With an area of 23,200 square kilometers, it is easy to overlook Djibouti on a map. Despite its size, this small country occupies an unrivaled regional role in East Africa that is increasing in significance. Due to the country having the largest deepwater port off of the coast of the Red Sea, Djibouti serves as an international refueling and transshipment center. It also offers a route to the sea for Ethiopia and South Sudan.

Djibouti experiences stable economic development as the annual GDP growth averaged 6.7 percent due to good performance in the services sector. The GDP is US$3.364 billion, while the GDP per capita is US$3,600. The GDP composition is 2.4 percent for agriculture, 17.3 percent for industry, and 80.2 percent for services.

Djibouti encourages foreign investment. With laws based on the French legal system catering to the benefit of investors, the country’s investment code guarantees investors to freely import all the required material for their investments. The Law protects the acquisition and disposition of all property rights, including intellectual property rights.

In addition to being a signatory to TRIPS Agreement and a member of the World Trade Organization, Djibouti observers the WIPO Convention, the Paris Convention, the Berne Convention, and is a member of the Patent Cooperation Treaty.

Trademarks are registered in Djibouti, in accordance with the 11th edition of the Nice Classification, for a period of 10 years from filing date and are renewable for like periods. A grace period of six months is observed. A single application can include several classes. Provisions apply for the registration of collective marks and certification marks. Examination on relative grounds is not performed.

On the patents front, three types of patents are available: Patents of Invention, National Phase PCT Application, and Certificates of Addition. Absolute novelty is required. 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 owing to acts committed by (1) the applicant or their legal predecessor, (2) a Patent Office that has unduly published or made available to the public a patent application filed by the applicant or their legal predecessor, or an application filed without the knowledge or consent of the applicant or his legal predecessor by a third party which obtained information directly or indirectly from the applicant or his legal predecessor, or (3) a third party which obtained the information contained in the item of prior art directly or indirectly from the inventor.

The term of a patent is twenty years from the filing date, and renewal fees fall due at intervals of 5 years, the first being payable simultaneously with the application fee then on the 5th, 10th and 15th anniversaries of the filing date.

Djibouti remains a country with high aspirations that welcomes foreign investments. We expect that the proper application and enforcement of IP laws should help Djibouti become more of an innovative hub in East Africa and lead to a healthy financial balance.

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