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02 Jun 2020
BY Ilse du Plessis

Trade marks in Africa: Mozambique joins ARIPO

The big news in African IP has been the announcement that Mozambique will be joining the ARIPO system for trade marks (it has been a member of the system for patents for some time). Although the announcement was made on 15 May 2020, the development will only come into effect on 15 August 2020. For the benefit of those who are not that familiar with African IP, some background follows.


Africa comprises more than 50 independent states. Although it is possible to get national IP rights in many African countries, a particular feature of African IP is the fact that it has two regional IP registration systems. These systems are Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle (African Intellectual Property Organisation (“OAPI”) and the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (“ARIPO”) and they are quite different.

OAPI applies in what are primarily French-speaking countries and it covers a wide spectrum of IP rights including patents, trade mark and designs. OAPI could be described as a single-registration system, which means that an IP owner gets protection in all the OAPI member countries through a single application that’s filed at the OAPI head office, situated in Cameroon. OAPI member countries are Benin, Burkina-Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Togo and the Union of the Comoros.

ARIPO primarily applies in English-speaking countries and it also covers a wide spectrum of IP rights. Whereas OAPI is a system that allows a company to get a single registration covering all the member countries, ARIPO is a system that allows an IP owner to get registration in some or all of the member countries through designation.

ARIPO trade mark member countries are Botswana, Eswatini (Swaziland), Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Uganda, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

ARIPO patent member countries are Botswana, Eswatini (Swaziland), Gambia, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Features of the ARIPO system

Here are some basic features of the ARIPO system for trade marks:

  • the system allows for multi-class filing
  • each designated country has a period of 12 months to refuse protection (for example, on the basis of prior rights)
  • a refusal can be contested
  • a country designation can be converted into a national application
  • there is provision for third-party opposition
  • there is provision for subsequent designation of further countries after registration

Although the ARIPO system is frequently used for patents, the uptake has been weak when it comes to trade marks. There has been some serious reservations about the system in the context of trade marks. The main concern has been about the validity and enforceability of ARIPO registrations in so-called “British-law countries, and in particular, those that have not specifically incorporated ARIPO’s founding document, the Banjul Protocol, into their national legislation.

Having said that, we are not aware of any ARIPO registration that has been found to be invalid on the grounds that the Banjul Protocol has not been incorporated in the national IP legislation. It’s also worth noting that a number of ARIPO member countries, which might be regarded as being British-law countries, have specifically incorporated the Banjul Protocol into their national legislation over recent years. Botswana did so by way of the Industrial Property Act, 2010; Namibia in its Industrial Property Act 2012; and Zimbabwe in the Trade Marks Amendment Act, 2001.

ENSafrica’s IP experience of the ARIPO system has been very positive. We have an office in Namibia which handles our ARIPO filings locally. If you’d like any further information about ARIPO IP filings, or any other African IP issue, please contact us.


Ilse du Plessis

IP | Trade Mark Attorney | Executive

+27 82 411 7547