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Afghanistan

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Property rights protection is weak due to a lack of cadasters or a comprehensive land titling system, disputed land titles, incapacity of commercial courts, and widespread corruption.  Land laws in Afghanistan are inconsistent, overlapping, incomplete, or silent with regard to details of effective land management. Judges and attorneys are often without expertise in land matters.  According to the World Bank, less than 20 percent of land in Afghanistan is formally titled. An estimated 80 percent of land is held and transferred informally, without legally recognized deeds, titles, or a simple means to prove ownership.

The acquisition of a clear land title to purchase real estate or a registered leasehold interest is complicated and cumbersome.  The World Bank estimated in its 2018 “Doing Business Report” that it takes an average of 155 days to register property, and entails extensive legal fees.  Investment disputes are common in the areas of land titling and contracts. Many documents evidencing land ownership are not archived in any official registry.

Frequently, multiple “owners” claim the same piece of land, each asserting rights from a different source.  These disputes hinder the development of commercial and agricultural enterprises. Real estate agents are not reliable.  Instances of parties falsely claiming title to land that they do not own undermines investor confidence. Mortgages and liens are at an early stage of development.  Foreign investors seeking to work with Afghan citizens to purchase property should conduct thorough due diligence to identify reliable partners.

Intellectual Property Rights

Prior to 2012, Afghanistan did not have fully operational intellectual property rights (IPR) offices at the Ministry of Information and Culture (MOIC), which focuses on copyrights, or at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce (MOCI), which focuses on all other intellectual property areas.  Since 2012, laws on copyrights, patents, trademarks, and geographical indications have been adopted.

To fully comply with the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), laws related to other IPR substantive areas (e.g., industrial designs, trade secrets, and layout designs) are in the process of adoption.  Afghanistan’s IPR regime provides investors with access to the judicial system and, in certain areas such as copyrights, to administrative appeals.

Afghanistan has limited experience regarding IPR and needs significant capacity building to effectively enforce and administer IPR laws.  Afghanistan is not included in the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List. Afghanistan has been a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) since 2005.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at https://www.wipo.int/portal/en/index.html  .

Resources for Rights Holders

Contact at U.S. Embassy Kabul:

Economic Section, Embassy of the United States of America
Kabul, Afghanistan
+93 (0) 700-108-001
Email KabulEcon@State.gov

American Chamber of Commerce in Afghanistan: www.amcham.af  
Email: info@amcham.af

A list of local lawyers is at https://af.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/

Albania

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Protection and enforcement of property rights remain significant challenges for individuals and investors in Albania.  Despite recent improvements, procedures are cumbersome, and registrants have complained of corruption during the process.  The GOA has drafted and passed property legislation in a piecemeal and uncoordinated way. Reform of the sector has yet to incorporate consolidation of property rights or the elimination of legal uncertainties.  According to the EU’s 2018 Progress Report, significant progress has yet to be made toward improving the legal framework for registration, expropriation, and compensation of property. As well, the legalization process for illegal construction throughout the country remains far from complete.  

Through international donor assistance, the property registration system has improved, but reform is incomplete.  Approximately 15 percent of properties nationwide are unregistered, mostly in urban and high-value coastal areas. Albania counts around 4.4 million properties, of which 3.8 million have been registered.  Albania has an estimated 440,000 illegal structures, and illicit construction remains a major impediment to securing property titles. A process that aims to legalize or eliminate such structures was begun in 2008, but remains incomplete.  The situation has led to clashes between squatters and owners of allegedly illegal buildings and the Albanian State Police during the demolition of such structures.

According to the 2019 World Bank’s “Business Report,” Albania performed poorly in the property registration category, ranking 98th out of 190 countries.  It took an average of 19 days and six procedures to register property, and the associated costs could reach 9.2 percent of the total property value. The civil court system manages property rights disputes, though verdicts can take years and authorities often fail to enforce court decisions.

To streamline the property management process, the GOA in April 2019 established the State Cadaster Agency, which integrated several major agencies responsible for property registration, compensation, and legalization, including the Immovable Property Registration Office (IPRO) and the Office for the Legalization of Illegal Structures (ALUIZNI).   

