Protection and enforcement of trademarks in Uganda: Analysis of the legal and institutional framework in light of international obligations
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The study employs qualitative techniques of data collection to analyse the legal and institutional framework for the protection and enforcement of trademarks in Uganda relative to international legal instruments to which Uganda is party, most especially, the TRIPS Agreement. The TRIPS Agreement stands out as the most comprehensive instrument for trademark protection and enforcement as it provides for Administrative, Civil, Criminal and Border measures aimed at deterring acts of trademark infringement. The study found that legal framework for trademarks in Uganda is largely codified in statutes such as the Trademarks Act, 2010 and the EACCMA. A review of these statutes reveals that the law is in substantial compliance with the TRIPS Agreement and that there are only a few areas that require legal reform. In addition, it was found that the legal framework establishes various institutions that are directly or indirectly charged with the enforcement of trademarks. These include the URSB, URA, UNBS, ODPP, UPF and the Judiciary. However, these institutions are too ineffective to contend with the high levels of trademark infringement both domestically and at Uganda’s borders. The above situation is attributed to policy, legal and institutional constraints such as lack of effective collaboration amongst the enforcement agencies, inadequate legal remedies and penalties for trademark infringement, lack of robust registration by local trademark owners, lack of direct enforcement mandate, inadequate and delayed police investigations resulting into delayed prosecution, corruption, lack of financial resources, limited skilled personnel, laxity in enforcement arising from overlapping mandates, lack of a database of registered trademarks, lack of cooperation by rights holders and ignorance of the law by not only the public but also those mandated to enforce the law. In order to address these challenges, the study recommends policy, legal and institutional reforms. It is felt that if the proposed reforms are undertaken, Uganda will achieve the standard of effective enforcement envisaged by the TRIPS Agreement.