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38 I EUROPEAN SEED I EUROPEAN-SEED.COM he African Intellectual Property Organization OAPI plays an important role in protecting intellectual property on the African continent. Formed in 2002 OAPI is committed to protecting intellectual property rights in order to guarantee investments and facilitate technology transfer thus contributing to the economic growth of member states. OAPI is made up of 17 member states most of which are located in West Africa Benin Burkina Faso Cameroon Central African Republic Comoros Congo Cote dIvoire Gabon Guinea Guinea Bissau Equatorial Guinea Mali Mauritania Niger Senegal Chad and Togo. According to Regine Wr Gazaro director of intellectual property protection for OAPI the organisation is committed to contributing to the development of its member states through the achievement of some specific missions namely The delivery of industrial property patents Documentation and information Participation in the economic development of member states and Training in the field of intellectual property. In order to meet these goals OAPI has the following objectives Ensure the protection and the publication of industrial property titles Encourage creativity and technology transfer through the use of industrial property networks Make the legal sphere attractive to private investment through the creation of an enabling environment for the effective application of intellectual property principles Put in place efficient training programs that will improve OAPI quality services and capacities and Create an enabling environment for the valorization of research results and the exploitation of technological innovations by national firms. OAPI protects inventions through patents or utility models goodsservices trademarks and industrial designs brand names geographical indications and plant varieties. THE AFRICAN INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ORGANIZATION PLAYS AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN FUELING ECONOMIC GROWTH IN WEST AND CENTRAL AFRICA AND BEYOND. Our ser v ices target craftsmen resea rcher s resea rch i n st it ut ion s magistrates customs officers students traders industrialists businesspeople and public and private organisations says Gazaro. The system that governs OAPI takes its roots from the strategic choices made by heads of states who agreed upon its creation. With its headquarters in Cameroon OAPI is the intellectual property office common to all its member states. OAPI centralises all procedures in the delivery of industrial property titles such as patents and productsservices trademarks. These titles are valid in all OAPI member states. A n y a p p l i c a t i o n f i l e d a t t h e representation of a member state or at the headquarters of OAPI are applicable in each of the other member states says Gazaro. There is no national system of protection which coexists with the regional one and sanctions for the infringements of industrial property rights are handled by the judiciary in each of the member states. OAPI is governed by an administrative board which is endowed with all statutory and control powers. It is made up of the ministers in charge of industrial property of the 17 member states. OAPIs appeal board serves to hear appeals made against prior OAPI decisions. It is made up of six magistrates of whom three are incumbents and three substitutes. PROTECTION RIGHTS With regard to variety protection rights PVP applicants outside of the territory of the OAPI member states can file through an agent selected in one of those member states. This requirement is not compulsory for national applicants. It takes three or four years on average to get PVP rights through OAPI says Gazaro. Application forms can be found on OAPIs website. In addition to the formal application process a technical examination is also carried out outside of OAPI headquarters by the technical institutions approved by OAPI in order to verify that the variety belongs to the stated taxon that the variety is distinct uniform and stable and when the variety satisfies the above conditions to establish the official description of that variety. The technical examination is carried out on the basis of growing trials and other required tests says Gazaro. Where the DUS examinations have been carried out or are being carried out by a trusted contracting party to the OAPI WORKING TO FACILITATE SEED INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA DR. PAULIN EDOU EDOU REGINE WR GAZARO