A TRADEMARK is any visible distinctive sign used or proposed to be used upon, in connection with or relation to goods or services, for the purpose of distinguishing, in the course of trade or business, the goods or services of a person from those of another (Section 2 of the Trade and Service Marks Act Cap. 326 R.E 2002, “hereinafter referred to as TSMA”).

Its origin dates back to ancient times when craftsmen reproduced their signatures or “marks” on their artistic or utilitarian products for identification. Over the years these marks evolved into today’s system where the marks are registered and protected by laws. This system besides serving the owner of the trademark or products manufacturers to market their products or services, it, on the other hand, helps the consumers to identify, choose and finally purchase a product or service because of its quality as it has been proved by the trademark owner over the years.

A visible sign means any sign which is capable of graphic reproduction, including words, names, brand, devices, heading, labels, tickets, signatures, letters, numbers, reliefs, stamps, seals, vignettes, emblem or any combination thereof (Sect. 2 TSMA)

Trademarks in Tanzania are regulated by:-

While the Trade and Service Marks Act and its regulations provide for the registration and protection of trademarks in Mainland Tanzania, the Zanzibar Industrial Property Act and its regulations provide for the registration and protection of trademarks in Tanzania Zanzibar. It is important to note that Tanzania is a United Republic of Tanganyika (Mainland Tanzania) and Zanzibar. Despite the union of 1964, these two former republics still maintain different pieces of the statute for intellectual property. Thus, registration and protection of a trade mark secured in the mainland do not extend to Zanzibar and vice versa is true. The Merchandise Marks, 1963 is for controlling the use of marks and trade descriptions. It is a penal law dealing with the use of forged and deceptive applications of trademarks.


A trademark provides protection to the owner of the mark by ensuring the exclusive right to use it to identify goods or services or to authorize another to use it in return for payment. It is provided by section 31 of the Trade and Service Mark Act, that: “…the registration of a trade or service right mark shall if valid, give or deemed to have given to the registered proprietor the exclusive right to the use of a trade or service mark in relation to any goods including sale, importation and offer for sale or importation”

The essential function of a trademark is to uniquely identify the commercial source or origin of products or services. The use of a trademark in this way is known as ‘trademark use’ and a trademark owner seeks to enforce its rights or interests in a trademark by preventing unauthorized trademark use.

In a larger sense, trademarks promote initiative and enterprise worldwide by rewarding the owners of trademarks with recognition and financial profit. Trademark protection also hinders the effort of unfair competitors, such as counterfeiters, to use similar distinctive signs to market inferior or different products or services. In Tanzania, this is dealt with by the Merchandise Marks Act Cap.85 R.E 2002 and The Fair Competition Act No.8 of 2003.  The system enables people with skill and enterprise to produce and market goods and services in the fairest possible conditions, thereby facilitating national and international trade.


A trademark is eligible for registration if it functions as a trademark and is not generic or descriptive. It is provided by section 16(1) of TSMA that  “A trade or service mark shall be registered if it is distinctive”. A   trade mark is distinctive if it is capable of distinguishing goods or services with which its appropriator is or may be connected in the course of trade or business. Trademarks may be one or a combination of words, letters, and numerals. They may consist of drawings, symbols, three-dimensional signs such as the shape and packaging of goods, audible signs such as music or vocal sounds, or fragrances used as distinguishing features.

In determining whether a trade or service mark is capable of distinguishing particular products or services from others, the following are considered: –

A good example is the case of Nichols plc v. Registrar of Trade Marks (Case C-404/2004) of the UK. The applicant applied for registration in the United Kingdom for a trademark of the surname “Nichols” for vending machines, food and drink typically dispensed through such machines. The respondent Registrar in judging the capacity of a surname to distinguish goods or services said that consideration would be given to the commonness of the name, based on a  specified number of times that it appeared in an appropriate telephone directory, and to the number of undertakings engaged in the relevant trade. The registrar, having noted that “Nichols” or phonetically similar names appeared more than the specified number of times in the London telephone directory, refused registration in respect of food and drink, but granted it in respect of vending machines, on the ground that the size of the market in the first case was large, but in the second was more specialized.

Generally, the proposed trademark must be distinctive so that consumers can distinguish it as identifying a particular product, from other trademarks identifying other products. It must neither mislead nor deceive customers or violate public order or morality.

Effects of Limitation of Absence of Colour

A trade or service mark is required to be limited in whole or in part to one or more specified colours, and in any such case, the fact that it is so limited may be taken into consideration in deciding on the distinctive character of the trade mark. If whenever in any circumstances trade or a service mark is registered without limitation of colours, it shall be deemed to have registered for all colors (Section 17 of TSMA).


A trademark owner is required to file his application with the Registrar of Trademarks (section 21 of TSMA, 1986). Application and the whole registration process, in Tanzania, is done through the Online Registration System (ORS). No more paperwork. The Applicant is advised to appoint an Agent (Attorney) to take care of the application for registration on his behalf.

