WIPO recently released its annual 2019 statistics, which revealed a record year in terms of international IP rights. This article focuses on international trademark applications coming from Africa.
The Madrid Protocol on the International Registration of Marks (1989) currently has 106 members, covering 122 countries. In Africa, the Madrid Protocol has 22 members over 38 countries, due to the participation of the African Intellectual Property Organisation.
While there is a growing majority of African countries that belong to the Madrid System, Nigeria, South Africa and Angola are notable exceptions as the first, second and seventh largest economies in terms of nominal gross domestic product.
Number of international registrations designating African countries (Table 1)
Source: Extract of African countries - International trademarks applications by origin (Madrid System), WIPO (April 2020)
Table 1 shows that Mauritius, Seychelles, South Africa and Cape Verde are ranked as countries of origin on international trademarks even though they are not members of the Madrid Protocol. This is the result of a provision in the Madrid Protocol that provides entitlement to file an international application to applicants that – even if not domiciled in the territory of a member state – have real and effective industrial or commercial establishment in the territory of a member state.
Globally, 2019 saw an increase of about 6% of the total number of international trademarks filed via the Madrid Protocol to 64,400. In Africa, there was an increase of 24%, from 189 to 235 applications. The top African countries of origin for international trademark applications were Morocco (90 applications), Tunisia (29) and Egypt (21), showing dominance in Northern Africa.
This increase in the number of international trademark applications originating from Africa appears to suggest that more companies are protecting their businesses abroad. However, the number of applications is still far too low, even with positive discrimination provisions applied by WIPO, which provide a 90% discount on the basic fee for international applications for least developed countries.
While the growth is positive, putting the matter into perspective, Cyprus – a country with a population of 1 million – had roughly the same number of international trademark applications (231) as the combined countries of the African continent (235), which has a population closer to that of China.
This is a co-published article, which was originally published in the World Trademark Review (WTR).