30 May 2013

Rwanda to become latest Madrid member

Following on from the eagerly anticipated accession of India to the Madrid Protocol, now it is the turn of Rwanda to join up. We will be able to designate Rwanda in a Madrid Protocol application from 17 August 2013.

Rwanda will become the 91st member of the Madrid family. Having joined the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs in August 2011, Rwanda is proving to be keen on international arrangements in intellectual property.

Formerly a German colony and then under Belgian administration, Rwanda has a Civil law system (although nowadays Rwanda is also now a member of the Commonwealth).

This Civil law history should mean its Madrid Protocol membership is automatic and requires no legislative amendments locally (although, of course, the Office of the Registrar General may need to make some operational changes). This does mean that the enforceability of International Registrations designating Rwanda is not in question, which is not the case for many African Madrid members with a Common Law legal system.

Rwanda joins Kenya as the only other member of the East African Community to also be a member of the Madrid Protocol. Rwanda will become the 16th member of the Madrid Union in Africa (although again note the questionable enforceability of International Registrations to some African countries).

Welcome aboard Rwanda!

16 May 2013

Comoros joins OAPI

News from Africa sees the island nation of the Comoros ratify the Bangui Accord to become the 17th member state of OAPI.

I understand the hard copies of the Comoros' accession documents are yet to reach OAPI. It is believed these will arrive soon but there is a little uncertainty pending their arrival.

The Union of the Comoros is due to become a member on 25 May 2013. From this date, applications filed in OAPI will cover the Comoros. Furthermore, renewals filed after this date will then extend the relevant registrations to cover the Comoros.

In the meantime, if renewals are some time away and you wish to protect your trade mark rights in this country, it is possible to file Extension Applications to cover the Comoros. (This is very much different from the CTM system where new members (such as Croatia) will be automatically covered upon their joining.)

Prior to its accession to OAPI, the Comoros was one of the Cautionary Notice countries of the world. If you have published a Cautionary Notice in the islands then you should now look to register these rights at OAPI either by making an application or, if existing OAPI rights already exist, by making Extension Applications (although if these rights are close to renewal you may be able to save some money by just waiting until renewal can be filed).

I have previously speculated that the Comoros may join OAPI because as a small, francophone country it would represent a quick-win to join this organisation. However, it is located between Mozambique and Madagascar in the south west of Africa and will form a geographic outpost of OAPI - they will need to enlarge the map appearing on their homepage. Saying this, Madagascar was a member of a precursor to OAPI, OAMPI.

The Comoros represents the 17th member of the OHADA - Treaty on the Harmonisation of Business Law in Africa to mirror this with membership of OAPI. The Democratic Republic of Congo (for those of you of a certain age, this might still be Zaire to you) is also due to adhere to OHADA. This country already has its own trade mark legislation and has less need to join up to OAPI too (although this did not prevent Mali and Guinea becoming OAPI members in the 1980s and 1990s respectively).

As one of the world's poorest countries, the Comoran government will be hoping that its accession to OAPI will encourage investment to the islands.

Incidentally, the Comoros disputes the status of Mayotte, part of the Comoros islands archipelago but administered by France (at the wishes of its local population it may be said). Mayotte is covered by French registrations (including International Registrations designating France) and, from 1 January 2014, when it will become an Outermost region of the European Union, Community Trade Marks too.

9 May 2013

Morocco to join "TMView" project

The TMView system has been a notable achievement driven by OHIM, as I have opined before.

OHIM have recently announced that Morocco will integrate with TMView. While the International Register is already incorporated within TMView and there are plans are to link this with WIPO's Global Brand Database, this does represent the first time that a non-EU country is to join the TMView project.

Over 106,000 Moroccan trade marks are already contained on the Global Brand Database and these should soon be available through TMView, which is arguably an easier to use tool.

Morocco did apply to join (what is now) the EU way back in 1987 but their application was rejected as membership is only open to "European states". Nevertheless, Moroccan-EU relations are strong and this small step is some evidence of this. Morocco often looks north to Europe; it is the only all-African state not in the African Union.

This development paves the way for other non-EU countries to come aboard TMView. Switzerland is probably at the front of the queue given it is already a part of another OHIM-led project, TMclass (recently rebranded from Euroclass) and already has an excellent on-line database available.