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Jul 11, 2019 (Newsletter Issue 9/19)
African Continental Free Trade Agreement in Force
On July 7, 2019, the operational phase of the African Continental Free Trade Area has been launched of Heads of State and Government of the African Union. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will be governed by five operational instruments, i.e. the Rules of Origin; the online negotiating forum; the monitoring and elimination of non-tariff barriers; a digital payments system and the African Trade Observatory.

The agreement was adopted and opened for signature on March 21, 2018 and entered into force on May 30, 2019, thirty days after having received the twenty-second instrument of ratification on April 29, 2019, in conformity with legal provisions.

It will be one of the largest free trade areas since the formation of the World Trade Organisation, given Africa’s current population of 1.2 billion people, which is expected to grow to 2.5 billion by 2050, across all 55 member States of the African Union.

For more Information, please check here


Feb 28, 2019 (Newsletter Issue 3/19)
Changes to System Proposed
OAPI proposes changes to the legislation which will affect the OAPI member countries. Two thirds of the OAPI members (12 countries) need to ratify the proposal in order to come into effect. Seven member states have done this so far.

Some of the proposed changes on trademarks are the following:
- The definition of a trademark will be extended to include sounds, music, audio-visual signs and series marks
- Certification marks shall be introduced
- Priority right restoration will be possible
- Trademark applications may be divided
- Substantive examination on absolute grounds to include deceptiveness to origin and genericity
- Trademark application will be published after filing
- Opposition period will be 3 months from publication date
- Claim of ownership’ within 3 months of the publication date of the application
- Cancellation of generic marks possible
- Specific Reference to International Registrations wil be made.

The validity of international registrations designating OAPI however is not yet clear since the Madrid Protocol was never formally incorporated into the Bangui Agreement.

For more information, please For more information, please click here


Okt 30, 2018 (Newsletter Issue 18/18)
Accession to Geneva Act of Lisbon Agreement by Ivory Coast
WIPO informed that the Ivory Coast has accessed to the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications ("Geneva Act of Lisbon Agreement") on September 28, 2018.

The date of entry into force of the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement will be notified when the required number of ratifications or accessions is reached in accordance with Article 29 of the said Treaty.


Mrz 29, 2018 (Newsletter Issue 6/18)
IP Directorate to Be Divided Soon
OAPI’s Directorate of Intellectual Property is to be split into two separate directorates - one for trademarks and another for patents. This follows a resolution adopted at an OAPI board meeting during December 2017. Official notification is expected soon.


Mai 31, 2017 (Newsletter Issue 10/17)
11th Edition of Nice Classification Adopted
The Trade Marks Registry of the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI) announced that from April 30, 2017, all new trade mark applications which are filed at the OAPI Registry, need to conform to the latest edition (11th) of the Nice classification system on the registration of trade marks.


Apr 26, 2017 (Newsletter Issue 8/17)
Trade Marks Office in Congo Currently Closed
The Intellectual Property Office in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is currently closed due to political and civil unrest in Kinshasa. An umbrella group of opposition parties, known as the Rassemblement (“Rally”) has called for a general strike, the so-called “Ghost town operation”, to apply pressure on President Joseph Kabila to enter into negotiations surrounding a power-sharing deal and to permit elections to take place later in the year.

It is anticipated that situations of unrest will continue to arise intermittently during the course of the year and leading up to the scheduled elections.


Dez 08, 2015 (Newsletter Issue 19/15)
Accession to Singapore Treaty
On November 13, 2015, the Director General of WIPO has notified the deposit by the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI) of its instrument of accession to the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks. The said instrument contained the following declarations:

In accordance with Article 29 of the Singapore Treaty:
- "The provisions of Article 6 of the said Treaty will not be applicable to OAPI. According to the said provisions, where goods or services belonging to several classes of the Nice Classification have been included in one and the same application, such an application shall result in one and the same registration.
- The provisions of Article 19(2) of the Treaty will not be applicable to OAPI. OAPI requires the recordal of a license as a condition for any right that the license may have under the provisions of the Bangui Agreement, to join infringement proceedings initiated by the holder or to obtain, by way of such proceedings, damages resulting from an infringement of the mark which is the subject of the license".

