Trade Marks

There is no formal IP legislation in Somalia. It has, however, become possible to publish cautionary notices in various local newspapers in both English and the Somali language. It is also possible to publish cautionary notices in Somaliland, the territory to the north of Somalia that declared independence from Somalia in 1991. Although Somaliland is not formally recognised it does enjoy relative stability and it does have an effective government in place.


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 north-west (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 north-east. 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.

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.

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