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Destination Africa: What you need to Know About IPRs in Ghana

October 30, 2020

Formed from the merger of the British colony of the Gold Coast and the Togoland trust territory, Ghana in 1957 became the first Sub-Saharan country in colonial Africa to gain its independence. With a total area of 238,535 km2 (92,099 sq mi), Ghana is bordered by Côte d’Ivoire in the west, Burkina Faso in the north, Togo in the east, and the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean in the south.

With relatively diverse and abundant natural resources, Ghana has roughly twice the per capita output of the countries in West Africa. Gold, cocoa, petroleum, and individual remittances are major sources of foreign exchange. Agriculture’s contribution to economic activity in Ghana has decreased in recent years, now accounting for approximately 20 percent of GDP and employing about 45 percent of the workforce. As oil and gas production shows moderate growth, opportunities for auxiliary services to the industry will continue to rise. Although Nigeria remains the sectorial hub for West Africa, the relative ease of doing business in Ghana likely will attract a greater number of companies to establish a local or even regional presence in the market.

Ghana joined the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 1976, and has since acceded to all the major intellectual property related treaties. Ghana maintains legislations for the protection of copyright, patent, trademark, and industrial design rights. The country also has a law encompassing unfair competition. Furthermore, Ghana is also a party to the Agreement on the Creation of the African Regional Industrial Property Organization (ARIPO) and the Harare Protocol.

On the trademarks front, Ghana follows the 10th Edition of the Nice classification and a single application may not include several classes. Trademark examination is done on absolute and relative grounds and oppositions may be filed after 60 days from publication date. The protection term for a trademark is 10 years from filing date and is renewable for like periods. As for use, trademarks are vulnerable to a cancellation action by any interested party if there has been no effective use of the mark for a period of five consecutive years preceding date of filing for cancellation.

Foreign patent applications in Ghana may be filed claiming 12 month Convention priority or entered as national stage via PCT within 30 months from the earliest claimed priority. Furthermore, it is also possible for a patent to be obtained by an ARIPO-PCT application. In line with expected PCT Rules, patents are protected for a period of 20 years from the international filing date. Annuities in Ghana are due annually on the anniversary of the international filing date and payable as of nationalization of the application.

It is worth noting that Ghana fared relatively well from the 2015 World Economic Forum’s Africa Competitiveness report, especially when considering the ranking of countries for intellectual property protection. Ghana was ranked fifth out of the top fifteen countries assessed. Ghana remains a country with high aspirations that welcomes foreign investments. A healthy balance between the latter and local development is bound to be beneficial for the country’s own growth. The proper application and enforcement of IP laws should help Ghana become more of an innovative hub in West Africa and lead to this required healthy financial balance.

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