African Intellectual Property Organization, commonly branded by its French acronym (OAPI) is the creation of Bangui agreement, done at Bangui, Republic of Central Africa on March 2, 1977. The Bangui Agreement was revised in February 24, 1999 in response to the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the signing of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).Its headquarters are at Yaoundé, Cameroon. OAPI is composed of 16 (sixteen) west and Central African countries. They are French-speaking countries, (Francophone Africa) or strictly speaking former French colonies. The member states are: Cameroon, Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Congo, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Chad, Togo and Equatoria Guinea. The OAPI territory has about 100 million inhabitants.
OAPI member states have acceded to a number of international conventions with respect to the protection of intellectual property, including the Paris Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the Berne Convention, the Hague Agreement concerning the international deposit of Industrial Designs, the Convention establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization, the Marrakech Agreement establishing World Trade Organization, including the agreement on Trade Related Aspects of intellectual property right known as TRIPS.
OAPI is an organization in charge of implementing normal administrative procedure, resulting from a uniform system for the protection of intellectual property rights, in light of international conventions, member states of the organization have acceded to. The intention of the Bangui agreement union is to set up a uniform system for the protection of intellectual property rights. A system for a single deposit of applications for patents, registration of industrial designs, utility models, trademarks, service marks, trade names, geographical indications, integrated circuits, plant varieties and microorganisms. The states of the union also strive to create a common system of protection against unfair completion. They strive to attain the role of intellectual property in achieving the aim of technological development.
The creation of OAPI is in line with the Paris Convention, which provides in pertinent part, that countries of the Union may make separate agreements between them for the protection of intellectual property, to the effect of maintaining a filing system equivalent to a regular national filing system conducive to bestow a claim for priority rights. Accordingly, any filing of an international patent application that includes the designation of at least one member state shall be equivalent to a national filing in each member state that is also a party to the Patent Cooperation Treaty.
Decisions taken by the Organization on matters involving rejection of application, maintenance or extension of time, requests for reinstatement, and decisions on opposition shall be subject to appeal to the High Commission of Appeal of the said Organization which is composed of three members. Legal questions pertaining to infringement and similar intellectual property matters which require litigation are settled by the domestic courts of each state.
Applications shall be filed directly with the Organization. If an applicant is domiciled in a member state, the application may be filed with the national office of that state, provided however, that the application shall be transmitted to the Organization within five working days from the date of filing. Applicants domiciled outside the territory of the member states must be represented by an intellectual property attorney or agent.
Formal filing requirements for non-PCT Patent applications are as follows:
Formal requirements for International Patent Applications (PCT) are as follows:
Note: Applications based on International Search article 22, chapter 1 of the PCT enters into OAPI national phase within twenty (20) months from the date of the priority claim. However, those based on an International Preliminary Examination article 39, chapter 11 of PCT shall enter in OPAI national phase within 30 months from the date of the priority claim.
Substantive examination is conducted on the basis of a search report obtained from the European Patent Office.
The patent certificate is granted as soon as all administrative requirements have been satisfied, as well as, all the required fees are paid. Nonetheless, at the request of the applicant, the Organization may adjourn the granting of a patent for a period not exceeding twelve (12) months from the date of the application. However, those who benefited from the delay as provided for under the Paris Convention or other international convention to which OAPI member states have acceded would not be in a position to benefit from the right of adjournment.
Duration and renewal.
The Bangui Agreement expressly provides that patent validity shall extend for a basic period of ten years from the date of filing, subject to payment of renewal fees annually, commencing from the date of filing. The ten years period is extendable by two additional periods of five years subject to providing proof to show that the invention has actually been employed in any member state.
In the event a patent invention has not been worked in for a period of three years from the granting date, a compulsory license may be granted on condition of providing cogent evidence to sustain the allegation.
Formal filing requirements are as follows:
Note: A file can encompass 100 (one hundred) designs or models numbered from first to the last. To take advantage from a priority, the latest date of filing at OAPI Office has to be six months after the earlier filing by another office. The priority right relating to prior registration have to be claimed during the application of an industrial design or model registration, and if this is not feasible during the following three months. The priority document has to be translated into French or into English if the original document is written in another language.
Granting Industrial designs.
A period about 7 months from the date of filing is needed to consummate the process to secure an industrial design grant or a model registration.
The OAPI Office will request an applicant to rectify any irregularity within a period of three months; however one month may be added on request.
Duration and renewal.
Five years from the filing date of the application. Renewals are available for two successive extensions of 5 years subject to payment of renewal fees.
Formal filing requirements are as follows:
10 years period from the date of filing and may be renewed for further periods subject to payment of renewal fees.
Business licensing contracts.
Change of name and/or address.