Not the only regional ogre: does EPO have a soul-mate in OAPI?

If you thought that the European Patent Office (EPO) was the only international intellectual property administration that was coming under the scrutiny of an increasingly critical world for behaviour that ill befits its status, think again: the African Intellectual Property Organization -- better known by its French acronym OAPI -- seems to be suffering from the same malaise. From Katfriend Tove Graulund comes this report:
"I have been following the doing and possible undoing of OAPI's ratification of the Madrid Protocol [on the registration of international trade marks]. As an in-house person at heart, I am big fan of the Protocol and am always pleased to see a new member join the family. News items then began to come out about how attorneys were objecting to the ratification and saying that OAPI was not able to ratify without the explicit approval of its 17 member states. It looked as if the attorneys were objecting for the sake of objecting. Later news emerged that they had formed an organisation against the ratification, and I was quite pleased when I saw that OAPI standing up to the objections and not giving ground.

But then I heard that OAPI had moved to exclude an attorney from being authorised to represent clients before OAPI and that OAPI had contacted the firm that employed the attorney in question, telling the firm that, if it did not dismiss the attorney, the entire firm would be removed from the list of accredited firms. And what is more, OAPI was saying that it was actively trying to find out who else was a member of this organisation. I suspect that if/when OAPI finds out, these people will also be fired.

Recently news came out that the International Trademark Association (INTA) cannot become involved in the question of the legality of the ratification. Of course, INTA cannot. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) does not seem to be able to do that either, and I suppose that this is correct because it is to do with national law and/or regional treaty.

Not safe to speak?
But this is far more serious than the Madrid Protocol, and I am frankly surprised that no one seems to have reacted. OAPI's actions go against freedom of speech and, while it may be a nuisance to have to counter objections, it goes against any sense of justice to demand the dismissal of a person who is simply expressing his opinion. We may agree with what they say or not, but they have a right to speak their mind. Perhaps this is an expression of a cultural difference, but we should expect more. OAPI should stop chasing attorneys and instead start teaching them how to use the system and the benefits, and the member states of OAPI need to step up and declare publicly whether they support OAPI's ratification or not so that we can put an end to this and move on".
This Kat thanks Tove both for her contribution and for her willingness to stand by what she says and not hide behind a shield of anonymity or pseudonymity.  He also very much hopes and wishes that there might be some acceptable explanation for what, prima facie, looks as if it is too serious to explain away.  

This Kat also wishes to take this opportunity of reminding the officers and administrators of international IP rights administration offices that, despite their salaries, perks, prestige and status -- which, if earned, he does not begrudge them -- they are public servants whose task it is to serve the public. Before taking any step they should ask themselves: how does this benefit the community of inventors, creators and their representatives whom we have been appointed to serve. That does not appear to have happened in this instance.

There is more on this story here on Afro-IP.
Not the only regional ogre: does EPO have a soul-mate in OAPI? Not the only regional ogre: does EPO have a soul-mate in OAPI? Reviewed by Jeremy on Tuesday, June 16, 2015 Rating: 5


  1. Wasn't there also an issue a short while back with WIPO. I seem to recall the staff being somewhat upset by the antics of Director General Gurry, e.g.

    Wrote H. Bosch

  2. The cases don't seem to be comparable. The so-called WIPO scandal looks a bit like a one-man campaign by a jealous or disgruntled person.


  3. MEOW!!I just love the illustration of your article. MEOW!!

  4. "a one man campaign by a jealous or disgruntled person" ...

    Well, g'day to you Francis ... how about "a malicious and defamatory campaign by a small group of disenchanted detractors who want to overthrow him" ...


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