The long awaited amendments to the OAPI system are now in force. The African Organization for Intellectual Property, better known by the French acronym OAPI, announced that the new IP laws concerning trademarks, geographic indications, utility models, and industrial designs entered into force on January 1, 2022.

The amendments have been ratified by the OAPI member states, which are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Togo, and Comoros.

In addition to expanding the definition of a trademark to include sound marks, the new Law stipulates that certification marks can now be registered. Goods and services can now be included in the same trademark application, and it will be possible to divide a trademark application according to goods or services at any stage before registration.

A much-welcomed update that is bound to bolster enforcement measures in OAPI is that Customs authorities will now be able to detain suspected counterfeit goods on the written request of the trademark owner. The trademark owner will have a period of 10 days (three days in the case of perishable goods) from notification of the detention of the goods to launch civil or criminal proceedings.

Common law rights are now formally recognized in OAPI, and a third party is entitled to file a claim of ownership objection during the opposition period on the basis of prior use of a mark.

The new Law also stipulates that Geographical Indications -are protectable under the revised Bangui Agreement, and protection is extended to agricultural and artisanal products, amongst others.

As for industrial designs, applications will be published for a three-month opposition term, prior to registration.

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