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Last Updated: December 2008 

Sri Lanka

Intellectual Property Rights


Intellectual property was protected through the Intellectual Property Act of 1979, which governed copyrights, industrial designs, patents, trademarks, trade names and unfair competition. In November 2003, a new intellectual property law came into force. The law will now govern copyrights and related rights, industrial designs, patents for inventions, trademarks and service marks, trade names, layout designs of integrated circuits, geographical indications, unfair competition and undisclosed information.

All trademarks, designs, industrial designs and patents must be registered with the Director General of Intellectual Property. Infringement of Intellectual Property Right is a punishable offence under the new law, and Intellectual Property Right violations are subject to both criminal and civil jurisdiction.

Infringement of intellectual property rights is a punishable offence under the law. Intellectual property rights come under both criminal and civil jurisdiction. Enforcement is a crucial problem, as is public awareness of Intellectual Property Right. Domestic implementing legislation is very weak and the prevailing attitude of the Government is that it cannot act as an enforcer of Intellectual Property Right laws. At present, aggrieved parties must on their own seek redress of any Intellectual Property Right violation through the courts, which can be a frustrating and time-consuming process.

Although the legal system is well established and non-discriminatory, it is fraught with long delays. Necessary amendments to Sri Lankan Intellectual Property Right law are being formulated but have not yet been enacted. It will likely take years before new laws, procedures, and court precedents are established.

Sri Lanka is a party to major intellectual property agreements including the Berne Convention for the protection of literary and artistic works, the Paris Convention for the protection of industrial property, the Madrid Agreement for the repression of false or deceptive indication of source on goods, the Nairobi treaty, the Patent Co-operation Treaty, the Universal Copyright Convention and the convention establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Sri Lanka's intellectual property law is based on the WIPO model law for developing countries. Sri Lanka is a party to the WTO Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.

In general a UK citizen would not apply for a patent or trade mark in Sri Lanka unless they have already made an application for the same in the UK. Advice on matters relating to patents, designs or trademarks can be obtained from agents specialising in these fields. Names and addresses of these are provided at a small charge by the:



Patents are granted for inventions, with the following exceptions: discoveries, scientific theories and mathematical methods, plant or animal varieties or essentially biological processes for the production of plants and animals, other than microbiological processes and the products of such processes, business rules and methods, methods of treatment by surgery or therapy, and diagnostic methods practiced on the human or animal body. A patent is valid for fifteen years from the date of grant, but must be renewed annually.



Copyrights are not registered. A work is protected automatically by operation of law. Original literary, artistic, and scientific works are protected. Computer software is not specifically listed as a protected item under Sri Lankan Intellectual Property Right law, but receives de facto protection under international conventions which extend the definition of literary works to cover software as well. The enforcement limitations described above apply to copyrights, including software.



Sri Lanka recognizes both trademarks and service marks. The exclusive right to a mark is acquired by registration. A mark may consist of words, slogans, designs etc. Protection also is available to well known marks not registered in Sri Lanka. Registered trademarks are valid for ten years.


For further information, please see:

The UK Trade & Investment Country Profile

Intellectual Property Rights Protection from The Office of the United States Trade Representative

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Last Updated: December 2008


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