Zimbabwe IP Development

National Office
  The legal system for protection of intellectual property rights has existed for many years in Zimbabwe, initially established by the British. There are a number of areas of intellectual property which can be protected. The main areas are: patents, trademarks, industrial designs and copyrights.
  The national office in Zimbabwe for intellectual property is the Zimbabwe Intellectual Property Office (“ZIPO”) which was formerly known as Zimbabwe Patents, Trade Marks, Industrial Designs and Copyright Office. It functions under the authority of the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for the administration of intellectual property including grant and registration of new applications and recordal of assignments, licensing and other matters related to all aspects of intellectual property with exception of Plant Breeder’s rights which is administered by the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development. Since Zimbabwe is a member of the Berne Convention, registration of copyright is not required for protection. However, additional rights are conferred by the Copyrights and Neighbouring Rights Act.
  If a person or legal entity is not domiciled in Zimbabwe, he must be represented by an agent who is a registered legal practitioner and resident in Zimbabwe. The official language for all documents is English. The Registrar at ZIPO performs substantive examinations for all new applications, taking into consideration prior rights and legal requirements for grant or registration. There are procedures for opposition, appeals and adjudication of rights through administrative hearings at ZIPO and the court system.
  The official fees are established by regulations and are required to be paid in US dollars. The government of Zimbabwe abandoned the Zimbabwe dollar on April 1, 2009, allowing the US dollar to be legal tender for all obligations in Zimbabwe.
  In addition to the Berne Convention, Zimbabwe has acceded to several international treaties including the Paris Convention, TRIPS Agreement and Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). Zimbabwe amended its Trademark Act and in September 2010, it became fully TRIPS compliant. Among other things, the amended Act provides for protection of well-known or famous marks.

Regional: ARIPO
  Zimbabwe is a member of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO). It has acceded to both the Harare and Banjul Protocols for the registration and administration of patents, designs and trademarks. The Protocols do not replace ZIPO but rather co-exists with it. Accordingly, owners may choose to seek protection through either ZIPO or ARIPO. In terms of the Harare Protocol, owners who file for patents under the PCT may obtain protection in Zimbabwe by applying at ARIPO and designating Zimbabwe. Unlike trademark applications, ARIPO undertakes substantive examination of patent applications filed under PCT. In the case of trademark applications filed at ARIPO, substantive examination continues to be performed by ZIPO.
  In the case of conflicts and infringement, an aggrieved party must seek adjudication and enforced through ZIPO or the national court system.
  ARIPO offices are located in Harare, Zimbabwe.

International: Madrid Protocol
  Zimbabwe joined Madrid Protocol for the international registration of marks through World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in December 2014. The Agreement was to come into effect in March 2015. At this stage, however, legislation has not yet been passed to incorporate the international system into national law which is required by the Constitution of Zimbabwe. However, ZIPO is working with WIPO officials for the implementation of the Madrid system such that when legislation has been passed, the system will be operational and enforceable under the laws of Zimbabwe. Like the ARIPO regional system, the Madrid system will not replace ZIPO. When the system is operational it will co-exist with ZIPO and owners will be able to choose whether to obtain registration by filing at ZIPO, ARIPO or at WIPO for Madrid. Regardless of which system is chosen, however, applications will still need to be examined and prior rights considered by ZIPO. Likewise, if conflicts should occur and/ or enforcement should be required, they must be submitted for determination at ZIPO or the courts in accordance to national procedure and laws.

Provided by Brenda M. Wood-Kahari at B.W. KAHARI.


Source: International IP Law Firms 2015

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