Our services cover countries of three regional unions, in addition to some countries in the Middle East and North Africa as indicated in the list of countries covered by our services. The three regional unions are: First, the African Regional Industrial Property Organization (ARIPO) which is composed of the following fifteen member states namely, Botswana, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Second, the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI) which is composed of sixteen member states namely, Cameroon, Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Congo, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Chad, Togo and Equatoria Guinea. Third, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states namely, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman. Countries of the Middle East and North Africa which are covered by our services are: Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, and Yemen as indicated in the list of countries.
Our firm is in a position to offer direct, efficient services in the identified regional intellectual property unions and countries. Equipped with capability to cooperate with our overseas group of associate attorneys, coupled with an understanding of the legal systems of the Middle East and Africa, and familiarity with traditions and awareness of the points where they differ, our firm is in a position to offer direct, efficient services in the identified regional intellectual property unions and countries.
It is in order to indicate that the countries covered by our services fall within the categories identified by WTO Agreement on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) as developing i.e. transition economies and least developed countries (LDCs). These countries were allowed transition periods to bring their legislations in line with the provisions of the TRIPS Agreement. The changes required in domestic legal systems embrace the expansion of intellectual property protection as to cover protection in new areas such as biotechnology, integrated circuits, music and computer programs where computer software bootlegging is likely to occur.
The intensification of enforcement means is challenging. This may be attributed to a number of reasons such as resource allocation, insufficiency of institutional capacity, lack of ample special and differential treatment provisions in the TRIPS as regards the minimum rules for IPR protection, lack of legally binding rules as regards commitments by developed countries to sponsor technology transfer and technical and financial assistance to developing and LDCs, rudimentary comprehension of IPR at least among a subset of developing and LDCs, and the comparatively small size of the market. This implies that the balance of cost and benefit of IPR is likely to differ among countries at different stages of development and here the question of political will is likely to interpose, however, international agreements have direct consequences on nations that are signatories to such agreements. Countries falling short to comply with the TRIPS standards would be susceptible to trade retaliation, if the dispute settlement system of the WTO has resolved the persistence of a case of non-compliance with the TRIPS Agreement.
The transition periods which are still remaining are those exceptions granted to LDCs. These exceptions are envisaged to be met by 2006 to the effect that LSCs are expected to provide patent protection in all areas of technology. However, by virtue of the Declaration of the fourth WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar of 9-13 November 2001 under the “Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health”, LDCs were given a further extension to 2016 to implement the TRIPS provisions on pharmaceuticals and agricultural chemical protection. Yet, LDCs countries must accept filing of patent applications on the basis of what is called the “Mailbox provision”, however decisions as regards grants may be delayed until expiry of the transition period or any extension thereof. The procedure aims at maintaining the novelty of drugs that may be invented between 1995 and the end of the transition period. Patent applications must be stocked up until the transition period expires. After expiry of the period, mailbox applications will be examined according to TRIPS standards; and in the event of grant the patent term which begins from the date of filing, will last for what remains of the 20 years. Accordingly, copies of patented drugs will stay in the market, nevertheless it would not be feasible to manufacture and market copies of new patented medicines in any country, unless the owner elects not to take any patent protection in that country.