Tunisia: trade marks in Africa - at a glance

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 next in our series of country-specific updates. Here we focus on Tunisia.


Tunisia is a democratic state with a population of 12 million. The country has a GDP of US$42 billion and it has managed 5% average growth over the past decade. Tunisia is a member of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area and it has an Association Agreement with the EU, the country’s largest trading partner. The Tunisian economy comprises, inter alia, agriculture, mining, manufacturing, petroleum and tourism.

The trade mark legislation is Law no. 2001-36 on Trademarks, as amended by Law no. 2007-50. Tunisia is a member of the Paris Union and the Madrid Protocol.


Anyone claiming to be the owner of a trade mark can file an application.


A mark can comprise distinctive words, surnames, geographical names, pseudonyms, letters, numbers, symbols, drawings, holograms, product shapes, packaging, colours and ‘phonic signs such as musical tunes and sentences.’ The following are regarded as being non-distinctive, although they may acquire distinctiveness through use: generic words; descriptive words; functional product shapes.

There are prohibitions on registering reproductions of official signs and insignia, reproductions of official quality assurance symbols, marks that mislead as to qualities such as geographic origin, and marks that are contrary to public order or morality.

Applications to register marks that are confusingly similar to earlier registrations and unregistered well-known marks will be refused.

The owner of a trade mark registration can stop use of the same or a confusingly similar mark in relation to goods or services covered by the registration, or similar goods or services. In the case of a trade mark that is well known the right extends to goods or services that are not similar to those covered by the registration if the unauthorised use amounts to an unjustifiable exploitation.

There are criminal provisions for trade mark infringement and a trade mark owner can request detention of counterfeit goods by Customs.


The International Classification of Goods and Services applies and multi-class filing is possible. Priority can be claimed and a verified French translation of the priority document will be required.

There is provision for electronic filing. There is examination but not for prior rights. An application that is accepted is published and it can be opposed by a third party - the law makes provision for an eight-month conciliation term. There is also provision for cancellation (rectification) of registrations that were wrongly registered.


The registration term is 10 years from the filing or priority date and it can be renewed indefinitely for 10-year periods. A registration can be cancelled in the case of non-use for a continuous period of five years or longer.

Date published: 13 April 2018
Author: Spoor & Fisher

Tags: Tunisia trade marks