19 Sep
2018

Digital revolution in Africa: ARIPO unveils groundbreaking free IP database

  • The African Regional IP Organisation (ARIPO) launches free online IP database
  • The centralised platform has trademarks from ARIPO and all of its member states
  • ARIPO DG: database will ‘foster economic growth and development in Africa’

The African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) has launched a free online database as it bids to centralise IP records from across the continent. The move is a groundbreaking one in Africa, as it represents a significant step forward in the digitisation of African IP data, especially in terms of easy-to-access search functionality, and should be on the radar of rights holders across the world.

The announcement event for ARIPO’s Regional IP Database was held last week in Harare, Zimbabwe. The project began in 2014 with the aim of creating a centralised database of ARIPO’s IP records and those of its member states. In turn, then, the database should be able to replace the different standalone IP search platforms operated by ARIPO and 13 of its member states. During development of the digital database, there were three main objectives that ARIPO was hoping to achieve:

  • Enhance the efficiency of business processing and other administrative work at the ARIPO office and those of its member states;
  • Facilitate the accessibility and use of IP information in the region and in Africa at large;
  • Strengthen IT institutional capacity in the ARIPO region and beyond.

In a speech during the launch event (and sent in full to WTR), ARIPO’s director general Fernando dos Santos ostensibly confirmed that each of the objectives had been met. “Technology is an agent of change, and major technological innovations have resulted in paradigm shifts in the way business is conducted. At the ARIPO office we are utilizing IT tools to establish our presence in global intellectual property and to foster creativity and innovation for economic growth and development in Africa,” he said. “The Regional IP Database is designed to serve multiple purposes, including online provision of published IP data, encouragement of regional trade, IP scientific research, IP rights protection and enforcement in the ARIPO region, as well as sustainable development of IP.”

One of the key partners in the project was WIPO, with the organisation’s project manager in the IP office business solutions division Gregory Sadyalunda attending the launch. According to WIPO’s 2016 IP Statistics Report, Africa as a whole accounted for just 0.6% of the total IP designs, patents and trademark applications filed internationally. The new database, according to ARIPO, “will contribute significantly to improve the use and uptake of IP in the ARIPO region, thereby increasing the number of local and regional applications which is still very low”.

As it stands, there is over 400,000 trademark applications and 1,500 designs in the database across the 13 different offices (ARIPO, Botswana, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe). As the below table shows, the most marks come from Kenya, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Tanzania.

Country

Trademarks

Designs

Kenya

74,940

1,079

Zimbabwe

71,235

0

Namibia

54,180

0

Tanzania

44,206

0

Mozambique

36,728

175

Botswana

32,581

69

Uganda

29,971

0

Zambia

28,599

208

Ghana

27,501

0

Malawi

23,124

0

Rwanda

9,176

8

Gambia

7,850

0

ARIPO

2,160

0

For rights holders across the world, the launch of ARIPO’s Regional IP Database is a positive step forward when it comes to the consolidation of trademark data. Users already have access to  the EUIPO’s ever-expanding TMView platform, which today contains 51 million trademarks (including African data including ARIPO and Morocco), while IP Australia is planning to launch an internationally-linked trademark database. This latest offering adds to the array of free options available to users. For service providers, these free platforms could challenge their business models – but equally they could encourage further innovation, which will in turn benefit users further. For practitioners, increased access to free and easy-to-access trademark searches from more and more countries around the world is something to be both applauded and encouraged.

Tim Lince

Senior reporter

tlince@GlobeBMG.com