Intellectual Property Rights

Albania is not listed on the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.  However, intellectual property rights (IPR) infringement and theft are common due to weak legal structures and poor enforcement.  Counterfeit goods, while decreasing, are present in some local markets, ranging from software to garments to machines. Albanian law protects copyrights, patents, trademarks, stamps, marks of origin, and industrial designs, but significant gaps remain between the law’s intent and its enforcement.  Regulators are ineffective at collecting fines and prosecutors rarely press charges for IP theft. U.S. companies should consult an experienced IPR attorney and avoid potential risks by establishing solid commercial relationships and drafting strong contracts.

A revised 2016 IPR law aimed to harmonize domestic legislation with EU law to strengthen IPR enforcement and address shortcomings in existing legislation.  The main institutions responsible for IPR enforcement include the State Inspectorate for Market Surveillance (SIMS), the Albanian Copyright Office (ACO), the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA), the General Directorate of Patents and Trademarks (GDPT), the General Directorate for Customs, the Tax Inspectorate, the Prosecutor’s Office, law enforcement, and the courts.  The law also stipulated the establishment of three new IPR bodies: The National Council of Copyrights, which is responsible to monitor the implementation of the law; the Agency for the Collective Administration, in charge of IPR administration; and the Copyrights Department within the Ministry of Culture. The Criminal Code was also amended in 2017 to better address copyright infringements.

The SIMS, established in 2016, is responsible to inspect, control, and enforce copyright and other related rights.  The Directorate has noted some progress on IPR protection. Yet, despite minor improvements, law enforcement on copyrights remains problematic and copyright violations are rampant.  The number of copyright violation cases brought to court remains low.

While official figures are not available, Customs does report the quantity of counterfeit goods destroyed annually.  In cases of seizures, the rights holder has the burden of proof and must first inspect the goods before any further action takes place.  The rights holder is also responsible for the storage and destruction of the counterfeit goods.

The GDPT is responsible to register and administer patents, commercial trademarks and service marks, industrial designs, and geographical indications.  The 2008 law on Industrial Property was amended in 2014 to reflect EU legislation on the matter.

Albania became a contracting party to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Patent Law Treaty and a full member of the European Patent Organization in 2010.  The government became party to the London Agreement on the implementation of Article 65 of the European Convention for Patents in 2013. In 2018, Parliament approved the 34/2018 law, which ensures Albania’s adherence to the Vienna Agreement for the International Classification of the Figurative Elements of Marks.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at: http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  

Resources for Rights Holders

Contact at mission on IP issues:

Jeffrey D. Bowan
Economic and Commercial Officer
Phone: + 355 (0) 4229 3115
E-mail: BowanJD@state.gov

Country resources:

American Chamber of Commerce
Address: Rr. Deshmoret e shkurtit, Sky Tower, kati 11 Ap 3 Tirana, Albania
Email: info@amcham.com.al
Phone: +355 (0) 4225 9779
Fax: +355 (0) 4223 5350
http://www.amcham.com.al/  

List of local lawyers: http://tirana.usembassy.gov/list_of_attorneys.html

Algeria

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Secured interests in property are generally recognized and enforceable, but court proceedings can be lengthy and results unpredictable.  All property not clearly titled to private owners remains under government ownership. As a result, the government controls most real property in Algeria, and instances of unclear titling have resulted in conflicting claims of ownership, which has made purchasing and financing real estate difficult.  Several business contacts have reported significant difficulty in obtaining land from the government to develop new industrial activities; the state prefers to lease land for 33-year terms, renewable twice, rather than sell outright. The procedures and criteria for awarding land contracts are opaque.

Property sales are subject to registration at the tax inspection and publication office at the Mortgage Register Center and are part of the public record of that agency.  All property contracts must go through a notary.

According to the 2019 World Bank Doing Business report, Algeria ranks 165/190 for ease of registering property.

Intellectual Property Rights

Patent and trademark protection in Algeria is covered by a series of ordinances dating back to 2003 and 2005.  U.S. company representatives operating in Algeria reported that these laws were satisfactory in terms of both the scope of what they cover and the mandated penalties for violations.  A 2015 government decree to pursue patent and trademark infringements increased coordination between the National Office of Copyrights and Related Rights (ONDA), the National Institute for Industrial Property (INAPI), and law enforcement.  However, U.S. companies note that enforcement remains an issue.

