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Bangui Agreement

The Bangui Agreement is an international treaty instituting both the Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle (OAPI) and the legal system pursuant to which OAPI patents are granted. Among other fields, it stipulates that the OAPI is empowered to issue patents on behalf of the member states.[1] The most unique feature of this agreement is that the OAPI's industrial property office acts as the only national office of all member states. None of the member states have national patent legislations, nor do they grant national patents, since they have all essentially ceded this part of their sovereignty to the regional organization.[2] Therefore, the OAPI grants a unitary patent.[3]

Once granted, an OAPI patent has effect in all member states without prior approval of any national authority. Revocation by a national court in one member state automatically leads to the loss of such protection in all other member states.[note 1]

Software patents

The Agreement has a section on patentable subject-matter, which also mentions computer programs. According to Annex I, Article 1(3) and (4):

(1) "Invention" means an idea that permits a specific problem in the field of technology to be solved in practice.
"Patent" means the title granted for the protection of an invention.
(3) The following shall not be considered inventions within the meaning of paragraph (1):
(a) discoveries, scientific theories and mathematical methods;
(b) schemes, principles or methods for doing business, performing purely mental activities or playing games;
(c) mere presentation of information;
(d) computer programs;
(e) purely ornamental creations; and
(f) literary, architectural and artistic works or any other esthetic creation.
(4) Paragraph (3) above only excludes the patentability of the enumerated items where the patent application contains one of these items considered as such.

The use of as such allows the OAPI to grant software patents by interpreting it as nullifying the exclusion.

The definition of "computer program" is not provided in Annex I, which concerns patents. However, the Agreement includes a definition in Annex VII, Article 1(xix), which concerns copyright:

The following terms as used in this Annex shall have the following meanings:

(xix) "computer program" means a set of instructions expressed in words, codes, schemes or any other form capable, once incorporated in a machine-readable medium, of performing a task or obtaining a particular result by means of a computer or by an electronic process capable of processing information;


  1. Except if such revocation is made on the grounds of public policy or morality.


  1. Bangui Agreement, Section 3(1).
  2. Bangui Agreement, Section 3(2) and (3).
  3. Mpame Mario Egbe, Regional Intellectual Property Integration in Developed and Developing Countries: The Cases of the European Patent Office (EPO) and the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI) Patent Systems[PDF], MIPLC Master Thesis Series (2017/18), 2018, pp. 16–7.

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