Published Date: January 6, 2022

Zimbabwe hosted the 45th Session of the Administrative Council of ARIPO from 6-8 December 2021 at Victoria Falls.  After last year’s virtual Session, this year’s Session was in a hybrid format with some of the 21 Member States and Burundi (an Observer State) attending the Session in person and a few Member States joining virtually.

The first order of business was to elect the new Chairperson and Vice Chairpersons for the 2022/2023 Administrative Council term. The Republic of Zimbabwe was elected as the Chairperson of the Administrative Council, represented by the Chief Registrar of Companies & Intellectual Property Zimbabwe, Mr Willie Mushayi. Botswana was elected as first Vice Chairperson and The Gambia as second Vice Chairperson.

The 2020-2021 Director-General Report was presented by Mr Bemanya Twebaze and thereafter adopted by the Member States. The language barrier was raised by some Member States, who requested that the official documents be translated to French and Portuguese at next year’s Session.

The Industrial Property Rights Operations Report (1 January 2021- 31 October 2021) was presented and discussed. ARIPO was applauded by the Member States for having minimal disruptions to services during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, Member States raised their concerned regarding the low number of Utility Models and Industrial Design applications and requested a new strategy to increase the awareness of Utility Models and Industrial Design in Member States.  The anomaly of more patents being granted during the reporting period than trade mark registrations was noted.  The top five designated states during the reporting period for trade mark applications was Zimbabwe (15%), Botswana (10%), Malawi (10%), Namibia (9%), and Mozambique (9%). In summary, ARIPO experienced an increase in patent and trade mark filings and registrations from 2020 during the reporting period.

Other documents that were reported and discussed during the Session was the Report on ARIPO Academy Activities, the Report of the Technical Committee on Copyright and Related Rights, the Report of the Technical Committee on Industrial Property which included the Proposal to Amend the Harare Protocol on Patents and Industrial Designs. Our detailed report on the nature of the amendments to the Harare Protocol will follow.

The 18th Session of the ARIPO Council of Ministers followed at Victoria Falls on 9-10 December 2021, which marked 45 years since ARIPO was established in 1976.  This year’s Session was opened by his Excellency Dr Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, who highlighted the important role of IP in innovation in Africa. As a token of appreciation, the DG presented the President with a portrait of when the President officially opened the ARIPO office in Harare on 9 December 2016.

During the Session of the Council of Ministers, three Member States signed the Kampala Protocol on Voluntary Registration of Copyright and Related Rights, namely: The Gambia, Namibia, and Zambia.

The 19th Session of the Council of Ministers will be hosted by Botswana in 2022, the date of which is still to be confirmed.

Christine Strauss