Zanzibar's Business and Property Registration Agency (BPRA) recently introduced several changes to its practice, which are set to have an impact on the country's IP landscape.
The most important amendment is arguably the introduction of an online registration system. It aims to accelerate application proceedings, although this may take a while to be fully effective as it will require automating all existing processes. Implementing a paperless office is a positive, environmentally friendly decision.
The online registration system is available to business entities, parties with secured transactions on movable property and information services only, but e-filing is expected to be introduced for trademarks soon.
The introduction of this system marks a very important change in the country's IP practice. Besides the shift from a traditional to a technologically advanced approach, it will be more appealing to people looking to establish a business in the region, since it will be easier and faster to register rights. The average time to register a trademark is currently eight to 14 months from filing, so reducing this period is a positive for those wishing to extend or open their business in Zanzibar. Further, the possibility of cross-referencing data with that of other national systems in a much easier manner is a great step forward.
Another change relates to authorised agents. These must now be persons in a law firm who are:
- authorised to practice law in the country;
- hold a certificate to do so before the High Court of Zanzibar and a subordinate court thereof; and
- are registered as an industrial property agent before the Zanzibar IP Office.
Previously, a non-resident of Zanzibar registering a trademark had to be represented by a legal practitioner who was resident or certified to practise in Zanzibar. Now, the power of attorney must be prescribed in the name of this individual.
Further, the Zanzibar IP Office will now take two to three working days to allocate application numbers after the application is filed. However, this period could be extended to two weeks as the office is currently experiencing delays.
Another significant modification covers the publication of IP rights. Previously, trademarks were published in the Official Government Gazette. Now the BPRA publishes its own journal. The first one was released on 1 March and all future issues will be available on the agency's website.
These amendments show important progress in Zanzibar IP practice. Arguably, the most significant move forward is the online registration system as it demonstrates the country's willingness to adapt to this technologically advanced era. The reduced time to obtain a trademark and the simplified registration procedure are appealing factors for companies intending to expand their business to Zanzibar. Also, with the publication of its own journal, the BPRA has taken a huge step towards improving its service, especially with regard to trademarks.
Although IP professionals and applicants must wait for the online registration system to become fully functional, these are positive changes for the Zanzibar IP system, which will have a positive outcome for IP practice in the country.
This is a co-published article, which was originally published in the World Trademark Review (WTR).
Originally published May 12, 2020
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