ETHIOPIA – The Ethiopian Intellectual Property Authority appoints a new Director General

Mr. Weldu Yimesel Baraki was appointed as the new Director General of the Ethiopian Intellectual Property Authority (EIPA) in April 2023.  Mr. Weldu holds a law degree and he previously managed Fana Broadcasting Corporate, an Ethiopian media company.

He is taking over responsibility as the new Director General of the EIPA from Mr Ermias Yemanebirhan Hailemariam (Ph.D.), who assumed that role from November 2017 until April 2023.

We wish Mr. Weldu everything of the best in his new role.

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THE SECOND COUNTRY IN AFRICA TO ‘ACCEPT’ CRYPTOCURRENCY?

The Ethiopian Central Bank issued a directive calling on all operators of cryptocurrency in the country, to register with the Network Security Administration (INSA). INSA is the national cybersecurity agency.

This move by the Central Bank, has been viewed as an indication that the Ethiopian government is ready to partake and develop the cryptocurrency industry and protect its citizens from crypto-related crimes.  The Bank, had previously issued a statement, terming crypto business in the country as illegal.

Ethiopia is only the second African country, after Central African Republic, to take steps towards formally accepting cryptocurrency. This is mainly because cryptocurrency still presents numerous regulatory challenges.

Source: Ethiopia Becomes 2nd African Country to Okay Crypto (cioafrica.co)

Ethiopia’s increase in publication tariffs explained and challenged.

Important Topics:

INCREASE IN OFFICIAL PUBLICATION FEES

The Ethiopian Press Agency recently announced that there will be a sharp increase in publication fees in response to declining economic conditions in the country. The ongoing civil war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, and international developments, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have adversely affected the Ethiopian economy.

The Press Agency’s new tariff affects all publications, including IP publications made for opposition purposes, renewals, recordals, etc. The costs have risen between 40% and 200% depending on the length of the publication.

We are engaging the Press Agency to attempt to challenge the raise on the basis that it may have a chilling effect on IP investment in Ethiopia and to negotiate more reasonable prices for IP-related publications. For more information on this, see the related article on our website here.

Source: ETHIOPIA: Increase in official publication fees – Adams & Adams

ETHIOPIA: Increase in official publication fees

The Ethiopian Press Agency announced a sharp increase in publication fees in response to declining economic conditions in the country.  The Ethiopian economy has been adversely affected by the ongoing civil war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, and international developments, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Press Agency’s new tariff affects all publications, including intellectual property and trade mark related publications made for opposition purposes, renewals, recordals, etc.

Costs for most standard-sized publications have risen by approximately 40-50%.  For lengthier publications taking up more than half of a newspaper page, costs could rise to 100-200%.

Our colleagues in Addis Ababa are engaging the Press Agency directly to attempt to negotiate more reasonable prices for IP related publications.

The Ethiopian Intellectual Property Authority (EIPA) allows for the publication of trade mark and other IP notices in the Amharic language only. To save on publication costs, stakeholders have the option of only publishing notices in the Amharic language, to avoid the duplication of costs that would result from publishing notices in the English language as well.

For any information or queries in this regard, please contact africaip@adamsadams.com

Africa Update 2020 – Ethiopia

Online Trade Mark Filing System Introduced in Ethiopia

The Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office (EIPO), in collaboration with the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) has adopted an online trade mark filing system. The development was borne of an agreement between EIPO and WIPO to modernise the IP system in Ethiopia.

The new system is expected to change the culture of doing business and obtaining trade mark registrations in Ethiopia. There will be less reliance on hard copy records; therefore, the efficiency of EIPO is likely to improve overall.

The online system facilitates the filing of applications for the registration of trade marks. However, the prescribed fees and original supporting documents, such as legalised Powers of Attorney, which are still required, will need to be presented at the Registry by an agent once the online application has been reviewed and approved by an examining officer.

The online filing system will, hopefully, contribute to the issuance of more accurate trade mark registration certificates.

The very first online trade mark application was filed by Adams & Adams, through our Associate Office, on the 8th of April 2019.

Partnership between Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office (EIPO) and European Patent Office (EPO)

The EPO has been expanding its footprint into the continent, signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with various African IP Offices. Recently, the EPO and EIPO signed a Biennial Work Plan, which is aimed at assisting the development of an Ethiopian national patent system, streamlining patent procedures, and building local capacity to ensure efficient and high-quality patent examination. In practice, the impact of this plan has been seen in the way applications filed at the EIPO have been processed and examined.

It appears that the two organisations are also looking into the possibility of entering into a validation agreement wherein patents granted at the EPO can be validated in Ethiopia. This will not be the first validation agreement that the EPO has signed with African Registry. North African countries such as Morocco and Tunisia have signed a validation agreement with the EPO.

The Tiff over Teff – Traditional Knowledge

Recently, the Ethiopian Ambassador to the United States of America, Mr. Fitsum Arega, tweeted that the Court of The Hague had just handed down judgment in a matter in which two Dutch patents, concerning the processing of Teff, were held invalid for lack of inventive step. His tweet continued: “I hope we can learn from this that our national assets must be protected by Ethiopians & friends of #Ethiopia.”

Teff is a nutrient-rich gluten-free grain that has long been an integral part of Ethiopia’s heritage. It is used to make Injera, a pancake-like flatbread, which forms a staple part of the Ethiopian diet.

The Dutch patents were in the name of a company that is owned by Dutch businessmen who reportedly received traditional knowledge (TK) regarding Teff from Ethiopia. According to various media reports, the agreement would see the TK exploited in order to benefit both parties.

However, the businessmen were not party to the agreement in their personal capacities, but through a company that subsequently went insolvent. As a result, their contractual obligations to Ethiopia with respect to the TK were terminated. As such, the businessmen then assigned the patents into another entity’s name and were able to exploit them free of any contractual obligations towards Ethiopia.

In South Africa, the Protection, Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous Knowledge Systems Bill is currently before the National Assembly, awaiting final approval before being enacted into law. The Bill aims to protect South African TK and avoid situations, like the one previously mentioned, where TK is exploited by third parties, for no benefit to South Africa, and without legal recourse.

KEY OPPORTUNITIES & CONCERNS

Opportunities

  • Wise investment policy has given Ethiopia the title of East Afri ca’s largest economy
  • Dynamic foreign policy that brought peace with Eritrea in 2019 and a Nobel Peace  Prize to Prime Minister Ahmed has expedited investment
  • Spending on infrastructure has made Ethiopia East Africa’s air transport hub, introducing modern urban light rail to Africa and boosting industry with industrial parks

Concerns

  • Agriculture land is limited and requires investment in new technology for better yields
  • Ethiopia’s landlocked placement geographically adds to shipping costs
  • Education levels are low and skills tutoring is required for a modern workforce