Trademark law reform in Rwanda: the ministerial order of March 17th 2016

hRwanda’s intellectual property legislation has been undergoing a wave of reform and modernization for a couple of years now. Indeed, a number of changes have been made in the area of Rwandan intellectual property. A new law, Law No. 005 of 2016, and several ministerial orders have introduced a number of amendments to existing legislation. More specifically, a Ministerial Order on the 17th of March 2016 is reshaping some aspects of the landscape of industrial property.

A reorganization of the opposition procedure to trademarks and geographical indication registrations

Article 3 of the Ministerial Order of March 17th, 2016 amends the length of the opposition period allowing a challenge to an application request for registration of a trademark or geographical indication. The new law means the holder of an intellectual property right can file an opposition within 60 days after the publication of the application request, as opposed to 30 days, previously.

Although the 60-day period was made official by Article 3 of the order, the Rwandan registry has already been allowing for the 60-day opposition period for 19 months.

The same Article 3 of the Ministerial Order grants a 14-day response period to the trademark registration applicant.

Meanwhile, Article 4 expressly sets out the information that an opposition to a trademark or geographical indication registration must contain: the identity of the holder of the registration request of the sign, the nature of the opposition, detailed reasons for the opposition, physical evidence of the grounds for the opposition, powers of attorney (if necessary) and the date and signature of the opposing party.

The decrease of several taxes
A large number of changes in tax rates has also taken place in Rwanda.. In particular, the following official taxes relating to trademarks have been reduced:

– Trademark filing;
– Change of name recordal;
– Change of address recordal;
– Merger recordal;
– Renewals

The Ministerial Order of March 17th, 2016 has,, within the trademark registration system, also introduced taxes linked to the classes of the Nice classification.

Rwandan law has also been reformed to allow for the protection of different plant varieties. Rwanda joined the Madrid Protocol on August 17th, 2013, finally allowing trademark holders to designate Rwanda in an application for international protection.

It will be interesting to see how these reforms are received by trademark holders in Rwanda but also to see potential further modernization of Rwandan intellectual property legislation given a wider international context.