ONDA, under the Ministry of Culture, and INAPI, under the Ministry of Industry and Mines, are the two separate entities within the Algerian government that have primary responsibility for IP protections.  ONDA covers literary and artistic copyrights as well as digital software rights, while INAPI oversees the registration and protection of industrial trademarks and patents. Despite strengthened efforts at ONDA, INAPI, and the General Directorate for Customs (under the Ministry of Finance), which have seen local production of pirated or counterfeit goods nearly disappear since 2011, imported counterfeit goods are prevalent and easily obtained.  Algerian law enforcement agencies annually confiscate several hundred items, including clothing, cosmetics, sports items, foodstuffs, automotive spare parts, and home appliances. ONDA destroyed more than 100,000 copies of pirated media to commemorate World Intellectual Property Day in 2017, but software firms estimate that more than 85 percent of the software used in Algeria, and a similar percentage of titles used by government institutions and state-owned companies, is not licensed.

Algeria has remained on the Priority Watch List of USTR’s Special 301 Report   since 2009.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at https://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

Andorra

5. Protection of Property Rights

The Constitution guarantees the right to private ownership for citizens and residents.  Both domestic and foreign private entities now have the right to establish and own business enterprises.

Real Property

Andorran law protects property rights with enforcement carried out at the administrative and judicial levels.  Foreign investments for the purchase of property are possible in Andorra, subject to prior authorization. There is a four percent asset-transfer tax.  Secured property loans are available through the Andorran banking sector. The Andorran Financial Authority (AFA) oversees mortgages.

Intellectual Property Rights

Andorra joined the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 1994 and became party to the Paris Convention, the Bern Convention, as well as the Rome Convention in 2004.  Although the Government took some steps to become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2003, the country will continue to hold WTO-observer status until it complies with the Agreement on Trade Related Aspect of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Protection of intellectual property in Andorra is weak.  The legal framework includes the Law on Trademarks of May 1, 1995 and the Law on Patents 26/2014 of October 30, 2014.  For copyrights, the legal framework includes the Law on Authors’ Rights of June 9, 1999 and Law 23/2011 of December 29, 2011, on the Creation of the Society of Collective Management of Copyright and Neighboring Rights.

In 2012, the Society for the Administration of Authors’ Rights (SDADV) was created for the protection of intellectual property.  The main function of the SDADV is to manage the economic rights of copyright holders, neighboring rights, and the interests of account holders.  Rights holders have the opportunity to choose whether to participate in this voluntary collective arrangement.

Businesses may seek a trademark at the Andorran Trademarks Office, which was established in 1996:

Trademarks Office of the Principality of Andorra
Ministry of Economy
Edifici Administratiu del Prat del Rull
Cami de la Grau s/n
AD 500 Andorra La Vella
Tel. (376) 875 600
www.ompa.ad  

USTR does not list Andorra in its Special 301 or notorious market reports.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at:  http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  

Angola

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Transparency and land property rights are critical for Angolan economic development given that two thirds of Angolans work in agriculture and are directly dependent on land property rights. However, the Land Act (Lei de Terras de Angola) has not been revised since its approval in December 2004. While the land act is a crucial step toward addressing issues of land tenure, normalization of land ownership in Angola persists with problems such as difficulties in completing land claims, land grabbing, lack of reliable government records, and unresolved status of traditional land tenure.  Among other provisions, the law included a formal mechanism for transforming traditional land property rights into legal land property rights (clean titles).  During the civil war, a transparent system of land property rights did not exist, so it was crucial to re-establish one shortly after the end of hostilities in 2002.

According to the “Land Act,” the State may transfer or constitute, for the benefit of Angolan natural or legal persons, a multiplicity of land rights on land forming part of its private domain.  Although, it is possible to transfer ownership over some categories of land, the transfer of State land almost never implies the transfer of its ownership, but only the formation of minor land rights with leasehold being the most common form in Angola.  The recipient of private property rights from the State can only transfer those rights with consent of the local authority and after a period of five years of effective use of the land (GRA 2004 law). Weak land tenure legislation and lack of secure legal guarantees (clean titles), are the reasons given by most commercial banks for their greater than 80 percent refusal rate for loans since land is used as collateral.  Foreign real-estate developers therefore seek out public-private partnership (PPP) arrangements with State actors who can provide protection against land disputes and financial risks involved in projects that require significant cash outlays to get started.

