ARIPO – Trade Marks

African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO)

ARIPO (African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation) with a central registry in Harare, Zimbabwe facilitates the central filing of patents, designs and trade marks.


The relevant protocol on trade marks is the Banjul Protocol, which came into effect on 6 March 1997. This empowers ARIPO to register trade marks on behalf of the contracting states. At present, the only states which have acceded to the Banjul Protocol and who thus may be designated in an ARIPO trade mark application, are:

  • Botswana
  • Eswatini (formerly Swaziland)
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Malawi
  • Mozambique 
  • Namibia
  • São Tomé and Príncipe
  • Tanzania*
  • Uganda
  • Zimbabwe

* In this context, an ARIPO registration would only be effective, if at all, in the mainland portion, which we refer to as “Tanzania (mainland)”.

With the exception of Mozambique and São Tomé e Príncipe all the member countries are what would be considered countries with a common law heritage. It was generally considered that, those countries having common law heritages, international agreement could only be enforced on their national territories to the extent, if any, that the treaty obligations were embodied in national laws. Indications are emerging that some of the relevant Trade Mark Offices may be ready to recognise treaties without “domestication” into national law. But until formalised by statute and/or judicial decision, it may not be safe to rely on such administrative policies.

The trade mark statutes in Botswana, Malawi (since 1 October 2018) Namibia and Zimbabwe make specific provision for the recognition of rights flowing from ARIPO registrations. Liberia has published legislation which specifically mentions ARIPO rights, but it has not been passed by Parliament – see the information page for that country. None of the remaining countries has enacted amendments to their national legislation to give effect to ARIPO registrations.

Accordingly, since there are only four common law heritage member states in which rights flowing from an ARIPO registration can be reliably enforced, it is our strong recommendation that clients should continue to protect their trade marks by filing national applications in each member state of interest.

Notwithstanding the questionable validity of ARIPO trade mark registrations, we can and do file applications directly with the ARIPO office for those clients who elect to follow this route.

Outline of procedures:

In terms of the Banjul Protocol, an application may cover any number of classes of goods or services, and may designate all or some of the contracting states. It is worth noting that prior to 1 October 2018, Malawi had no provisions for service marks in its national legislation, which means that before this date it was not possible to obtain service mark protection in Malawi through an ARIPO registration.

Documents required:

A. New Applications

  • Power of Attorney, simply signed.
  • Priority document (if applicable) with verified English translation.

B. Renewals

  • No documents required.

C. Assignments/Mergers

  • Power of Attorney, simply signed
  • Deed of Assignment or other instrument of title, with verified English translation

D. Change of Name

  • Power of Attorney, simply signed
  • Certificate of Change of Name, with verified English translation

E. Change of Address

  • Power of Attorney, simply signed

F. Licences/Registered Users

  • Power of Attorney, simply signed, from proprietor and licensee
  • Licence Agreement, with verified English translation