By way of background, Namibia promulgated a new Industrial Property Act (IP Act) as long ago as 2012, but it only came into force on 1 August 2018 after the enabling regulations were published on 1 June 2018. There was very little engagement with stakeholders during the legislative process, including the registry (which is called the Business and Intellectual Property Authority or BIPA), with the result that everybody was caught off-guard when the new IP Act was put into force so suddenly.
In anticipation of the coming into force of the IP Act, BIPA arranged a meeting with local IP attorneys in July 2018, which I attended on behalf of our associated Namibian office. The practical implementation of the IP Act was discussed at this meeting, and numerous practical decisions were made as to how procedures will run at BIPA.
There were however still some outstanding questions, many of which only came to the fore as both BIPA and attorneys started actually applying the new IP Act. BIPA therefore arranged a follow-up meeting with the local IP attorneys on 20 February 2019. Once again, there was substantial progress made with clarifying common questions and difficulties experienced by the various parties involved, as well as standardising practices of the different examiners that have been causing conflict with the local attorneys.
It appears from both meetings that some amendments to the IP Act and Regulations are required, but BIPA is doing its best to work with the legislation as it is without disadvantaging the applicants for IP rights.
The efforts made by BIPA in this regard, in particular its willingness to engage with the local attorneys in order to come to a workable solution, are laudable and I am thankful for the opportunity to have an input on the implementation of the new legislation.
By Adré Pretorius, Trademark Attorney