After almost 30 years since the Somalia Intellectual Property Office was closed, as a result of the very serious civil war, and thanks to a very slow but essential process of reconstruction of a failed state, the Somalia Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) has been established in Mogadishu.

During the years of inactivity and lack of protection in intellectual property matters, African experts advised against devoting efforts and financial investment in the protection of trademark rights in this country, as the insecurity and scarcity of safeguards of all kinds have been total. In the absence of legal and effective options, some stakeholders published cautionary notices in English and Somali-language newspapers, an informal practice of little effectiveness in the highly complex Somali context.

Despite the opening of the Register, there are still some reservations about the legal basis and underpinnings of the Somali trademark system. However, African experts are already open to offering this jurisdiction in the internationalisation processes on the continent. Positive developments are said to be underway, a certain stability and recognition of the pre-federal constitution is beginning to emerge, and SIPO has clear objectives. All indications are that there could be a new intellectual property law in 2021 (although timelines are uncertain in contexts such as Somalia’s) and that a simple, modern trademark registration system with English as the official language and an opposition procedure could be introduced. It seems that a past of difficulties will turn into a modern administration.

Regardless of the above, there are still many difficulties and connotations in the region that will have to be assessed when the time comes to protect IP rights in this country.

Author: Cristina Arroyo

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