The Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property is one of the first, and arguably most important, of the various multilateral treaties protecting intellectual property. The substantive provisions of the Paris Convention fall into three main categories: national treatment, priority right and common rules.
The Paris Convention applies to intellectual property in the widest sense, including patents, trade marks, industrial designs, utility models, service marks, trade names, geographical indications and the repression of unfair competition. The Paris Convention provides that, as regards the protection of intellectual property, each Contracting State must grant the same protection to nationals of other Contracting States that it grants to its own nationals. When an applicant files an application, for example a patent or a trade mark, in a foreign country member of the Union, the application receives the same treatment as if it came from a national of this foreign country.
Most importantly, the Paris Convention includes the vital concept of “Convention priority right”. It provides that an applicant from one contracting State shall be able to use its first filing date (in one of the contracting States) as the effective filing date in another contracting State, provided that the applicant, or his successor in title, files a subsequent application within 6 months (for industrial designs and trade marks) or 12 months (for patents and utility models) from the first filing.
Currently, the majority of African countries are members of the Paris Convention except for Cape Verde, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somaliland, Somalia, South Sudan and St Helena.
Members of the Paris Convention (countries in bold are also members of OAPI):
Central African Republic
Congo (Republic of)
Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
Democratic Republic of Congo
Sao Tome e Principe
Union of the Comoros