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Monday, September 3, 2018

Ethiopia, the second most populous country in Africa, is one of the fastest growing states among the 188 International Monetary Fund member countries. This growth, which has been driven by the government’s investment in infrastructure, as well as sustained progress in the agricultural and service sectors, is expected to keep rising in the years to come.

Ethiopia’s annual GDP growth averaged 10.9 percent over the past year. The country’s GDP is US$80.87 billion, while the GDP per capita is US$2,200. The GDP composition is 35.8 percent for agriculture, 22.2 percent for industry, and 42 percent for services.

Foreign exchange earnings are led by the services sector and by the export of several commodities. While coffee remains the largest foreign exchange earner, Ethiopia is diversifying exports, and commodities such as gold, sesame, livestock, and horticulture products are becoming increasingly important for the growing economy. Manufacturing represented less than eight percent of total exports in 2016, but manufacturing exports are expected to increase in future years due to an international presence that is significantly growing in Ethiopia.

The East African nation recently attracted US$8.5 billion in foreign direct investment. Investment in the country has been primarily in infrastructure, construction, agriculture, textiles, and leather.

In the fall of 2015, the Ethiopian government finalized and published the current 2016-20 five-year plan, known as the Growth and Transformation Plan II, which emphasizes developing manufacturing in sectors where Ethiopia has a comparative advantage, such as textiles and garments, leather goods, and processed agricultural products.

Ethiopia maintains a relatively comprehensive regulatory and legislative system for the protection of trademarks, patents, designs, and copyrights, and is a party to the World Intellectual Property Organization. The country also maintains an observer status at the World Trade Organization. Accordingly, IP is an important avenue for nourishing the economy in Ethiopia.

On the trademarks front, Ethiopia follows the Trademark Registration and Protection Proclamation of 2006, which is implemented by Ministerial Resolution no. 273 of 2012. The 10th edition of the Nice classification is in force and multiclass applications are acceptable. Trademark examination is performed on formal, absolute, and relative grounds and oppositions may be filed after 60 days from publication date. The protection term for a trademark is seven 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 three consecutive years preceding date of filing for cancellation.

Trademark registration requirements include a legalized Power of Attorney, which must be accompanied with a certified copy of corresponding home or foreign registration, with verified English translation.

As for patents, two types of patents are available in Ethiopia: Patents of Invention and Patents of Importation. The protection term for a patent is 15 years from filing date and is extendable for five years. It is worth noting that although Ethiopia is not a member of the Paris Union, priority may still be claimed from a foreign patent application filed not more than twelve months previously.

Absolute novelty is required for patentability in Ethiopia. However, novelty will not be destroyed if the disclosure of the invention to the public occurred not earlier than twelve months preceding the filing date or where applicable the priority date. Filing requirements for Patents of Invention are a legalized Power of Attorney, specification, claims and abstract in English, International Patent Classification, and formal drawings—if applicable, along with a legalized Assignment of Invention and a legalized Certificate of Incorporation. The priority document with a verified English translation may be submitted within three months from the date of filing.

As for Patents of Importation, the filing requirements are the same as for the Patents of Invention, with the exception of having to submit a certified copy of basic foreign granted patent. The Assignment of Invention is not required for Patents of Importation.

Ethiopia, as aforementioned, 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 Ethiopia become more of an innovative hub in East Africa and lead to this required healthy financial balance.

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