Article by Abraham Mateta

The Blind Union estimates that about seven percent of all written literature makes it into accessible formats for those who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled. This results in what has come to be known as book famine experienced by such people. It is in this light that a treaty forming part of a body of international copyright law was negotiated and finally adopted at Marrakesh in June 2013 and According to WIPO, this treaty has a clear humanitarian and social development dimension and its main goal is to create a set of mandatory limitations and exceptions for the benefit of the blind, visually impaired and otherwise print disabled (VIPs).

The treaty therefore, requires State parties to introduce standard set of limitations and exceptions to copyright law for works to be distributed to those who are blind, visually impaired or disabled in a way that makes it impossible for them to physically manipulate a book. The advantage of this is that literature can now be distributed among contracting parties in accessible formats for use of those people described above. Organizations across boarders which serve the reading interests of these groups of people can share information provided they are not doing it to derive any commercial benefit and finally, persons in this group can modify any work for personal use without being viewed as having tampered with copyright law as long as that modification is solely for purposes of making the work accessible.

Zimbabwe signed this treaty in 2013 but is yet to ratify it. It is interesting to note therefore that, on Tuesday the 23rd of January 2018 a process was started through a motion moved by Petronella Konoye the minister of labour and social Welfare in the Zimbabwean parliament to ratify the treaty. The motion received support. Zimbabwe is a country that has adopted a thrust of being “open to business” as is clear from the new President’s statements to various people at home and abroad. This implies that Zimbabwe needs to increase the productivity of its citizens. One of the ways of increasing productivity of those who are blind, visually impaired or print disabled is to avail information in accessible formats. The Marrakesh treaty, by dispensing with rigid copyright regime, does in fact go a long way in ensuring this.

It is important to note, however, that while protecting the right to access to information for those who are blind, visually impaired or print disabled, care must be taken to ensure that only the intended beneficiaries get access to this right. Never should we forget that there still remains a right of the copyright holder to get financial benefits from their work.

ARIPO Introduces Opposition Procedures for Trademarks

One of the major criticisms of the ARIPO trademark filing system was a lack of centralized opposition procedures. This in essence meant that once an ARIPO trademark application has been refused the applicant would have to go to each member state to appeal the decision for refusal which would mean that the applicant had to incur legal and other associated cost and different requirements and procedures at each designated state.  This was a cause for the low performance of the Banjul system and most applicants preferred to file directly with each office in member state.

With the amendments that were adopted during the 41st session of the ARIPO Administrative Council in December 2017 the protocol now enables opposition to the decision of the designated state and opposition to registered trademarks to be filed and transmitted through ARIPO. These changes are contained in Section 6 and Section 6bis

Section 6:4 now reads

“... The appeal or review shall be filed through the Office. The decision upon appeal or review shall be communicated to the Office by the designated State within 1 month from date of issuance.

This section mainly caters for appeal against the decision of the Member state concerned and is done by the applicant or his agent.

Section outlines the procedures for filing an opposition on a published mark.

At any time after the publication in the Marks Journal of an application as accepted by the designated State or designated States in terms of Section 6bis:1 but before the registration of the mark in terms of Section 6bis:2, any person shall lodge a notice of opposition to the application for registration; which notice shall be filed with the Office. Thereafter, the application shall be treated according to the opposition procedures laid down under the national laws of the designated State or designated States concerned.”

This in essence makes ARIPO trademark opposition a centralized system helping the applicant/ opponent to save time and costs. The Opposition of a published mark can be filed by anyone.

Another major change to the protocol is the enablement of later designation of states to an initial application. This is a welcome development as the applicant has enough time to decide on the countries that he wants to do business in and those that may come up in the future.

Section 9 subsequently provides for “subsequent designation” which allows an applicant to designate other states on an initial application or registered mark, the effective date then being the date of subsequent designation.