Fernando dos Santos, Director General of ARIPO, told the INTA Daily News yesterday that the Organization has updated its ICT facilities and has been able to accept e-filing since March this year. The move online has been accompanied by changes to make it easier for users to access the ARIPO database of patents, trademarks and industrial designs registered throughout its member states.
“The system will grow,” said dos Santos. “The idea is that soon we will have a regional database so that users can access the databases of member states. That depends on member states uploading their gazettes, but as of now applicants can read the ARIPO gazette online. Access is free for users.”
IP owners will not be able to file IP rights directly with ARIPO if they are based outside of one of the Organization’s member states, however. Instead, they will need to file them via a local agent. But dos Santos said that they will be able to send their applications in digital format to their local representative, who can then pass them onto ARIPO quickly and efficiently.
The number of trademark applications filed with ARIPO is slowly rising, but is still low compared with the number of applications received by other offices across the world.
“We could do better, but the problem is across the continent, not just with ARIPO,” said the Director General. He explained how the Organization is working hard to build the capacity of IP offices in its member states. It has programs to train examiners and judges, sometimes in partnership with IP offices such as the USPTO.
Dos Santos said that ARIPO representatives had recently met with politicians from across its member states, to impress upon them the importance of IP rights to economic development.
“Legislation is very important but there is a lack of awareness among legislators. That means that IP laws get stuck in parliaments. We want lawmakers to treat IP as a priority and update their laws. In particular, we want to see the domestication of international protocols and legal instruments and specific provisions that make it clear that a trademark or patent granted through ARIPO has the same value as those granted nationally.”
He added: “The continent is rising but to have a better future, more innovation and creativity, we need an improved IP system.”