The Republic of South Sudan: Intellectual property rights - more questions than answers

On 9 July 2011, the former Sudanese territory corresponding to the states of Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria and Greater Upper Nile was declared to be the sovereign Republic of South Sudan. The formal emergence of the new Republic follows six years of virtual secession from the Republic of Sudan (which is located to the north, having its capital at Khartoum) pursuant to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005. The disputed territory of Abyei was to have a referendum on whether to join Sudan or South Sudan but the vote has been postponed indefinitely and Abyei remains under Sudanese rule.

During the six years’ interregnum, the autonomous territory was known by the deceptively similar name of Southern Sudan. It enjoyed its own interim constitution and laws on many topics, but had no provisions on intellectual property.

The Transitional Constitution of South Sudan is now in place. Nevertheless, it is too early to say when intellectual property legislation will be introduced. The Constitution states that all current Laws of Southern Sudan shall remain in force and all current institutions shall continue to perform their functions and duties, unless new actions are taken in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution; and its Schedule “A” places intellectual property under the exclusive legislative and executive powers of the National Government.

In our view this excludes the continuation of existing (north) Sudanese laws and rights, and indeed it has emerged that Sudanese patents and trade mark registrations are not recognised in South Sudan.

With other firms specialising in international patent, trade mark and other intellectual property rights and registrations, we have been doing our best to clarify the situation, in consultation with official and professional entities in the new capital city Juba.

Reports from different sources claim that a trade mark registry has been established in Juba; that applications are, or are not being processed; and/or that the registry intends following procedures as set out in the Sudanese Trade Marks Act.

From such information as we have gathered, we cannot confirm or deny the existence of a trade mark office of sorts but in the evident absence of relevant laws, regulations, forms and fees we are not yet inviting instructions for trade mark or other industrial property applications.

Our inquiries continue and developments will be reported as they arise. Meanwhile queries will be welcomed by your usual Spoor & Fisher contact, or may be sent to

Date published: 2011/09/30
Author: Mac Spence

Tags: republic of south sudan intellectual property rights