Sri Lanka - Country Commercial Guide
Protecting Intellectual Property

Provides advice on IPR protection, including information on the registration of patents and trademarks.
 

Last published date: 2021-09-28

Sri Lanka has made progress towards establishing IP protection mechanisms in line with international standards.  The government has taken steps over the last five years to integrate relevant offices and streamline IP protection activities, however local agent of U.S. brands still citicize that enforcement of IP protection is lacking.  The Sri Lankan government has committed to join the Madrid Protocol, but necessary laws have yet to be enacted.  

The Sri Lankan government has made attempts at improving the National Intellectual Property Office (NIPO) by upgrading and modernizing its infrastructure and recruiting new examiners for both trademark and patents, which has led to decrease in backlogs in trademark and patent examinations.

United States Government engagement

The United States and Sri Lanka engage on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) primarily through the United States-Sri Lanka Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).  In addition, the United States and Sri Lanka continue to have dialogue through various fora and work together towards supporting Sri Lanka in developing a stronger IP ecosystem.  The U.S. Government interacts with Customs, Police, Universities and Judicial officials, as well as industry organizations to discuss ways to strengthen the IP enforcement ecosystem in Sri Lanka.

Legislative climate

The Government of Sri Lanka has taken several steps in recent years towards developing its IP system.

Below are some highlights of recent developments:

  • Sri Lanka is a WTO member and a party to the Paris and Berne Conventions, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), and Trademark Law Treaty (TLT), as well as the Marrakesh VIP Treaty.
  • The Sri Lankan government passed its Intellectual Property Rights Act in 2003, the Act encompasses protection for Copyright, Patent and trademark, with the intention to meet WTO TRIPS obligations.
  • The Intellectual Property Rights Act, 2003 governs copyrights and related rights; industrial designs; patents, trademarks and service marks; trade names; layout designs of integrated circuits; geographical indications; unfair competition and undisclosed information (e.g. trade secrets).  All trademarks, designs, industrial designs, and patents must be registered with Director General of Intellectual Property.  However, no legal provisions currently exist for registration of copyrights and trade secrets.  See https://www.nipo.gov.lk/web/images/pdf_downloads/Intellectual_Property_Act_No_36_of_2003.pdf
  • The Protection for New Plant Varieties (Breeders rights) Bill which was drafted in 2001 is still pending approval by Cabinet.
  • In 2010, the Sri Lankan government has established a special antipiracy and counterfeit unit in the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the police to specifically address IPR concerns. The CID is the primary investigation arm of the Sri Lanka and was established in 1870
  • The Sri Lankan governmenthas also established an IPR unit in the social Protection Unit of Sri Lankan Customs to focus on IPR related issues (https://www.customs.gov.lk/)
  • Sri Lanka Custom Department is also working towards developing a trademark database to advance IPR protection and enforcement, though it is yet to be implemented.

Infringement of intellectual property rights is a punishable offence under the IP law with criminal and civil penalties.  Recourse available to owners includes injunctive relief, seizure and destruction of infringing goods and plates or implements used for the making of infringing copies; and prohibition of imports and exports.  Penalties for the first offence include up to six months imprisonment or a fine of up to LKR 500,000 ($3200 USD), but smaller penalties are the norm.

Sri Lanka Custom’s regulatory code provides ex-officio authority to seize suspected counterfeit shipments at the borders.  However, police and customs authorities generally do not proactively initiate action against IPR violators unless the victims bring it to the authority’s attention and work with them on enforcement actions.

Enforcement climate

The overall IP ecosystem in Sr Lanka has improved in recent years, however, lack of an effective strategic policy, coordination among entities involved in implementation and execution of laws has led to counterfeit products being freely available in Sri Lanka.

Local agents of well-known U.S. and other international companies representing recording, software, movie, clothing, and consumer products industries continue to criticize that the lack of adequate IPR protection damages their business interests in Sri Lanka.

In any foreign market, companies should consider several general principles for effective protection of their intellectual property.  For background information, refer to our article on Protecting Intellectual Property and https://www.stopfakes.gov/welcome for more resources.

IP Attaché Contact

Name:   Mr. John Cabeca, U.S. Intellectual Property Attaché for South Asia

Address:   Embassy of the United States of America

The American Center 24 Kasturba Gandhi Marg New Delhi.  110001, India

Telephone:   91-11-2347-2000

E-mail:   john.cabeca@trade.gov