To protect their brand marks from being imitated and unlawful copying, 6,989 foreign-based companies that sell their products in Ethiopia got their trademarks registered with Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office (EIPO) until December 31, 2015.
Most of these companies are electronics, food and drug producers whose offices are located in the Europe, Asia and the US but their products are sold through market agents. About 3,553 local companies also got their trademarks registered by the office during the same period.
EIPO Legal Research Senior Expert Dereje Tegenaw Weldemicheal said the registration helps the office to protect official trademarks from being taking of another companies in the local market.
“These companies assume that they will have actual presence in Ethiopia one day and they fear that other companies might occupy that same brand. So to prevent such a mishap they get their trademark registered,” he said.
Dereje made a point that there is a wide spread habits among local companies of not to get their trademarks registered that there is high possibility that their marks could be violated sometime in the future.
The expert also pointed out that very few companies have their trademarks registered when considering the number of active businesses. Going unregistered presents its challenge especially another producer imitates or even copy well established marks and use them on new, sometimes similar product or service.
Dereje advises company owners that it is always good to have official protection for trademarks. He says it is a good idea to register a trademark to protect a company against an infringement suit, to add value to products, to put competitors and the public on notice of a company’s rights in that brand and to strengthen the legal protection of a mark. Nevertheless, many local business owners took the issue lightly. “The investment to register a mark is small compared to the potential cost of not registering, and compared to the potential benefits registration will bring to your business,’’ he said.
To prevent unbridled trademark and copyright infringements and to raise awareness of business owners, EIPO is going to open an intellectual training center which trains police, trade bureau workers and other stakeholders on legal rights and the protection of registered marks. The center will be built in Addis Ababa and is expected to open next year.