There are two main treaties currently regulating Geographical Indications. They include the Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and Their International Registration (Lisbon Agreement), and the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications (the Geneva Act). Together, they are called The Lisbon System. Most African countries have not signed these GI treaties. Accession to these treaties carries political and economic benefits. Not even Ethiopia and Nigeria – countries with great agricultural potential – have done so. GI status attracts higher revenue streams because of the customary assumption of quality that accrues to these products. Joining the Lisbon Agreement and the Geneva Act would aid African countries in extending their products beyond their shores. Member countries have treaty obligations to protect GI products from misappropriation and abuse. For example, Oku white honey from Cameroon, South African Rooibos tea and South African lamb are certified GI products. They enjoy protection outside the continent, leading to enormous financial benefits to their places of origin. African nations should also streamline their regional intellectual property bodies. Two major African IP regional bodies – the African Intellectual Property Organisation and the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation – could be merged into a single organisation for efficiency. The Anglophone and Francophone dichotomy in African intellectual property rights management shouldn’t exist. With the AfCTA encouraging a single trade market, a divided IP regional management structure may not be effective.
SOURCE: THE CONVERSATION