Lesotho has been a signatory member of the Paris Convention since 1989. In 1999 it ratified the Madrid Agreement and Protocol and on that same year the Banjul Protocol on Marks within the framework of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO).
There are thus three routes to obtaining registration of a trademark in Lesotho:
- nationally – directly with the national IP registry;
- regionally – via ARIPO; and
- internationally – via the Madrid Protocol.
Upon filing an application and subsequent to the formal examination conducted by the Lesotho Trademark Registry, Article 28(4) of Industrial Property Order 5/1989 (as amended by Act 4/1997) determines that: “[a]ny interested person may, within the prescribed period and in the prescribed manner, give notice to the Registrar of opposition to the registration of the mark on grounds that one or more of the requirements of section 2, relating to the definition of a mark, and section 26(2) and the regulations pertaining thereto are not fulfilled.”
Article 51 of the Industrial Property Regulations 1989 establishes that after filing an opposition the defendant then has two months to state, in writing the grounds upon which the applicant relies for his application and accompanied by supporting evidence if any”. It then has the opportunity to request a hearing “at any time after the filing of notice of opposition but not later than one month after the expire of the prescribed period for filing the counter-statement. The Registrar shall give the parties at least one month’s written notice of the date set for the hearing.”
The law establishes that the Lesotho Trademark Registry is obliged to publish regional and international trademark applications for opposition purposes. However, this is not current practice – in actuality, the registry publishes only national trademark applications.
This means that applicants for international and regional trademark registrations that designate Lesotho – as well as interested third parties – must rely on the publications of ARIPO and WIPO and then file their oppositions accordingly before the Lesotho Trademark Registry. The opposition period of two months starts when the international registration is advertised by WIPO or when the regional registration is published in ARIPO’s Bulletin.