Inês Sequeira of Inventa explains how conflicts are affecting IP protection in Africa.


The world is changing faster than we imagined and new tensions are haunting a widespread harm. We are confronted, every day, with news from people being relocated and denied of basic needs such as healthcare, employment, education, and a place to call home.

The unstable conditions and transitions, such as independence and post-independence struggles, or the pursuit for stability have left scars in almost all African countries. It is believed (Oxfam, 2007) that Africa is losing US$18 billion a year caused by conflicts and it is key to understand that those conflicts are a path to address some unique problems.

Most of the prevalence conflicts in Africa are due to high levels of poverty, failed political institutions, and economic dependence on natural resources, on contrary to popular belief, that it is an ethnic and religious issue.

There are currently 23 African countries in conflict and the types of conflict vary widely. While the severity and duration of these conflicts differ, they all have significant impacts on the affected populations.


The armed conflict involving the internationally recognized Government of Libya, Libya National Army (LNA), various armed groups and intervening foreign powers has put Libya in a constant political unrest and armed violence.

The applications were suspended for foreign applicants, but the Office resumed its operation on 28 May 2023 and applications deriving from foreign applicants are now accepted again.


Since 1991, Somalia is under a civil war, following the collapse of the country's central government. The conflict involves various factions competing for power and control and led to widespread violence and crises that continues to this day. The African Union and United Nations have implemented peacekeeping forces to Somalia, but the conflict is still a significant challenge for the country itself and the international community.

After a long time of trademark registration being suspended due to the civil war in Somalia, trademark registration in this jurisdiction is possible once again.

The Somalia Trademarks Office resumed its operations when the Ministerial Decree 1/2019 was issued by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, stipulating that trademark registrations are once again possible.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has commenced the registration of trademarks based on the Somali Trademark Law No. 3 of 22nd January 1955, an amendment by law No. 33, of 18 January 1975, and Law No. 3, of December 1987.
However, patent or design application or any recordals are yet not possible through official submission. The Ministerial Decree that led to the resumption of trademark registration did not provide the fees, procedures, or requirements for these applications.

The proprietor may opt to publish cautionary notices to alert third parties and the general public. However, cautionary notices do not grant the proprietor any statutory rights over the trademark in Somalia since there is now a registration system in place granting the right to the exclusive use of a trademark.

On an additional note, being a Muslim country that follows Sharia Law, SIPO currently forbids the registration of alcoholic beverages and pork products as these conflict with their religious principles and are considered morally inappropriate.

South Sudan

Since December 2013, South Sudan and its armed forces have been involved in non-international armed conflicts. The conflict quickly worsened into an ethnic and political conflict and has led to and humanitarian crises, with an estimated 400,000 people killed and over 4 million displaced. Moreover, the conflict has also had significant regional and international impact with neighbouring countries. Despite several peace agreements, the conflict remains and puts South Sudan at one of the world's most unstable territories.

The Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs has recently provided updates regarding trademarks in South Sudan.

The Ministry has confirmed that the Intellectual Property Bill 2015 is still before Parliament and awaiting enactment. As such it is not possible to renew any trademark registrations. However, all registered trademarks shall remain valid until they can be renewed in line with the renewal procedures in the IP Law, once enacted.

In addition, trademark proprietors can now reserve their trademarks with the Ministry. The registration of the reserved trademarks will be completed upon the enactment of the IP Law.

Although the enactment of a law may be affected by a number of political factors, and it may not be easy to determine when the bill will pass into law, the lift of the suspension on reservation is welcome as it allows proprietors the opportunity to initiate the registration process as they await the enactment of the law.


The Government of Sudan is involved in separate non-international armed conflicts against a number of non-state armed groups, notably two factions of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army in Darfur. This conflict has been ongoing since 2003 and has resulted in the displacement of over 2 million people and an estimated death toll of up to 300,000. The transitional government that took over has been working towards peace negotiations with rebel groups, but progress has been slow, and violence remains in some areas.

Currently, the Sudanese IP Office has suspended operation and has entered a state of inactivity due to the civil war and political conflict in the country. Accordingly, it is no longer possible to file new trademark applications or initiate any post-registration or legal actions until further notice. It is not possible either to conduct official searches or status checks in Sudan at present.


The Tigray War was an armed conflict that lasted from 2020 to 2022. In 2018, a peace deal with Ethiopia was signed, which formally ended the state of war that had existed since the border conflict began. It also restored diplomatic ties with Somalia, normalised relations with Djibouti and strengthened ties with Kenya.

Due to the lack of local legislation, Intellectual Property in Eritrea is protected through sufficient public recognition, by publishing a cautionary notice in a local newspaper.

Cautionary Notices are adverts that best describe the Intellectual Property right in question and the owner thereof and make the public aware of such facts.

This is not a registration, and it does not entitle the applicant to any Eritrean Trademark Certificate. A published cautionary notice may be considered proof of ownership or, at least, evidence of ownership in case of infringement.

On an end note, although most of the jurisdictions with active conflicts are accepting new applications, there are many technical issues due to a lack of resources, training, and infrastructure. WIPO is assisting the countries to identify issues and provide solutions to them the best way possible, and, consequently, we expect that the procedures will be smoothly improved. Alongside, it is imperative that a strategy to build institutions for political governance and economic management is implemented in order to conflict prevention.