The Applicant or appointed representative must have the following information.

Where a person applying for registration of a trademark has applied for protection for any trademark in a country which is a party to the Paris Convention for Protection of Industrial Property 1983, the applicant is entitled to claim the benefits of the earlier application. When he succeeds, his application will be deemed to be of the same date of application in the country provided that the application for registration in Tanzania is made within six months from the date of the earlier application (section 22(1).

The rights applied for cannot be the same as, or similar to, rights already granted to another trademark owner. This may be determined through search and examination by the Registrar, or by the opposition of third parties who claim similar or identical rights. (Section 26 and 27)

Application for Registration must be submitted by the Agent of the Applicant together with FORM No. TM/SM1 (Power of Attorney). This is a requirement of Regulation 11 of the Trade and Service Marks Regulations of 2002. Thus, the applicant is required to appoint an Agent. The Agent must have an account to log in the BRELA Online Registration System.  Pursuant to the provisions of Regulation 11(3) the Agent must be:


Upon the filing of the application for registration of a trade mark and payment of the prescribed fee, the Registrar will examine the application as to:-

Where the Registrar is satisfied with the application of the applicant will accept the same and issue a letter of acceptance to the applicant and proceed to advertise the proposed mark in the Trade and Services Marks Journal (Section 26(2). The advertisement is for 60 days from the date of publication.


Any person may, within sixty (60) days from the date of advertisement of an application give notice to the Registrar of opposition to the registration of a trade or service mark. The opposition party must state the grounds for his opposition that the application does not satisfy the requirements of the law. Among the grounds which may be raised are:-

The notice of opposition must be made in writing with a statement of the grounds for the opposition in form TM/SM 34. The Registrar is required to send a copy of that notice to the applicant who will within the prescribed time send to the Registrar a counter settlement of the grounds on which he relies for his application. If the applicant sends such counter-statement as aforesaid, the Registrar will furnish a copy thereof to a person giving notice of opposition. Thereafter, the registrar shall hear the parties if so required and make decision thereof. A party dissatisfied by the decision of the Registrar may appeal to the High Court.

Where the application for registration of a trade or service mark is accepted, the Registrar shall register the trade and service mark after the expiration 60 days from the date of the advertisement. The registration shall be effective as from the date on which the application for registration was received and shall remain valid for a period of 7 years (Section 29) and may be renewed from time to time for a term of 10 years.


One of the effects of registration is to disentitle any person to institute any proceedings to prevent or to recover damages for infringement of an unregistered trade mark. However, this restriction is not available for action against any person for passing off goods or services of another person or the remedied in respect thereof (Section 30)

Upon registration, the registered proprietor acquires the exclusive right to the use of the trade or service mark in relation to any goods including sale, importation and offer for sale or importation.


Registering a trade mark provides the proprietor with certain exclusive rights. The infringement of these rights entitles him a right to action against the infringer. Pursuant to section 32(1) of the Trade and Service Marks Act, 1986  the proprietor’s exclusive rights are deemed to be infringed by any person who is not the proprietor of the trade mark or registered user thereof uses a sign either:-

The elements for a successful infringement claim have been well established under both statutes and case law. In a nutshell, a plaintiff in a trade mark case has the burden of proving that the defendant’s use of a mark has created likelihood-of-confusion about the origin of the defendant’s goods or services. To do this, the plaintiff should first show that the defendant is using a confusingly similar trademark in such a way that it creates a likelihood of confusion, mistake and/or deception with the consuming public. The confusion created can be that the defendant’s products are the same as that of the plaintiff, or the defendant is somehow associated, affiliated, approved or sponsored by the plaintiff.

Seven factors for the likelihood of confusion

To analyze whether a particular situation has developed the requisite “likelihood of confusion,” courts have generally looked at the following factors:-


It is important to take the necessary steps to have a trade mark registered. After, registration is also important to ensure that a trade mark has been renewed after seven years. Any renewal thereafter lasts for ten years and is then renewed consecutively. Where the owner of the mark decides to assign it to someone else, this matter has to be communicated to the Registrar for registration and endorsement. Any change of name or address must be communicated to the Registrar. The same case applies to Mergers, Registered users (also known as licensing) and any other change in particulars registered.

Ardean Law Chambers is a law firm specializing in the provision of intellectual property services in Tanzania, Zanzibar, Kenya, Uganda and the rest of East African countries. We also provide intellectual property services through ARIPO registration system.  This article provides highlights on trademark registration in Tanzania.  For more information on the registration of trademarks in the rest of the countries including registration through ARIPO.  Kindly contact us…

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Gratian B. Mali

ARDEAN Law Chambers, Dar es Salaam Tanzania


WhatsApp: +255688361260

ARDEAN Law Chambers is a recommended corporate and trademark law firm in Tanzania by the Global Law Experts.