The Treaty will enter into force on February 13, 2016.


Mrz 31, 2015 (Newsletter Issue 5/15)
Fees and Licence Recordal for IR Designating OAPI
1. As provided for by Rule 34(2)(b) of the Common Regulations under the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks and the Protocol Relating to that Agreement (“the Common Regulations”), the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI) has notified the Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) that it accepts to collect and forward to the International Bureau of WIPO the fees due under the Madrid Protocol and the Common Regulations.

Pursuant to Rule 35(1) of the Common Regulations, any fees paid to the International Bureau of WIPO should be in Swiss currency, irrespective of the fact that OAPI may have collected such fees in another currency.

2. As provided for by Rule 20bis(6)(b) of the Common Regulations under the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks and the Protocol Relating to that Agreement (“the Common Regulations”), the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI) has notified the Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) that the recording of licenses in the International Register shall have no effect in the territory of its member States.

Consequently, a license relating to an international registration of a mark which has been granted with respect to OAPI shall, in order to have effect in that Contracting Party, be recorded in the Register of OAPI. The formalities required for such recording must be completed directly with OAPI and according to the conditions laid down by the legislation of that Contracting Party.

3. Both notifications entered into force on the date of entry into force of the Madrid Protocol with respect to OAPI, namely, March 5, 2015.


Jan 13, 2015 (Newsletter Issue 1/15)
Accession to the Madrid Protocol
On December 5, 2014, the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI) deposited with the Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) its instrument of accession to the Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks (“the Madrid Protocol”). The Madrid Protocol will enter into force, with respect to OAPI, on March 5, 2015.

The said instrument of accession was accompanied by the following declarations:

The declaration referred to in Article 5(2)(b) and (c) of the Madrid Protocol, whereby the time limit of one year to notify a provisional refusal of protection is replaced by 18 months, and a provisional refusal resulting from an opposition may be notified after the expiry of the 18-month time limit;

The declaration referred to in Article 8(7)(a) of the Madrid Protocol, whereby OAPI wishes to receive an individual fee where it is designated in an international application, in a designation subsequent to an international registration and in respect of the renewal of an international registration where OAPI has been designated (instead of a share in the revenue produced by the supplementary and complementary fees).


Mai 02, 2013 (Newsletter Issue 6/13)
Comoro Islands Becomes a Member
The African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI) announced that the Comoro Islands ratified the Bangui Accord on March 25, 2013. Accordingly, the Comoro Islands is now a full member of OAPI.

Since the Comoros Islands has not yet legislated Intellectual Property laws, right holders who seek to protect their rights in the Comoro Islands can only publish a Cautionary Notice. Therefore, all trademarks filed with OAPI on or after March 25, 2013 will be effective in the Comoro Islands.

As for other registrations filed prior to the said date, they will be granted an extension period automatically on their next renewal after March 25, 2013.

By its adherence to the Bangui Accord, the Comoro Islands brings the total number of Member States of OAPI to 17.

The OAPI’s Members now include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Togo in addition to Comoro Islands.