Registering parcels of land over 10,000 hectares must be approved by the Council of Ministers.  Registering property takes 190 days on average, ranking 170 out of 173 according to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 survey, with fees averaging three percent of property value.  Owners must also wait five years after purchasing before reselling land. There are no written regulations setting out guidelines defining different forms of land occupation, including commercial use, traditional communal use, leasing, and private use.  Over the years, the government has given out large parcels of land to individuals in order to support the development of commercial agriculture. However, this process has largely been unsystematic and does not follow any formal rule change on land tenure by the State.

Before obtaining proof of title, an Angolan citizen or an Angolan legal entity must also obtain the Real or Leasing Rights (“Usufruct”) of the Land from the Instituto de Planeamento e Gestão Urbana de Luanda, an often a time-consuming procedure that can take up to a year or more.  However, in the case that company X already owns the land the company must secure a land property title deed from the Real Estate Registry in Luanda. An updated property certificate (“certidão predial”) is obtained from the relevant Real Estate Registry, with the complete description of the property including owner(s) information and any charges, liens, and/or encumbrances pending on the property.  The complex administration of property laws and regulations that govern land ownership and transfer of real property as well as its tedious registration process may reduce investor appetite for real estate investments in Angola. Despacho no. 174/11 of March 11, 2011 mandates the total fees for the “certidão predial” include stamp duty (calculated according to the Law on Stamp Duty); justice fees (calculated according to the Law on Justice Fees); fees to justice officers (according to the set contributions for the Justice budget); and, notary and other fees.  The total fee is also dependent on the current value of the fiscal unit (UCF).

Intellectual Property Rights

Angolan law recognizes the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR).  Angola’s National Assembly adopted the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Intellectual Property in August 2005, incorporating the 1979 text, and the patent cooperation treaty concluded in 1970, and amended in 1979 and 1984.  The Ministry of Industry administers IPR for trademarks, patents, and designs under Industrial Property Law 3/92. The Ministry of Culture regulates authorship, literary, and artistic rights under Copyright Law 4/90. Angola is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and follows international patent classifications of patents, products, and services to identify and codify requests for patents and trademark registration.

IAPI (Instituto Angolano de Propriedade Intelectual) is the governmental body within the Ministry of Industry charged with implementing patent and trademark law.  The Ministry of Culture oversees copyright law. IP infringement is widespread, most notably in the production and distribution of pirated CDs, DVDs, and other media, largely for personal consumption. Counterfeit pharmaceuticals are another major area of concern.

There are currently no statistics available regarding counterfeit goods seized by the Angolan government.  INADEC (Instituto Nacional de Defesa dos Consumidores), under the umbrella of the Ministry of Commerce, tracks and monitors the seizure of counterfeit goods seized by the Angolan government.  They do not currently have a website, nor do they regularly publish statistics.  They publish the seizure of counterfeit products on an ad-hoc basis, primarily in the government-owned daily, Jornal de Angola.

Angola is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .  The U.S. Embassy point of contact for IPR related issues is Mballe Nkembe (NkembeMM@state.gov).  For legal counsel, refer to Angola’s Country Commercial Guide Local Professional Services List (http://export.gov/ccg/angola090710.asp  )

Antigua and Barbuda

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The government owns 55 percent of the country’s land, with the remaining 45 percent is privately owned.  The Lands Division in the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs is the custodian of Crown lands on behalf of the government.

By custom, the residents of Barbuda owned communally the land on the island.  In 2018, the government amended the Barbuda Land Act to allow Barbudans to have private ownership of land on Barbuda.  The government then announced plans to repeal the Barbuda Land Act, replacing it with a new Crown Land Regulation Act that would allow private ownership of land in Barbuda by non-Barbudans.  Many Barbudans are opposed to this legislation, which would allow the government to sell land on Barbuda for the commercial development of tourism facilities. Barbudan representatives have filed a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the new legislation in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.

