Trade and Service Marks

– Law on the Protection of Intellectual Property (Law No. 31/2009) dated October 26, 2009, published on December 14, 2009.
– Ministerial Order No. 24 of March 17, 2016, determining the fees payable for registration services of intellectual property.
– Ministerial Order No. 07/10/Minicom of August 25, 2010, determining structure and functioning of the Commission of Appeal in charge of settling industrial property disputes.

Membership in International Conventions

– Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), since February 3, 1984.
– Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, Stockholm Act, since March 1, 1984.
– WTO’s TRIPS Agreement, since May 22, 1996.
– Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks, since August 17, 2013.

Filing

Applicant: the first applicant is prima facie entitled to registration.

Foreigners and nationals not living in the country: there is no distinction. Both may apply and obtain registration. Where an applicant’s ordinary residence or principal place of business is outside Rwanda, he shall be represented by an authorized industrial property agent resident and practicing in Rwanda.

Trademarks of foreigners: protected in the same manner as those of nationals.

Kinds of protection: ordinary trademarks; certification marks, collective marks, three dimensional and color marks may be registered.

Marks for services: the Law allows marks to be registered for goods and services.

Novelty: no examination as to novelty.

National flags, names or portraits: registration of national flags, coats of arms, emblems, names or initials of States or intergovernmental organizations is prohibited unless authorization is given by the State or organization.

Collective (certification) marks: registrable; a collective mark must be designated as such in the application and accompanied by a copy of the regulations for its use.

Priorities: according to the Convention of Paris.

Classification: International (Nice) Classification.

Multi-class applications: are permitted.

Territory covered: the whole of Rwanda.

Filing requirements for an application (to be sent to resident agent):
1. Power of attorney (signed, with company’s seal, and notarized if foreign applicant); a separate power of attorney is required for each mark;
2. 10 prints of the mark;
3. If Convention priority is claimed, a certified copy of the basic application, together with a verified English or French translation thereof.

Examination Procedure

Amendment of application: not possible.

Examination: applications are examined as to form and registrability but not as to conflicts with prior rights.

Opposition: any interested party may oppose a trademark registration within sixty days of its publication in the Official Gazette on grounds that the application is not a mark as defined by the Law, is not registrable, or that the application was made incorrectly.

Disputes about ownership: there is no provision for the settling of disputes during prosecution.

Application kept secret: not provided for.

Appeal: appeal may be made to the Commission of Appeal from any decision of the Registrar General relating to a trademark application or registration.

Urgent registration and provisional registration: not provided for.

Publication: a trademark registration which is found to be in order after examination will be published in the Official Gazette.

Correction of registration: not provided for.

Registration, Protection

Delivery of document: approximately two to three months after filing.

Beginning of protection: from date of filing.

Duration: ten years from the filing date. 

Renewals: possible for further ten-year periods, each commencing on the anniversary of the filing date. Trademark registrations filed before the date that the current law came into effect, December 14, 2009, will need to be renewed prior to December 14, 2019 in order to remain valid (this period was extended until October 13, 2020).

Compulsory character of registration: not provided for, but no one may claim the exclusive use of a mark unless he has filed an application for its registration.

Obligation to use: a mark which is not used for a continuous period of three years or more is vulnerable to cancellation on application to the Registrar General by any interested party.

Marking of registered goods: not required, but advisable.

Text of marking: none prescribed; any generally recognized format, such as ®.

Modification of the mark and changes in the list of goods: not applicable.

Assignment: possible and deeds of assignment required; only with the goodwill of the business. Requirements for registration of an assignment: same as for “patents“.

Licenses: licenses may be granted by the registered owner, provided that the license contract provides for effective control over the quality of goods and services provided by the licensee. For a license contract to be effective against third parties, it must be registered. Application to register a license must be made by licensor and licensee, with an original or certified copy of the contract and a power of attorney signed by both parties.

Modification of Protection after Registration

Right of prior user: is respected and prior user may apply for cancellation of trademark.

Compulsory licenses: not provided for.

Expropriation or nullification: the registration of a mark may be annulled by the courts on application by the interested parties on grounds of form (see “Opposition” above).

Validation of invalidated marks, provision for restoration and registration of invalidated marks: not provided for.

Infringement and penalties: a trademark’s proprietor may obtain an injunction against an infringer and/or damages, as well as the seizure of the infringing goods. Infringement is defined as the use of a registered mark in relation to any goods or services for which it is registered, or a sign similar to the trademark for the same or similar goods. Infringement constitutes the offense of forgery.