Eye on Africa: 2022 Policy Priorities and Key Activities

Published: February 9, 2022

As 2022 gets underway, INTA’s advocacy efforts in Africa will be driven primarily by the Association’s 2022‒2025 Strategic Plan as well as recent Board resolutions. Efforts will focus on achieving the harmonization of trademark laws in key jurisdictions, building an innovative intellectual property (IP) ecosystem, and bolstering entrepreneurship. Upon request from policymakers, INTA will provide recommendations and tools toward these goals.

The Association will encourage policymakers across the continent to take legislative and regulatory actions that align with INTA’s Board resolutions and positions on significant policy issues, including the following:

“Remarking” as criminal counterfeiting. The act of remarking goods results in goods that are not authorized for sale by the trademark owner, and consumers cannot distinguish materially altered and deceptive remarked goods from genuine goods. The Association takes the position that remarking is likely to cause consumer confusion and harm, and should, like other forms of counterfeiting, constitute a crime of trademark counterfeiting. INTA’s Board adopted a resolution on “Remarking” as Criminal Counterfeiting in March 2021.

Protection of geographical indications (GIs). Considered a tool for sustainable rural development by the African Union, GIs have been drawing much attention. In this context, INTA recognizes that trademarks and GIs are separate IP rights, and it supports the protection of GIs under national laws and international treaties and agreements, in line with Article 1(1) of the TRIPS Agreement. The Association’s Board adopted a resolution on the Protection of GIs in November 2019.

Recognition of well-known marks. The protection of well-known marks is important in international trade relations, and enforcement is key. While provisions of the Paris Convention and the World Trade Organization Agreement reflect this, a few African countries have not localized these treaties. In addition, where there are local laws, there are often problematic gaps, such as a lack of clear provisions on the standards for assessing whether a mark is well known.

Opposition proceedings. Opposition proceedings should not be decided by the individuals who examined and/or approved the application for registration, in light of the concern that such individuals might be biased by their own decision to permit registration or by information obtained or actions taken during the examination process that would not otherwise be considered in the opposition proceedings.

Development of laws on trademark trafficking. Within local laws, the practice of trademark trafficking should be correctly defined, namely as the practice of securing and hoarding trademarks with the intention of commodifying them instead of using them for goods and services. The Association believes that local laws should discourage trademark trafficking at the point of registration.

Building on successful efforts in the past, INTA will work with local stakeholders in providing training to judges, Customs officials, and trademark examiners. In addition, it will promote the establishment of IP and trademark caucuses in collaboration with lawmakers and interested parties.

INTA Representative Tat-Tienne Louembe supports the Association’s members across Africa and the Middle East. In collaboration with the staff at INTA’s headquarters in New York City and Representative Offices around the world, Mr. Louembe works on the Association’s policy, membership, marketing, and communications initiatives in these regions. To learn more about INTA’s activities in Africa and the Middle East, please contact INTA Representative Tat-Tienne Louembe.

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of this article, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest.

© 2022 International Trademark Association