The Trade Marks Registry in Somalia has been closed since 1991 as a result of the civil war and overthrow of the Government, followed by the consequential disruption to the country’s infrastructure. Since that time no one has been able to file new applications for trade marks, or renew trade mark registrations that existed in 1991. In the absence of a formal registration system in Somalia, trade mark owners may rely on publication of cautionary notices as a means of giving notice to third parties of the proprietorship of their trade marks, and warn against the unauthorised use of these by third parties.

We have been advised by a number of sources that the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, through its Business and Companies registration department, introduced the facility to register trade marks. This is supposedly based on the laws that were in place prior to the civil war of 1991. However, we do not believe that any new registrations obtained will be valid as the pre-1991 law is no longer in force, because Somalia now has a new federal constitution; furthermore, the Ministry has confirmed our belief that the registrations in force before 1991 are no longer valid.

There are also many other administrative procedures that we are questioning which lead us to be sceptical about the authenticity of the trade mark registration process. There is conflicting information about documentary requirements. The Ministry is classifying cases according to the old Italian classification system of 49 goods classes. The official fee of USD1000 per class is excessive, and the fact that the official fees have to be paid in cash, makes us highly suspicious of the new development.

For the reasons stated above, we do not recommend filing in Somalia at present. However, we recommend that clients wishing to protect their trade marks in  Somalia should continue to publish Cautionary Notices for their trade marks.