I am a Rwandan youth who is taking IP courses from WIPO and offers free consultation for youth entrepreneurs on IP management.
According to the World Economic Forum, Rwanda is one of the fastest growing economies in Central Africa and today’s global economy provides a world of opportunity for any business especially startups regardless of the size to sell goods and services beyond their national borders. With significant development in technology even startups can export their goods and services. Are Rwandan startups businesses ready for exporting? Yes , but how will they protect their marks locally and internationally to avoid any infringement and enjoy their distinctiveness on the local and international market? they will register their marks locally and internationally based on the market they are targeting.
What Is a Trademark In Rwanda?
A trademark is defined as any visible sign enabling the products (product marks) or services (service marks) of one company to be distinguished from those of other companies.
A sign may be;
- any form of denomination including words, names, letters, figures and acronyms
- figurative elements such as designs, relief, product forms or packaging
- colors or combinations of colors
- combinations of the above
They can be registered as trademarks, service marks, collective marks and certification marks.
What is Madrid System for International Registration of Marks?
According to WIPO(World Intellectual Property Organization) , The Madrid System is a convenient and cost-effective solution for registering and managing trademarks world widely by just filing a single application and paying one set of fees to apply for protection in up to 123 countries which represent more than 80% of world trade.
Is Rwanda a Member of The Madrid System?
Absolutely yes, The Republic of Rwanda acceded to the Protocol relating to the Madrid Agreement concerning the International Registration of Marks on 17 May 2013 and entered into force on August 17, 2013. Apart from that Rwanda is also a member of Lusaka Agreement on ARIPO, The Paris Convention and the Convention establishing WIPO.
Trademark Registration Options Available
Trademark owners must choose the best way to protect their marks abroad. The most appropriate option depends on a trademark owner’s business strategy, including their financial resources, and the location of their export markets and the timeframes in which protection is sought.
There are three main options:
- The national route, which involves filing separate applications with the Intellectual Property (IP) Office of each country in which protection is sought. Here in Rwanda it is Office of the Registrar General, Rwanda Development Board.
- The regional route, which involves applying for protection through a regional trademark registration system with legal effect in all member States. This includes applying for protection, for example, through the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO), and the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI);
- The international route, which involves filing through the Madrid System. The effects of an international registration in each designated member are the same as if the mark had been filed directly with the IP Office of that member.
Registration Procedures of a Trademark in Rwanda
According to country index this is how the process goes;
- The application is filed at the Office of the Registrar General, Rwanda Development Board: this can include goods in any number of classes. for foreign applicants they need a local agent: a power of attorney needs to be notarized by a Notary Public and the format/template of this power of Attorney annexed to the Ministerial Order N°26 of 17/03/2016 determining the form and content of power of attorney in respect of the industrial property.
- The Registrar examines the application to determine whether it complies with the formal and substantive requirements. The Registrar shall, if he is satisfied that the application complies with the requirements, accept the application and advertise the application for opposition purposes in the Trade Marks Journal and in official gazette. The opposition period is 60 days from the date of publication. Thereafter the registration certificate will be issued.
Provision is made for the registration of trademarks for goods and services, for collective marks and for certification marks. Provision is also made for the protection of geographical indications and trade names. The approximate time frame for completing the registration process of a trademark in Rwanda is approximately 3 months.
A trademark registration is effective for a period of 10 years from the date of filing and, thereafter, is renewable for like periods.
Trademark Application Fees in Rwanda
The official fee for filing a trademark application is RWF 35,000 for one class and RWF 3,000 for each additional class as per the new Ministerial Order N°24 of March 17, 2016 determining fees payable for registration services of intellectual property.
International Registration of Marks Process
- Make an application through the Office of origin which is Rwanda: To file an international application, the trademark owner must already have a certified basic mark from office origin before it is forwarded to WIPO by office of origin.
- Formal examination by WIPO: WIPO will conduct a formal examination of the international application. Once all formality requirements are met, WIPO will record the international registration in the International Register, publish this in the Gazette, send a certificate of registration to the holder and notify all the designated Contracting Parties.
- Substantive examination by IP Offices of designated Contracting Parties: The designated Contracting Parties conduct substantive examination within the applicable time limit of 12 or 18 months, if this has been declared, in accordance with their national or regional legislation. WIPO will record the decisions of the designated Contracting Parties in the International Register and then notify the holder.
Benefits of the Madrid System
The Madrid System for international registration of marks has advantages for the trademark owner, for national economies and governments, as well as for professionals, like agents and attorney in the field of trademarks
- For trademark owners, the Madrid System provides them a simple and cost-effective means of obtaining and maintaining protection for marks in multiple markets by only filing one international application, in one language, and pay one fee, in one currency (Swiss francs). It also supports them throughout the lifecycle of their marks, from application through to renewal, and provides a centralized avenue for maintaining and managing international registrations.
- The Madrid System facilitates also facilitates the National economy to easier access possible export markets and strengthens the climate for foreign investment. It does this by simplifying the process of applying for and protecting marks in multiple countries or regional territories of other Contracting Parties.
As the demand for consumer goods and services has created an ever-increasing supply of similar, often illegally-copied, products and services. Registering your mark internationally so as to protect and differentiate your products and services from those of competitors is the best option for those startups that are ready to start exporting their goods and services so as to protect their commercial interests abroad and make a successful global business strategy.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2021 obed Imbahafi