A new draft law on trademarks was recently ratified by the Ethiopian House of Peoples Deputies (the Parliament). The bill will come into force in the country upon its publication in the local Gazette but will only be effective once the implementing regulations are issued by the Ethiopian Council of Ministers. The regulations, which are expected to be issued by the end of this year, will replace the existing registration practice.
In terms of the present practice, the trademark owner must obtain permission from the Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office (EIPO) to publish cautionary notices in the local newspapers. Once permission is obtained and the cautionary notices are published, a Trademark Deposit Certificate bearing the official number and the protection term will be issued.
In what follows, we list the salient features of the new law as presented to the Ethiopian Parliament:
– Any trademark capable of being represented graphically and consisting of a letter, word, numeral, design or three-dimensional shape may be registered, provided that it is distinctive.
– Claim of priority, based upon an earlier-filed foreign application, is possible.
– The 8th Edition of the Nice International Classification of Goods and Services for the purpose of the registration of trademarks is followed.
– A single application may include several classes.
– Trademark applications accepted by the EIPO will be published in the Intellectual Property Gazette (or in any other newspaper having countrywide circulation) for opposition purposes.
– The EIPO shall also notify the completed registration of a trademark in the Intellectual Property Gazette (or in any other newspaper having countrywide circulation).
– Trademark registrations are valid for seven years from filing date and are renewable for like periods. There is a grace period of six months for late renewals with payment of a surcharge.
– Use of a trademark is not required for registration or renewal of a mark. However, a trademark is vulnerable to cancellation by any interested party if there has been no effective use of the mark for a period of three consecutive years preceding the date of filing for cancellation.
– As a new border measure, the holder of a trademark right shall be entitled to request the Customs authorities to seize imports of goods with infringing trademarks. Customs will have the authority to seize suspected goods and give the parties concerned ten days to bring a lawsuit.
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