Both citizens and non-citizens can lease or buy land on the island of Antigua from the government or the private sector.  Land sold to non-citizens is subject to the Non-Citizen Land Holding Regulation Act that requires the buyer to obtain a license to purchase land.  Buyers are advised to consult with a local attorney. All land titles and purchases must be registered at the Land Registry.

The Town and Country Planning office of the Development Control Authority designates land use areas, including for commercial, agricultural, industrial, or tourism use.  The government’s Free Trade and Processing Zone manages lands and facilities which are geared towards attracting foreign direct investment in export sectors.

Because Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the ECCU, lending institutions in Antigua and Barbuda generally follow the guidelines published by the ECCB.  However, the lack of capital market depth in the sub-region makes the use of securitization difficult. The country could potentially benefit from initiatives to expand the range of financial products offered by the Eastern Caribbean Securities Exchange (ECSE) and the Eastern Caribbean Home Mortgage Bank.

In the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business Report, Antigua and Barbuda is ranked 120 out of 190 countries for ease of registering property.  The government of Antigua and Barbuda has instituted significant reforms in this area. It now takes about 32 days (compared to 108 days before the reforms) to complete seven necessary procedures, and the cost is about 10.8 percent of the property value.  

Intellectual Property Rights

Antigua and Barbuda has an extensive legislative framework supporting the protection of intellectual property rights.  However, enforcement efforts are inconsistent. Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).  It is a signatory to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks, and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.  

Article 66 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (2001) establishing the CSME commits all 15 members to implement stronger intellectual property protection and enforcement. The EPA between the CARIFORUM States and the European Community contains the most detailed obligations regarding intellectual property in any trade agreement to which Antigua and Barbuda is a party.  The EPA recognizes the protection and enforcement of intellectual property. Article 139 of the EPA requires parties to “ensure an adequate and effective implementation of the international treaties dealing with intellectual property to which they are parties, and of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS).”

The Comptroller of Customs spearheads the enforcement and prevention efforts against counterfeit goods, which include detention, seizure, and forfeiture.

Antigua and Barbuda is not listed on the United States Trade Representative ’s  2019 Notorious Markets List, or in the Special 301 Report. For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local intellectual property offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en 

Argentina

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Secured interests in property, including mortgages, are recognized in Argentina. Such interests can be easily and effectively registered. They also can be readily bought and sold. Argentina manages a national registry of real estate ownership (Registro de la Propiedad Inmueble) at http://www.dnrpi.jus.gov.ar/ . No data is available on the percent of all land that does not have clear title. There are no specific regulations regarding land lease and acquisition of residential and commercial real estate by foreign investors. Law 26,737 (Regime for Protection of National Domain over Ownership, Possession or Tenure of Rural Land) establishes the restrictions of foreign ownership on rural and productive lands, including water bodies. Foreign ownership is also restricted on land located near borders.

Legal claims may be brought to evict persons unlawfully occupying real property, even if the property is unoccupied by the lawful owner. However, these legal proceedings can be quite lengthy, and until the legal proceedings are complete, evicting squatters is problematic. The title and actual conditions of real property interests under consideration should be carefully reviewed before acquisition.

Argentine Law 26.160 prevents the eviction and confiscation of land traditionally occupied by indigenous communities in Argentina, or encumbered with an indigenous land claim. Indigenous land claims can be found in the land registry. Enforcement is carried out by the National Institute of Indigenous Affairs, under the Ministry of Social Development.

Intellectual Property Rights

The government of Argentina adheres to some treaties and international agreements on intellectual property (IP) and belongs to the World Intellectual Property Organization and the World Trade Organization. The Argentine Congress ratified the Uruguay Round agreements, including the provisions on intellectual property, in Law 24425 on January 5, 1995.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s 2019 Special 301 Report identified Argentina on the Priority Watch List. Trading partners on the Priority Watch List present the most significant concerns regarding inadequate or ineffective IP protection or enforcement or actions that otherwise limit market access for persons relying on IP protection. For a complete version of the 2019 Report, see: https://ustr.gov/about-us/policy-offices/press-office/press-releases/2018/april/ustr-releases-2018-special-301-report .

