Government is fully aware of the benefits of the international exhaustion of trademarks regime and the transition to this system should be an incremental process that will require a change in the ecosystem in which many businesses are operating.
The Minister of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade, Mr Nandcoomar Bodha, was speaking, today, at the opening of a national workshop held at the Hennessy Park Hotel in Ebène. The findings of a study to assess the socio-economic impact of the international exhaustion of trademark rights were presented during the workshop, organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade.
Mauritius has secured technical assistance from the European Union (EU) to carry out this study, and a consultant was appointed by the EU to carry out consultations with several relevant stakeholders .
In his address, the Minister spoke about the exhaustion of Intellectual Property (IP) rights, that is the extent to which IP rights holders can control the distribution of their branded goods. The exhaustion doctrine was created to balance the monopoly power granted to IP right owners compared to the interests of the public/consumers, he highlighted.
According to him, the exhaustion regime could be national or international, wherein under national exhaustion, the right of the IP holder is exhausted on the national market. As for international exhaustion, he said, once IP right holders sell, in a particular jurisdiction, a product to which their IP rights are attached, they must allow the resale of that product in other jurisdictions.
The Minister indicated that the international exhaustion regime is gaining momentum in the world. Business models in Mauritius, especially for those operating with a brand license, will have to be adjusted to adapt to the exigencies of the international exhaustion regime, in particular due to increased competition from low cost sources, he stated. This transition, he emphasised, cannot be done overnight but should be phased in gradually, and it may take some five to eight years to happen.
Moreover, Mr Bodha expressed gratitude to the Delegation of the EU for their continued support and assistance extended to Mauritius in various fields, especially in the field of IP rights.
Speaking about the Industrial Property Bill, adopted in the National Assembly on 30 July 2019, the Minister recalled that it essentially aims at modernising the IP framework in Mauritius, promoting innovation, facilitating the registration of industrial property rights and creating better conditions to attract high quality investment. It is also expected to stimulate the generation of more IP assets which, when commercialised, will generate revenue for the IP right holder, he said.
This Bill, Mr Bodha pointed out, is a vital complement to the recently adopted Mauritius Research and Innovation Council Act. Both these laws would help shift our focus towards Research, Development and Innovation, and provide a framework for an innovation led economy, he added.
The Minister also expressed gratitude to the EU for the budget of Euro 180 000, earmarked for the creation of an Industrial Property Office of Mauritius (IPOM) to manage intellectual property and which is called upon to play a more prominent role in mainstreaming IP in economic development, as required by the Industrial Property Act 2019.
In addition, Mr Bodha underlined that the functions of the IPOM will span well beyond those of the existing Industrial Property Office. Besides registration, the IPOM will define strategies, and implement action plans for the development of industrial property. It will further undertake educational and sensitisation campaigns, amongst others.
The Industrial Property Act 2019 also provides for the accession of Mauritius to WIPO-administered Treaties, namely the Madrid System, the Patent Corporation Treaty and The Hague Agreement for the registration of Trade Marks, Patents and Industrial Designs respectively.