Rwanda: trade marks in Africa – your questions answered

Trade mark activity is growing rapidly in Africa, both as regards protection and enforcement. Yet there is still a great deal of uncertainty. This is the second in our series of country-specific updates. Here we focus on Rwanda.


Rwanda has a population of 11 million, a GDP of some US$8billion, and an economy that is reliant on tourism, minerals, coffee and tea. The country’s major import partners include China and India. Rwanda is rated one of the best countries in Africa in which to do business by various ratings agencies. Like many African countries, Rwanda has issues with counterfeits.


There are no limitations as to who can file a trade mark application, although an application that is filed in bad faith can be refused.


According to the applicable legislation, the Law on the Protection of Intellectual Property 31/2009, a visible sign that enables goods or services to be distinguished can be registered. There is specific reference to names, product shapes, packaging and colour, but there is no mention of taste, smell or sounds. In addition to trade marks, the law makes provision for the registration of certification marks and collective marks, and there is protection for GIs. The right to sue for infringement extends to similar goods/services and the trade mark owner can be awarded an injunction, seizure and damages. A recorded licensee can sue for infringement if the proprietor fails to do so. The Customs authorities will assist in matters of counterfeiting, and trade mark infringement can also constitute a criminal offence.


There is no online filing and local representation is required - a Power of Attorney is needed, and notarisation is necessary. Priority can be claimed, and a certified copy in English or French must be lodged. The Nice Classification applies, and there is examination. An application is open to third-party opposition and there is provision for appeals, which go to the Commission of Appeal. Rwanda has been a member of the Madrid Protocol since 2013.


The registration term is 10 years, as is the renewal term. A renewal can be filed within 10 months of expiry subject to a penalty. The non-use term is three years, and use by a recorded licensee will suffice.

Date published: 10 July 2017
Author: Spoor & Fisher

Tags: rwanda trade marks