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Thursday, February 22, 2018

With interminable shores along the Indian Ocean and a total area of 947,303 square kilometers, Tanzania is the largest country in East Africa occupying an unrivaled regional role that is increasing in significance. Due to its vast natural resources, Tanzania has achieved high growth rates and is experiencing stable economic development.

Tanzania encourages foreign investment, given that the financial sector has expanded in recent years and foreign-owned banks account for about 48 percent of the banking industry’s total assets. Competition among foreign commercial banks has resulted in significant improvements in the efficiency and quality of financial services, and recent banking reforms have helped increase private-sector growth and investment. The annual GDP growth averaged seven percent due to good performance in the services sector. The GDP is US$150.3 billion, while the GDP per capita is US$3,100. The GDP composition is 24.5 percent for agriculture, 27.6 percent for industry, and 47.3 percent for services.

Tanzania maintains legislations for the protection of trademarks, patents, designs, and copyright. In addition to being a signatory to the TRIPS Agreement, Tanzania observes the WIPO Convention, and the Paris Convention. Furthermore, Tanzania is also a party to the Agreement on the Creation of the African Regional Industrial Property Organization and the Harare Protocol.

Two trademark offices operate in Tanzania, one is located in the mainland and the other is in Zanzibar. However, registration in the mainland does not extend to Zanzibar. In mainland Tanzania, matters pertaining to trademarks are governed by the Trade and Service Marks Act of 1986. As for Zanzibar, trademark matters are governed by the local Industrial Property Act of 2008 and local Industrial Property Regulations of 2014 that provide parallel frameworks with the mainland through which trademarks are applied and upon meeting the statutory requirements registration is granted by the TMO in Zanzibar.

Trademarks are registered in mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar in accordance with the 10th edition of the Nice Classification, and a single application cannot include several classes. Provisions apply for the registration of collective marks and certification marks, and examination on relative grounds is not performed.

Protection of a trademark in the mainland is for a period of seven years from filing date and is renewable for an indefinite period of 10 years. As for Zanzibar, the first registration period is 10 years, which can be renewed indefinitely for a duration of seven years. However, it is worth mentioning that the duration of registration for a trade or service mark registered under ARIPO system designating mainland Tanzania is 10 years and is renewable for an indefinite period of 10 years.

On the patents front, Tanzania acceded to the Patent Cooperation Treaty in 1999. It is worth noting that Zanzibar does not have the capacity to enter into international agreements on its own, and international agreements—including the PCT—are specified as union matters under the constitution. Accordingly, Zanzibar is bound by the PCT.

Foreign patent applications in mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar 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 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 mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar are due annually on the anniversary of the international filing date and payable as of nationalization of the application.

In more recent developments, the Patent and Trademark Offices in mainland Tanzania announced that trademark applications and patent applications may be submitted electronically as of January 4, 2018. In addition to registration, renewals and transactions such as assignments, licenses, and changes of name or address may also be filed online. Accordingly, the new process involves uploading an electronic application to the online system, along with soft copies of the power of attorney and priority document.

Tanzania 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 Tanzania become more of an innovative hub in East Africa and lead to this required healthy financial balance.

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