Union of the Comoros - Constitution, Legal Lacuna and Cautionary Notices.

There is little IP news from the Comoros(1), but recently-accessed legal data permit a fresh look at them. The Indian ocean archipelago was ruled by multiple Arab/Swahili sultans since the days of Sinbad and Caliph Haroun al Rashid. It became a French protectorate in 1886 and (mostly) independent in July 1975. In August 1975 came the first of around 20 coups which, with inter-insular fighting, have belied the image of a tranquil, sea-girt haven.

The Sultans used to benefit from seaborne trade; doubtless including slavery and piracy. Today’s economy relies on tourism; export of vanilla, cloves and perfume essences; aid; and savings repatriated by Comorians working overseas.

As a matter of current practical politics the Union of the Comoros is a federation of three principal islands, Grande Comore (N'gazidja), Anjouan (Ndzuwani) and Moheli (Mwali), plus smaller islands. The Union lays constitutional claim to Mayotte (Maoré) but that island, although geographically a Comoro, refused by popular vote to participate in the 1975 Uhuru(2). Mayotte is still French, as a departmental collectivity, and is in process of becoming an overseas department of France(3).

The constitution of the Union of the Comoros, adopted by plebiscite in 2001, divides legislative competence between the Union Assembly (federal parliament) and the respective islands. IP law, and “practices of competition or commerce” such as passing-off or unfair competition, are to be regulated by federal legislation but no such Acts are to be found in the comprehensive collection of statutes.

In the absence of formal IP laws the practice has developed, as in other such places, of publishing cautionary notices in local newspapers announcing the ownership of IP rights, especially trade marks. Some owners and practitioners consider the practice of publishing cautionary notices to be useful – for example because it brings trade mark rights to the attention of the public and the trade, establishes prior ownership and may deprive an imitator of a plea of priority, or ignorance.

Others think cautionary notices are counter-productive – for example because they invite imitation.

At Spoor & Fisher Jersey we believe that proprietors should weigh the factors mentioned above. Then the decision whether or not to publish cautionary notices must be a pragmatic one for the trade mark owner.

Please feel free to consult your usual contact at Spoor & Fisher Jersey, or the writer. Mac Spence is a consultant with Spoor & Fisher Jersey (m.spence@spoor.co.uk) ___________________________________________________________________________________________

  1.  On the general news front, veteran Colonel Combo Ayouba, trained in the 1980s by French mercenary Bob Denard, was assassinated on 13 June 2010. The shooting is characteristic of the turbulent archipelago.
  2.  Swahili’s sister tongue Shikomor is the national language. 
  3.  Visiting Mayotte, the author noted that the national institutions shared with our neighbouring city St Malo (Breton, therefore legally French) included la Poste, les Douanes, la Gendarmerie and refusal to understand English or English-accented French. Historically, St Malo shared another heritage with the Comoros, and for that matter Jersey, being famed as the home of Les Corsaires (private warships)

Date published: 2010/07/29
Author: Spoor & Fisher

Tags: union comoros legal lacuna ip