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With the earliest records dating back to the 6th century BCE, from Sybaris in Ancient Greece, Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) have witnessed a transformation from Divine providence to valuable human talents signifying the manifestation of the incredible powers of the human minds.!

Fast-forward to the current times, Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. IP is protected in law by, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create. By striking the right balance between the interests of innovators and the wider public interest, the IP system aims to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish.

Currently, there are 26 international treaties which are administered by the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation). WIPO’s two main objectives are

  • to promote the protection of intellectual property worldwide; and
  • to ensure administrative cooperation among the intellectual property Unions established by the treaties that WIPO administers.
Fig. Major International Treaties administered by the Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

While the first intellectual property (IP) protection treaties of the WIPO define internationally agreed basic standards of intellectual property (IP) protection in each country, the global protection system treaties of the WIPO ensures that one international registration or filing will have effect in any of the relevant signatory States. The services provided by WIPO under these treaties simplify and reduce the cost of making individual applications or filings in all the countries in which protection is sought for a given IP right.

However, in spite of the adherence to international treaties, a patent applicant seeking worldwide protection would still face a major obstacle – some countries do not have Intellectual Property Laws or Patent Acts. Countries such as East Timor, Somalia, Eritrea or the Maldives do not have local laws that regulate the granting or enforcement of patents. Below is a brief review about the status quo of IPRs and laws pertaining to them in these countries:

East Timor

East Timor (Timor Leste) is a country in Southeast Asia. It lies northwest of Australia in the Lesser Sunda Islands at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago. East Timor includes the eastern half of the island of Timor, the Oecussi (Ambeno) region on the northwest portion of the island of Timor, and the small islands of Pulau Atauro and Pulau Jaco.

Until 2002, trade mark registrations achieved in Indonesia automatically extended to Timor-Leste. From 2002 onwards, it was possible to request the Ministry of Justice to stamp an endorsement onto a certified Portuguese translation of a copy of an equivalent Indonesian trade mark registration. But the Ministry is no longer endorsing these certificates. In addition, the legal status of these endorsed certificates is not clear as they have not been tested. Currently, there is no legislation providing for the registration of trademarks in Timor-Leste.

Further, Timor-Leste is neither a Contracting Party to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property nor to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). It does not have an Online Register or an Online Gazette.

Although there are currently no intellectual property (IP) laws in Timor-Leste, provisions have been made to develop an IP system. Timor-Leste joined WIPO in December 2017. The National Direction of Registry and Notary of the Ministry of Justice is the body appointed to establish a patent register. Currently, publishing a cautionary notice in Timor-Leste to place third parties on notice of your claimed rights can provide some amount of relief for an aggrieved party for a trademark. In case of IP infringement, the Civil and Criminal Laws of Timor-Leste are relied upon. However, the penalties and remedies regulated by these laws are not satisfactory for it may not bring cure of habit or wariness upon the infringers.

Fig. An exemplary cautionary notice provided by a legal firm to restrain third parties in Timor-Leste to infringe a trademark


Located in the Horn of Africa, Somalia is bordered by Ethiopia to the West, Djibouti to the northwest, the Gulf of Aden to the north, the Indian Ocean to the east, and Kenya to the southwest. In 1960, the two regions of British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland United to form the Somali Republic. Somalia collapsed into anarchy following the overthrow of the military regime of President Siad Barre in 1991. Despite political improvements the situation in Somalia remains unstable, characterised by outbreaks of civil unrest.

The Somali (Democratic) Republic (functioned till 1991) acceded to the Convention establishing WIPO on 18 August 1982, with effect from 18 November 1982. Both the territories of Somaliland and Somalia would have been covered by some of the pre 1960 IP conventions through their respective status as a British Protectorate and an Italian colony/Trusteeship territory before their union in 1960. However, Somalia collapsed into anarchy following the overthrow of the military regime of President Siad Barre in 1991.

Somalia does not have any laws specifically dealing with the protection and enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs). However, Article 16 (2) of the Somaliland Constitution provides that “the law shall determine the rights to authoring, creating and inventing” and thus imposes on the Government of Somaliland an obligation to implement laws dealing with the protection and enforcement of IPRs. As no laws have been implemented yet, Article 130 (5) of the Somaliland Constitution is instructive as it recognizes the application of the pre-1991 Somali laws until the promulgation of new laws in Somaliland as long as the laws are not in conflict with Sharia Law, individual rights and fundamental freedoms.

