaties, have been effected.
As a result, the government’s vision of an efficient and equitable IP system may come to fruition this year. The interdependence of countries for trade and commerce is increasing, and harmonisation of laws relating to these areas needs careful attention. In line with this vision, Mauritius is emphasising IP promotion in new industrial policy to be finalised shortly.
The country’s IP legislation dates back to the 19th century. The initial industrial property statutes were the Patents Act, 1875 and the Trade Marks Act, 1868. As a member of the World Trade Organization (“WTO”), Mauritius is obliged to comply with the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (“TRIPS”) Agreement, which came into effect in 1995. The following industrial property statutes were enacted:
- The Patent, Industrial Designs and Trade Marks Act, 2002 (in force)
- The Protection Against Unfair Practices (Industrial Property Rights) Act, 2002 (in force)
- The Geographical Indications Act, 2002 (this Act never came into force)
- The Layout Designs (Topographies) of Integrated Circuits Act, 2002 (this Act never came into force)
Legislation on industrial property in Mauritius is undergoing review. The government’s ambitions are to promote innovation and enhance a legal environment that keeps abreast with international trends, thus making Mauritius a platform with a sound legal framework to protect IP rights. Draft legislation has been prepared to amend existing legislation to ensure compliance with international obligations and enact laws on utility models, layout designs of integrated circuits, plant breeders’ rights and geographical indications.
The Industrial Property Bill, which was recently published, takes account of the need to modify Mauritius’ IP legislation to comply with the WTO/TRIPS Agreement, to incorporate international agreements subsequent to TRIPS and to advance the economic and social development of the country. The main objective of the Bill is to update IP legislation in line with international trends and treaties. In relation to international developments in industrial property law, the Bill contains provisions to accommodate the Patent Cooperation Treaty (“PCT”), the Madrid Protocol on Trade Marks and the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement on Industrial Designs. These require Mauritius to accede to these international conventions and the Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (“UPOV”) Convention.
The Bill consolidates all IP-related issues in one statute, making it more user friendly and accessible. The framework for the Bill consists of five main parts:
- patents, utility models, Patent Cooperation Treaty
- layout designs
- protection of new varieties of plants
- industrial designs, the Hague Agreement
- marks, trade names, geographical indications, Madrid Protocol
The Bill covers a wide range of industrial property titles, and the authorities may decide to implement them gradually.
Reviewed by Thierry Koenig SA, head of ENSafrica in Mauritius.