The OAPI (or AIPO) states are a union of French speaking African countries.
The member states are treated as one state in trademark law. Apart from that there is no national trademark law in the member states. Therefore it is not possible to obtain national registrations in these countries.
Legal basis is the Treaty of Libreville of 1962 (in force since January 1st, 1964) revised by the Bangui Treatment of 1977.
Existing trademarks can be extended to new member states within 18 months.
AIPO/OAPI becomes a member of the Madrid Protocol on 5 March 2015.
Trademark protection is obtained by registration.
Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Comoro Islands, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Togo.
Nice classification, 11th edition
Registrable as a trademark is any visible sign capable of distinguishing the goods and services of any enterprise, including in particular surnames by themselves or in a distinctive form, special, arbitrary or fanciful designations, the characteristic form of a product or its packaging, labels, wrappers, emblems, prints, stamps, seals, vignettes, borders, combinations or arrangements of colours, drawings, reliefs, letters, numbers, devices, pseudonyms.
The following trademark types are registrable: trade marks, service marks and collective marks.
The application is filed at the Central Office in Yaoundé (Cameroon). It can also be filed at the Liaison offices located in all member states.
Multiple-class applications are possible. However, separate applications have to be filed for goods and services.
Foreign applicants need a local agent.
A non-legalized power of attorney is sufficient. The power of attorney must be signed, dated, with the name and title of the signatory inserted.
For each trademark a new power of attorney is necessary. For many trademarks filed on behalf of the same applicant on the same day, a single power of attorney is sufficient.
The application process includes only a formal examination, without indication of possible identical or similar trademarks.
The processing time from first filing to registration or first office action is approx. 9 to 12 months.
After registration, the trademark is published in the official Trademark Bulletin.
The opposition period is 6 months from the publication date of the trademark in the Official Gazette.
An appeal against an opposition decision can be filed by anyone with the High Commission of Appeal. The High Commission of Appeals is a body responsible for ruling on appeals in review for the assignment of titles. Anyone challenging a decision made by the Director General may seize the Commission.

Opposition against designation of International Registrations
member of the Madrid Protocol since March 2015. The legislation of the OAPI (i.e. Bangui agreements) has not been modified to the Madrid Protocol yet.
A trademark registration is valid for 10 years from date of application. The registration is renewable for periods of 10 years.
Practical details on grace periods for trademark renewals are available in our publication here
If the trademark has not been used within 5 years from registration or has later not been used for a continuous period of 5 years, it may be subject to cancellation at the request of any interested party. Use in one member state suffices to satisfy the use requirement for all member countries. Proof of use is no longer required for renewal applications filed after entry into force of the new law on February 28th, 2002.
The official fee for filing a trademark application is XAF 400,000 for up to three classes and XAF 82,000 for each additional class. For claiming colour or coloured trademarks an official fee of XAF 50,000 is added for the publication in colour.
Country Index provides information on the following member states:
SMD Group thanks the following law firms for their assictance in updating the information provided.

Jun 20, 2018
INLEX AFRICA, Yaoundé, Cameroon  


Franck Soutoul

Franck Soutoul
Immeuble Standard Chartered Bank Yaoundé, Avenue de l’indépendance
BP 4057 Yaoundé
Cameroon (CM)
Tel +237 222 21 87 98

Your contact persons:
Mr. Franck SOUTOUL,

INLEX AFRICA is the first French Intellectual Property Firm located in AFRICA particularly in the heart of OAPI region in Yaounde (Cameroon) .

After developing continuously its expertise during 25 years in France, Franck SOUTOUL and Eric Schahl have decided to open an office for the support and protection of their client’s interests in AFRICA.

Therefore and since June 2014, we opened our office in Yaounde (Cameroon), which is supervised by Jeremy GIACOPAZZI (Qualified OAPI Trademark & Patent Attorney).

OAPI system is unique as it affords to the Applicant a single regional title of protection valid in 17 French-speaking African countries namely: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Togo, Comoros.

Thanks to its long experience in France and its European working know-how, the team INLEX AFRICA will be the best representative to reply to your legal or administrative queries, and is able to intervene on the whole African territory, thanks to the opening in October 2016 of 2 hubs in Mauritius (Jinfei Cyber City) and in Morocco (Casablanca).

Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle (OAPI) (AIPO/OAPI)
158, place de la prefecture
B.P. 887
Tel +237 22 20 57 00 or 22 20 39 31
Fax +237 22 20 57 27 or 22 20 57 21