Brand Protection; A Previously unheard-of Phenomenon in Uganda

A few years ago, it was almost impossible to convince a local entrepreneur to register his brand name. Largely this was because of the lack of a proper understanding of how it’s done, the lack of knowledge of the rights derived from such protection whereas some felt it was not that important. A brand name or trademark is symbol, slogan, smell, sound, word, or words legally registered or established to distinguish a company’s product from the products of other companies dealing in the same.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Business Insider http://agenda.weforum.org/2015/06/the-9-countries-with-the-most-entrepreneurs/, a massive 28.1% of Uganda’s population are entrepreneurs, thereby placing Uganda as one of the most entrepreneurial economies in the world.

As a business lawyer, working in a leading law firm in Uganda, I can confirm that this is true. It is a common trend today, that majority of people carry out their professions as a main source of income and at the same time carry out small businesses on the side as an additional source of income. This essentially means that there are very many potential businesses that could utilize the protection offered by trademarks.

A few years ago, it was almost impossible to convince a budding entrepreneur intending to do business in Uganda to register a trademark or brand name. This was largely because they saw no importance in securing their brand name. Unknown to them, was the fact that the brand name amounts to property and registration of the name gives one the exclusive right of use and protection from infringement.

Today with the increase in both local and international investment in Uganda, people are more aware of the need to protect their brand names and innovations. Intellectual Property is no longer just mere notes in the law books and legislation, it has become widely enforced and protected by the courts of law in Uganda. Musicians and other artisans are protecting their creations and innovations under copy right, trademarks registration is no longer just for the international brands but also local brands and patent registration is now more common. This has been greatly facilitated by the amendment of the Ugandan Intellectual Property law to make them more internationally compatible and empower courts to enforce intellectual property rights.

Basically, for one to register a trademark or a brand name it must be distinctive which means it must be capable of distinguishing the goods of the owner from those of other people dealing in similar goods. Secondly it must not be descriptive, it should not describe the particular good for example one dealing in sugar cannot trademark the word sugar because it describes the goods of that nature. Once a business owner has successfully registered a trade mark he has the right to stop other people from using the trademark without his/her permission. This protects the owner from persons trying to make profits from the goodwill that his goods have established. The protection derived from registration of a trade mark lasts for seven years after which the period may be renewed for another ten years.

It is safe to say that brand protection is no longer an unknown phenomenon in Uganda and international businesses can rest assured that their products and trade secrets will be protected at great lengths by the Courts of Uganda against forgery, duplication and infringement.

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