Malawi recognizes the importance of intellectual property protection and enforcement but lacks enforcement capacity. The Registrar General administers the Patent and Trademarks Act to protect industrial intellectual property rights in Malawi. The Registrar General maintains a public registry of patents and patent licenses. Patents must be registered and trademarks are registered publicly following advertisement and a period of no objection. Enforcement of intellectual property rights is inadequate. However, general awareness of the importance of protecting intellectual property in all forms (copyrights, trademarks, patents, trade secrets, and others) has improved. The Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA) administers the Copyright Act of 2016, which protects copyrights and “neighboring” rights in Malawi.
The government approved the Copyright (Levy on Storage Devices) Regulations in February 2018. Following the approval, COSOMA and the Malawi Revenue Authority began enforcement of a five percent levy on media storage devices to compensate rights holders. Malawi also has a Trademarks Act of 2018 that is a repeal of the trademarks act of 1957 and came into force on October 1, 2018. Malawi launched the National Intellectual Property Policy in May 2019 that acknowledges challenges with intellectual property in the country and provides a framework to foster the generation, protection, and exploitation of intellectual property.
While enforcement officials routinely seize counterfeit goods, Malawi does not have a systematic approach to track and report on such seizures. The government signed and adheres to bilateral and multilateral investment guarantee treaties and key agreements on intellectual property rights. Malawi is a member of the convention establishing the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Berne Convention, and the Universal Copyright Convention. Malawi is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 Report or in the Notorious Markets Report. For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at WIPO.
Because Malawi is designated a Least Developed Country (LDC), WTO rules allow the government to delay full implementation of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) obligations in response to COVID-19 and other related issues. The Ministry of Industry and Trade is working with COSOMA, the Registrar General, and the Africa Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) to align relevant domestic legislation with the WTO TRIPs agreement. The Intellectual Property Rights Policy adopted in 2019 is a prerequisite for the government to change Malawi’s legal framework to align with TRIPs and to modernize Malawi’s intellectual property protection regime. Implementation of the policy has been slow largely due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In any foreign market, companies should consider several general principles for effective protection of their intellectual property. For background, see Protecting Intellectual Property and Stopfakes.gov for more resources.
- For more information, contact ITA’s Office of Standards and Intellectual Property Rights (OSIP) Director, Stevan Mitchell at Stevan.Mitchell@trade.gov.
For additional information on the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, visit the U.S. Investment Climate Statement website.