Somalia & Somaliland - a Brief Profile Regarding the Registration of Trade Marks

SOMALIA – Background

Somalia is situated in East Africa with a coastline that borders the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. It shares borders with Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Civilian rule ended in 1969 when General Mohamed Siad Barre seized power in a military coup and established a one party system. In the 1980s state authority began to crumble as various clan-based groups opposed to Barre's rule began to form. In the northwest (former British Somaliland), the Somali National Movement (SNM) attempted to seize control in 1988. Barre countered with great violence, resulting in thousands of deaths and the flight of 400,000 refugees into Ethiopia.

Barre fled the country in January 1991 when another rebel group, the United Somali Congress (USC) gained control of Mogadishu. A full-blown civil war developed in the capital when the USC fragmented into rival, clan based factions. This contest remains unresolved and control of Mogadishu is divided among a variety of principally Hawiye warlords.

Since 1991 over a dozen externally sponsored peace and reconciliation conferences have failed to provide a basis for restoring a government in Somalia. Meanwhile, local administrations, often clan or Islam-based, developed in much of the country. The most successful of these is in Somaliland. An administration has also been set up in Puntland, in the northeast. Over time, power has shifted somewhat from warlords to business, religious and traditional leaders. Traditional Islamic courts have coalesced loosely into the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which had become a potent political and military force by mid-2006.

SOMALIA - Trade Mark Rights

Prior to 1991 it was possible to register trade marks in Somalia. The legislation was based on the old Italian system. However, following the overthrow of the government in 1991 it became impossible to file new applications or maintain existing trade mark rights. In fact, news reports at the height of the troubles showed the capital, Mogadishu, to be a war-torn city with many buildings looted, badly damaged and sometimes totally destroyed. Consequently we doubt the Trade Marks Registry or its files and registers have survived.

We do not anticipate being able to file new trade mark applications or apply to maintain existing registrations until there is a stable government. Even then we imagine it will be necessary for a new Registry to be created and possibly new IP legislation introduced and this is likely to take some time as the government will probably have higher humanitarian priorities.

We will keep clients informed of any developments.

SOMALILAND - Background

In May 1991, the north-western region of Somalia (ie: the former British Protectorate of Somaliland) declared unilaterally its independence as the 'Republic of Somaliland'.

A government was elected for an initial 2-year period at a conference of elders and in May 1993 former Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Ibrahim Egal was elected President. After the death of Egal in May 2002,Vice-President Dahir Riyale Kahim was sworn in as President. Presidential elections were held in May 2003 in which Riyale narrowly beat his opponent. Parliamentary elections were held on 29 September 2005.

Somaliland's stability has been widely acknowledged but it has not received formal recognition from the international community. It has stood aside from wider reconciliation processes but indicated its readiness to discuss relations with Somalia on a basis of equality once a new government is established in Mogadishu.

SOMALILAND - Trade Mark Rights

Somaliland has no legislation regarding the registration of trade marks. As is often the situation in such jurisdictions, it is possible to arrange for the publication of a Cautionary Notice in a local newspaper.

There are no formal guidelines governing the publication of Cautionary Notices but the general advice is that, if such notices are to have any real effect, they should be published at fairly frequent intervals and the accepted norm seems to be every three years.

Click Here for Somalia Filing Requirments.

If you would like more information regarding the publication of Cautionary Notices in Somaliland then please approach your usual contact at Spoor & Fisher Jersey or e-mail or

telefax + 44 1534 838001.

Date published: 2007/09/28
Author: Spoor & Fisher

Tags: somalia somalialand trade mark rights