Uganda is becoming an increasingly significant player on the global IP stage. It has lately seen an uptick in inbound investment from global powers such as China, resulting in increased registration, franchising and licensing activity. In addition, the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) has joined the EU Intellectual Property Office TMclass and DesignClass systems, enhancing harmonisation and further heightening foreign interest in the jurisdiction. Uganda has also been gaining stature as an exporter of trademark work.
Apio, Byabazaire, Musanase & Co Advocates
Driven by innovation, Apio, Byabazaire, Musanase & Co Advocates keeps ahead of the curve in the Ugandan IP space, providing bespoke counsel which stays alive to its emerging trends. It has invested in cutting-edge asset monitoring software and routinely upskills its professionals in tune with market developments – rather than providing cookie-cutter brand protection and enforcement strategies, it leverages portfolios as broader commercial assets for businesses. The driver of this dynamic approach is department head Jamina Apio, a “hands-on, responsive and detail-oriented leader who is looked up to for her contributions to advancing Uganda’s legal frameworks”. Apio’s commitment to local entrepreneurs is also commendable: she coordinates programmes to alert them to IP issues and routinely helps start-ups to develop their brands from ideation onwards.
For those seeking to lock down Uganda as part of a regional IP strategy, Bowmans is a sure choice. Its office in Kampala is complemented by eight further outposts across seven African countries, housing more than 400 professionals – the broad and deep legal and business knowledge at its disposal translates into wraparound branding counsel. Frederick Mpanga and Brian Manyire are the key contacts here for trademarks. UK-educated Mpanga is an accomplished filer and litigator and a respected lecturer on all things IP. Although he shines brightest in enforcement scenarios, Manyire is an adept all-rounder whose advice comes laced with commercial and corporate insights.
Kampala Associated Advocates
Full-service firm Kampala Associated Advocates provides a comprehensive IP offering to a diverse range of predominantly multinational brand owners and associates. Practising at the intersection of IP and TMT law, its highly trained team also has the toolkit to advise on adjacent matters such as domain names and computer software disputes. Technologically sophisticated division head Augustine Idoot embodies this approach: he has lately been involved in registrations for Intercontinental Distillers and infringement appeals on behalf of Hewlett-Packard, but also keeps busy educating Ugandan business owners on the importance of IP protection.
Katende Ssempebwa & Co Advocates
A large full-service outfit committed to time and cost-efficient counselling, Katende Ssempebwa & Co Advocates has established one of Uganda’s strongest client bases over its 50-year existence. Maintaining this standard, the IP division keeps pace with the latest commercial and legal developments to provides forward-thinking counsel at all stages of the trademark lifecycle. Seasoned department head Jane Francis Akiteng is the main draw – a versatile professional and active participant in international IP associations who is the trusted ally of many global rights holders.
The highly specialised team at KTA Advocates offers first-rate counsel on sophisticated mandates which straddle intellectual property and technology. It has a granular knowledge of Ugandan IP law, while membership of the regional Amani IP Network also earns it a slew of instructions with international components. Driving the practice is managing partner Kenneth Muhangi, a “renowned professional in his field” who has carved a particular niche in the ICT space. Edgar Tabaro and Edwin Tabaro both have impressive range, but attract warmest plaudits for their game-changing performances in must-win trademark disputes. The banking industry has been a happy hunting ground of late, with Edgar providing counsel to KCB Bank and Edwin to DFCU Bank.
“MMAKS has established itself as a premier destination in Uganda for intellectual property” – not least thanks to the service-oriented approach of its technically and legally astute practitioners. “It has command of an impressive portfolio of trademarks”, but contentious scenarios are its meat and drink. With “extensive experience of important enforcement matters across the East African region”, it has also “handled some of Uganda’s biggest branding disputes in recent years” – matters spearheaded by Mathias Ssekatawa, who can effortlessly untangle complex IP knots. Ssekatawa receives invaluable support from managing partner and litigation department co-head Moses Adriko; as a solicitor in the Supreme Court of England and Wales, Adriko brings international standards to his practice. The outfit is further bolstered by young advocate Grace Nakabugo, who demonstrates aptitude beyond her years on protection, enforcement and monetisation briefs, and often teaches on the subject of intellectual property.
Sebalu & Lule Advocates
Sebalu & Lule is a prime pick in Uganda for those seeking joined-up trademark counsel across the contentious/non-contentious divide. Benefiting from abundant international resources as a DLA Piper Africa member, it provides meaningful legal and business support to a host of national and international clients, dispensing big-picture advice which is consistently on point and on budget.
Shonubi Musoke & Co Advocates
Intellectual property is a central pillar at corporate and commercial outfit Shonubi Musoke & Co, whose advise is characteristically practical and business sensitive. It utilises dynamic digital tools to optimise the efficiency and accuracy of brand management decisions; and with advocates such as Haila Ndaula keeping their ear close to the ground, it is a dead cert for uncompromising enforcement. A popular choice among domestic rights holders, Ndaula is a prolific filer who can tease out commercially satisfying results in infringement cases and licensing negotiations. The firm’s capabilities are not limited to Uganda, however – thanks to a close affiliation with Norton Rose Fulbright South Africa, it can deliver the goods on a regional scale.
Fresh-faced ensemble Signum Advocates makes its WTR 1000 debut this year on a wave of praise for its “seamless and highly professional” trademark offering. The IP practitioners at this full-service firm work hand in glove with their colleagues in other departments to ensure that branding decisions are fully aligned with clients’ overall business strategies. Inspiring this approach is co-founder Alex Matovu, who provides assured leadership to the department. A professional of broad legal acumen, Matovu knows what it takes to get marks registered and IP-rich deals inked across the East African region.
Sipi Law Associates
Commercial outfit Sipi Law Associates “has the most established footprint of any firm in Uganda’s IP market”. Delivering optimum results at a reasonable price point, it has “established itself as a go-to in the country, both for local and blue-chip clients, and has an impressive turnover of trademark registrations”. Among a talented team of lawyers with advanced technical and legal know-how, Tony Kakooza, Paul Asiimwe and Dinnah Kyasimire are the stand-outs. Market commentators label Kakooza “the godfather of Ugandan intellectual property”: his “broad scholarly and teaching activity has informed Uganda’s current practitioners”. Fellow gold-tier advocate Asiimwe is another eminent figure, “recognised regionally” for his versatility and insight. In Kyasimire, the firm has a stellar IP all-rounder who is a rising star in local circles.
Other recommended experts
Paula Namusiitwa, the managing partner at ABNO Advocates, marries an astute take on asset management and commercialisation with “a wealth of experience in handling unique disputes”. Her work with the URSB to help develop the Ugandan IP scene – contributing to legislative initiatives and coordinating training and education schemes – is also commendable.
- Jamina Apio - Apio, Byabazaire, Musanase & Co Advocates
- Paul Asiimwe - Sipi Law Associates
- Tony K Kakooza - Sipi Law Associates
- Mathias Ssekatawa - MMAKS Advocates
- Moses Adriko - MMAKS Advocates
- Jane Francis Akiteng - Katende Ssempebwa & Co Advocates
- Kenneth Muhangi - KTA Advocates
- Paula Namusiitwa - ABNO Advocates
- Edgar Tabaro - KTA Advocates
- Edwin Tabaro - KTA Advocates
- Augustine Idoot - Kampala Associated Advocates
- Dinnah Kyasimire - Sipi Law Associates
- Brian Manyire - Bowmans
- Alex Matovu - Signum Advocates
- Frederick Mpanga - Bowmans
- Grace Nakabugo - MMAKS Advocates
- Haila Ndaula - Shonubi Musoke & Co Advocates