The revised IP Law of OAPI known as the Bangui Accord has yet to enter into force, as it requires ratification by 12 member states before it can be promulgated. However, 11 member states have now signed, and it is hoped that a 12th member state will ratify it soon. The law will officially enter into force 2 months after the 12th ratification, but we are advised that many of the provisions of the new law will come into force on a piecemeal basis; for example, OAPI has stated that the provisions relating to trade marks will enter into force in 2021, but the patent provisions will not do so until 2022.
 
The changes introduced by the new law will include the following:-
 
Trade Marks
 
  1. The definition of a trade mark will be broadened to include sounds.
  2. Substantive examination on absolute grounds will be conducted for the first time.
  3. Certification marks will be registerable.
  4. Applications will be published for opposition purposes before, rather than after, registration. The opposition term will be reduced from 6 to 3 months, and the term for filing an appeal against opposition decisions will be reduced from 3 to 2 months.
  5. Divisional applications will be possible.
  6. There is provision in the law for the recognition of International Registrations. OAPI joined the Madrid Protocol in 2015 and has been accepting International Registrations in practice, but the new law gives a legal basis for doing so. 
  7. It will be possible to include goods and service classes in the same application.
  8. It will be possible to file prior (unregistered) rights claims before a court of law after registration. Presently, such claims can only be filed at OAPI in the opposition period following publication.
 
Patents
 
  1. The publication of applications for opposition purposes has been introduced.  Currently publication takes place after registration and there is no provision for opposition. The opposition period is 3 months.
  2. It appears that substantive examination will be conducted by OAPI for the first time, although we are not sure how this will evolve in practice.
  3. Pharmaceutical product claims will not be enforceable until 1 January 2033 in territories classed by the WTO as "less developed".
  4. There is also a new provision for  making a "prior right claim" to challenge an applicant who does not have the right to make the application.
 
We are continuing to monitor the situation very closely, and will advise as soon as the commencement date is known.

For more information please contact the author, Martin Chinnery, at martin@lysaght.co.uk