Why Rwanda is the next big opportunity for IP investors
Rwanda is a landlocked country, located south of the equator in east-central Africa, bordering Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Uganda. Its capital, located in the center of the country, is Kigali and the local currency is the Rwandan franc, issued by the National Bank of Rwanda.
The past two decades have been one of reconstruction and reconciliation, following the troubled 1990s that left the country scarred by civil war and the 1994 genocide, in which more than 800,000 civilians were tragically killed.
Almost 30 years later, Rwanda is still struggling to heal and rebuild itself, but it is showing signs of a steady recovery.
Even after the turn of the millennium, the country had insufficient access to energy, especially in rural areas, and to this day, it still needs significant investments in its infrastructure to achieve socio-economic development.
Nonetheless, the country has made major strides in the past 20 years and was, in 2019, on the brink of an economic boom, when it was hit by the coronavirus pandemic, which shook debt sustainability. Rwanda from low to moderate.
Earlier this year, it was announced that an investment of $ 1.2 billion would be made in power generation projects, setting the target date of 2024 to achieve 100% access to energy. Power projects are mainly hydroelectric, taking advantage of the country’s favorable conditions for sustainable energy production.
This will be crucial for the socio-economic development of Rwanda, especially given the expected population growth of 25% over the next decade, for a total population of over 16 million.
Of course, with such predictions, Rwanda becomes more and more interesting for foreign investors and importers, and with this, adequate protection of intellectual property is more and more important on the agenda.
Current Trademark System in Rwanda
Trademark applications are reasonably straightforward in this jurisdiction. Rwanda has been a member of the Paris Convention since 1984 and of the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property since 1996. It has also been a member of the Madrid Protocol on Trademarks since March 2013.
Protection is possible either by national registration with the local trademark office, or by international registration via WIPO or via the Madrid Protocol. Types of marks in Rwanda include goods and services as well as collective and certification marks.
It is also possible to claim priority in this jurisdiction. The Nice classification applies and Rwanda is a multi-class jurisdiction. The protection of well-known marks is also possible.
Trademark research before filing is not mandatory although it is strongly recommended. The official search will take 10 to 12 days to complete.
Applicants must provide the following documents:
- notarized power of attorney;
- the applicant’s details (i.e. full name and address);
- sample of the mark (not required for word marks);
- a list of goods and / or services; and
- a certified copy of the priority document, with a verified English translation (if priority is claimed).
The registration process typically takes 12 to 18 months and consists of the following steps:
- filing of the application with the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) and issuance of the receipt for the filing of the application with the filing number of the application;
- formal and substantive review conducted by the PTO;
- issuance of the acceptance report by the PTO;
- publication of the request in the Intellectual Property Bulletin;
- a period of 60 days for the filing of oppositions by third parties who consider themselves injured by the registration of the mark; and
- issuance of the registration certificate.
Trademarks in Rwanda are valid for 10 years from the filing date and can be renewed consecutively for the same period. In terms of usage and cancellation requirement, the non-use period is three years.
While there is room for development, it is clear that Rwanda already has a strong branding system in place. This – coupled with a growing population and impressive economic growth forecasts – means the country should definitely be on the radar of investors looking for new opportunities.
This is a co-edited article, which was originally published in the World Trademark Review (WTR).