In December 2019, it was announced that the Registry, the Somali Intellectual Property Office (SIPO), had reopened. The pre-1991 legislation is again recognised, the new IP legislation (with transitional provisions that will recognise existing rights) is in the pipeline. The pre-1991 legislation is the Trade Mark Law No. 3 of January 22 1955, amended by Law No. 33 of January 18 1975 and Law No. 3 of December 8 1987. However, under current practices, publishing a cautionary notice to third parties of the claimed trademark rights can provide some amount of relief for an aggrieved party for a trademark. To ensure that the cautionary notice reaches a wider audience, the notice is published in both print and online newspapers.


Located on the north-eastern coast of Africa and bordered on the north-east side by the Red Sea, Eritrea has land borders with Djibouti to the south-east, Ethiopia to the south, and Sudan to the west. The country existed as an autonomous entity until it federated with Ethiopia in 1952. This was followed by annexation by Ethiopia in 1962 and a lengthy armed struggle. In 1993, in a referendum supported by Ethiopia, Eritreans voted for independence.

However, IPR laws and IP systems are not developed in Eritrea. After gaining independence from Ethiopia in 1993, Eritrea no longer recognised trade mark rights acquired in terms of Ethiopian law. Since then, no legislation has been enacted to remedy the situation and it is, consequently, not possible to obtain registered trade mark rights in Eritrea. The Government of Eritrea, through no official mechanisms, permitted the publication of cautionary notices in government-owned newspapers until August 2009. However, a moratorium was placed on this practice by the Eritrean Government (specifically the Ministry of Information), for political reasons. Further, there is no IP protection available for patents, copyrights and industrial designs in Eritrea.

Fig. The WIPO statistics database indicates that currently there are no patents in force in Eritrea


Maldives is a nation of islands in the Indian Ocean that spans across the equator. The country comprises 1192 islands that stretch along a length of 871 kilometers. While the country covers an area of approximately 90,000 square kilometers, only 298 square kilometers of that is dry land. The country’s unique geography mesmerizes the visitor. Reefs that offer bands of color, tiny jewel-like islands rimmed with the whitest of soft sand surrounded by the clearest shallow waters that one can imagine. Only 200 of the islands are inhabited, and a select few on each of the atolls are resorts and some of the islands are used for industry and agriculture.

However, Maldives do not feature a legislation enacted for the protection of Intellectual Property Rights. Although there is no system for patent and industrial designs protection, there are a few remedies available for other forms of IPRs. Any legal dispute arising out of infringement of IPRs is settled by way of Common law. The Ministry of Economic Development of Maldives established an Intellectual Property Unit in 2007 in order to educate the masses regarding various aspects of IP rights. The protection of intellectual property is sought by the publication of cautionary notices in newspapers and journals which have such wide circulation in the markets. These cautionary notices are a warning to third parties against the use of such marks which may result in an infringement and to not continue with such use. The resident companies and nationals of Maldives can file an in-person trademark application for their proposed trademarks before the Ministry of Economic Development to obtain trademark protection. The foreign applicants are required to publish a TM cautionary notice in the local newspaper in both English and in the vernacular language (Dhivehi).

Also, the Copyright and Related Rights Act was passed in October 2010 and became effective in April 2011. Maldives is a member of the Berne Convention. While the parties do not need to register their copyright to obtain protection under the Copyright and Related Rights Act, the Act allows those parties who desire to register such works to be registered in the allocated government authority. An application can be filed in person with the Ministry of Economic Development. If approved, an official copyright registration certificate is issued. The Maldives Government is also seeking assistance from the World Intellectual Property Organization to develop such IPR laws and regulations.

Intellectual Property can generate income for business through licensing, sale or commercialisation of protected products or services. This facilitates creation of livelihoods for many people around the globe, thereby increasing employment opportunities. However, a strong IPR protection regime helps consumers to make an educated choice about the safety, reliability, and effectiveness of their purchases. Enforced IP rights ensure that the products are authentic, and of the high-quality that consumers recognize and expect.


  • https://www.mondaq.com/patent/956862/which-countries-do-not-belong-to-the-international-patent-system
  • https://www.kashishworld.com/blog/does-the-international-patent-system-cover-all-the-countries-worldwide/