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13.03.2011 Sri Lanka Trademarks Intellectual property law in Sri Lanka Dissanayake M Sunil Intellectual Property

Legal systems are not equal or always similar in every country/territory in the world. However, all legal systems provide protection for any movable or immovable property legally acquired and owned by individuals and legal persons in that particular country/territory. On the other hand, “Property” in its general meaning is tangible.

In contrast to real property, Intellectual Property is NOT tangible because it is not a product of human dexterity but of human intellect. Therefore it is said that“ it is a fruit of human intellect”. In the process of the development of the world as it stands today, the human mind: the intellect played the major role which nobody can deny. Therefore every country has given a prominent place to this special branch of Law for the sake of economic development.

Although it is a fact that the power of thinking or the Power of mind cannot be stolen by a powerful third party, it is equally true that “ Intellectual Property Rights “ are being infringed all over the globe. Intellectual Property Law is the branch of Law that provides protection for this valuable result of human endeavor. Intellectual Property Act No.36 of 2003 is the frame work within which the Intellectual Property Rights are currently protected within the Island of SRI LANKA which is a member state of World Intellectual Property organization (WIPO) and a party for the International Treaties/Agreements such as (PCT)Patent Co-operation Treaty, TRIPS Agreement and Berne convention.

Intellectual Property is classified under several Headings in the Act, ie: Copy right and related rights, Industrial Designs, Patents, Marks & Trade Marks, Collective marks, Certification Marks, Trade Names and Layout Designs of Integrated Circuits to be given the protection of Law.

The National Intellectual Property Office of Sri Lanka is the ONLY Government body established for the full control of IP related matters including Registration and Administration of Industrial Designs, Patents, Marks and any other matter as provided by the Act (s. 4).

Any non-resident individual or legal entity incorporated outside Sri Lanka may register their IP rights in Sri Lanka through an Attorney/Agent Registered in the National Intellectual Property Office because the Office needs a local Postal Address for correspondence.

Copyright : includes all creative and artistic works such as books, movies, music, paintings, photographs, folk lore, sound recordings and computer programs etc, etc which need NO registration under the Act but protected automatically by operation of Law. Section 13(1) of the Act provides, “economic and moral rights shall be protected during the life time of the author and for a further period of 70 years of his death” where as Protection for joint authorship, collective work, anonymously published work and work of applied art are indicated in Sections. 13(2) (3) (4) &(5) respectively.

Industrial Design : Legal protection for an Industrial design expires on completion of FIVE years since its application for registration and can be renewed TWO consecutive periods in accordance with the Sri Lankan Law. However the renewal fee should be paid within SIX months before the expiration of the registration but there is a grace period of six months to pay such fees even after the expiration of earlier registration and if so, a surcharge may have to be paid.

If any applicant wishes to avail priority for an Industrial design for which he had filed an application in a convention country within a six months from the date he files application in Sri Lanka can make a request for priority by furnishing a copy of the earlier application duly certified by the appropriate authority where the earlier application is filed.

Patents: Patents are granted for inventions with exclusive rights for a period of 20 years in accordance with the Laws provided by the Intellectual Property Act mentioned above. Invention according to the Act is, “an idea of an inventor which permits in practice the solution to a specific problem in the field of technology”. An invention is patentable,” if it is new, involves an inventive step and is industrially applicable” but at the same time the Act does not make provisions for every invention to be patentable.

The general requisites for a patent application are : a request for grant of a patent with the name and address of the applicant, Description of the invention, Claims, Drawings (if any), abstract , details of the previous foreign application if any along with the search report( if priority is claimed) etc, and the Power of attorney in favor of the Attorney /Agent who represent the applicant in Sri Lanka.

Though the validity of a patent is 20 years after 02 years of the application and if the patent is granted the annual fees (annuities)should be paid to the Patent Office in order to keep the patent valid. Grace period is only 06 months within which one can pay annuities with a surcharge.

Trade Marks : Mark generally means “ a visible sign which is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of different enterprises”. A mark may consists of a word, a symbol, a device, letters, numerals, a name, surname or geographical name, a combination or arrangement of colors and shapes of goods or containers etc. The visible sign must always be capable of distinguishing the goods or services of different enterprises.


In Sri Lanka trademarks are registered for 10 year periods, which run from their date of application. Unlike the other intellectual property Trade marks Registration can be renewed for any number of times and if the prescribed fee is paid in time ,could remain in force for an indefinite period of time.

Once you register your mark until the lapse of 10 year duration the mark owner will have NO expenses regarding the maintenance of the mark and every 10 year he has to renew the registration by the payment of the renewal fee through his Attorney/Agent.

Individuals living outside Sri Lanka and legal entities incorporated in foreign soil and engage in trade within the country, need to find a suitable Attorney/Agent within Sri Lanka in order to represent them in all intellectual property matters because the IP Office requires an address in the Sri Lankan soil for correspondence.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dissanayake M Sunil (B A)
Attorney at Law , NP & Intellectual Property Attorney/Agent registered in the IP Office ,Sri Lanka.
Dissanayake M Sunil's legal practice focuses on all areas of Intellectual property matters such as registration, renewal, maintenance (including litigation against infringements) on rights of Patents,Trade Marks & Industrial designs and all other assistance required by clients at the National Intellectual Property office of Sri Lanka.

Copyright Dissanayake M Sunil


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