News & insights

Djibouti: Small Country, Big Ambitions

July 30, 2014

With an area of 23,200 square kilometers, it is easy to overlook Djibouti on a map. This small country, however, occupies an unrivaled regional role that is increasing in significance. As 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.

Imports and exports, to and from Ethiopia mainly, account for most of Djibouti’s harbor traffic. Transportation and warehousing costs are inflated, which leads to the occasional auctioning of goods into the Djiboutian market. This is because imports remain in Djibouti for a period of time ranging between three to six months before being released.

Djibouti experiences stable economic development as the annual GDP growth averaged 5 percent due to good performance in the services sector. The GDP is $2.505 billion, while the GDP per capita is $2,700. The GDP composition is 3 percent for agriculture, 17.3 percent for industry, and 79.7 percent for services.

The country encourages foreign investment. With laws based on the French legal system catering to the benefit of investors, the Djiboutian investment code guarantees investors to freely import all the required material for their investments. The Djiboutian law protects the acquisition and disposition of all property rights, intellectual property, patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets.

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, and the Berne Convention. Djibouti has passed a law enforcing the protection of copyrights and maintains an Office of Industrial and Commercial Property Rights for the protection of property rights.

Trademarks are registered in Djibouti, in accordance with the 8th edition of the Nice International Classification, for a period of 10 years from filing date and are renewable for life 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.

The main features of trademark registration are as follows:

  • Trademark applications and registrations may be assigned with or without the goodwill of the business concerned
    · A change of name/address can be recorded for trademark applications and registrations
    · License recordal is compulsory in order to be effective against third parties
    · A merger may be recorded for trademark applications and registrations
    · Marking is not compulsory
    · A registered mark can be cancelled by the decision of the Court at any time if the conditions of grant were not respected
    · The time frame for completing the registration process is 10 to 12 months
    Protection of patents and industrial designs is based on the implementing regulations of Industrial Property Law no. 50/AN/09/6ème which came into force in Djibouti on November 25, 2011, Decree No. 2011-079.

The main features of the patents and industrial designs protection framework are as follows:

·Patents may be granted with respect to products and processes, as well as new applications or combinations of known means to arrive at new results
· Inventions must satisfy the criteria of novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability
· Exclusions from patentability are methods of diagnosis, therapy and surgery for the treatment of persons or animals
· Patents will be granted for 20 years from filing date
· Maintenance fees are payable for consecutive periods of 5 years from the date of filing. There is a grace period of six months
· A single industrial design application may contain up to 100 models or designs, as long as these are intended to be incorporated in objects grouped in the same class of the Locarno classification system
· Industrial designs will be registered for an initial period of 5 years from the filing date, renewable for a further two consecutive periods of 5 years upon the payment of renewal fees, with a grace period of six months

Should you have any questions, or require any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us at