Argentina continues to present longstanding and well-known challenges to IP-intensive industries, including from the United States. A key deficiency in Argentina’s legal framework for patents is the unduly broad limitations on patent eligible subject matter. Pursuant to a highly problematic 2012 Joint Resolution establishing guidelines for the examination of patents, Argentina rejects patent applications for categories of pharmaceutical inventions that are eligible for patentability in other jurisdictions, including in the United States. Additionally, to be patentable, Argentina requires that processes for the manufacture of active compounds disclosed in a specification be reproducible and applicable on an industrial scale. Stakeholders assert that Resolution 283/2015, introduced in September 2015, also limits the ability to patent biotechnological innovations based on living matter and natural substances. Such measures have interfered with the ability of companies investing in Argentina to protect their IP and may be inconsistent with international norms. Another ongoing challenge to the innovative agricultural, chemical, and pharmaceutical sectors is inadequate protection against the unfair commercial use, as well as unauthorized disclosure, of undisclosed test or other data generated to obtain marketing approval for products in those sectors. Argentina struggles with a substantial backlog of patent applications resulting in long delays for innovators seeking patent protection in the market, a problem compounded by a reduction in the number of patent examiners in 2018 primarily due to a government-wide hiring freeze.

Enforcement of IP rights in Argentina continues to be a challenge and stakeholders report widespread unfair competition from sellers of counterfeit and pirated goods and services. La Salada in Buenos Aires remains the largest counterfeit market in Latin America. Argentine police generally do not take ex officio actions, prosecutions can stall and languish in excessive formalities, and, when a criminal case does reach final judgment, infringers rarely receive deterrent sentences. Hard goods counterfeiting and optical disc piracy is widespread, and online piracy continues to grow as criminal enforcement against online piracy is nearly nonexistent. As a result, IP enforcement online in Argentina consists mainly of right holders trying to convince cooperative Argentine ISPs to agree to take down specific infringing works, as well as attempting to seek injunctions in civil cases. Right holders also cite widespread use of unlicensed software by Argentine private enterprises and the government.

Over the last year, Argentina made limited progress in IP protection and enforcement. Beset with economic challenges, Argentina’s government agencies were strapped by a reduction of funding and a government-wide hiring freeze, and many of Argentina’s IP-related initiatives that had gained momentum last year did not gain further traction due to a lack of resources. Despite these circumstances, the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) revamped its procedures and began accepting electronic filing of patent, trademark, and industrial designs applications as of October 1, 2018. Argentina also improved registration procedures for trademarks and industrial designs.  On trademarks, the law now provides for a fast track option that reduces the time to register a trademark to four months. The United States continues to monitor this change as INPI works on the implementing regulation. For industrial designs, INPI now accepts multiple applications in a single filing and applicants may substitute digital photographs for formal drawings. To further improve patent protection in Argentina, including for small and medium-sized enterprises, the United States urges Argentina to ratify the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).

Argentina’s efforts to combat counterfeiting continue, but without systemic measures, illegal activity persists.  Argentine authorities arrested the alleged operators of the market La Salada as well as numerous associates in 2017, but vendors continue to sell counterfeit and pirated goods at the market and throughout Buenos Aires. The United States has encouraged Argentina to create a national IP enforcement strategy to build on these successes and move to a sustainable, long-lasting initiative. The United States also has encouraged legislative proposals to this effect, along the lines of prior bills introduced in Congress to provide for landlord liability and stronger enforcement on the sale of infringing goods at outdoor marketplaces such as La Salada, and to amend the trademark law to increase criminal penalties for counterfeiting carried out by criminal networks. In November 2017, Argentina entered into an agreement with the Chamber of Medium-Sized Enterprises and the Argentine Anti-Piracy Association to create a National Anti-Piracy Initiative focusing initially on trademark counterfeiting. The United States encourages Argentina to expand this initiative to online piracy. In March, revisions to the criminal code, including certain criminal sanctions for circumventing technological protection measures (TPMs), were submitted to Congress. While Argentina has moved forward with the creation of a federal specialized IP prosecutor’s office, the office is not yet in operation. In November 2018, following a constructive bilateral meeting earlier in the year, Argentina and the United States held a DVC under the bilateral Innovation and Creativity Forum for Economic Development, part of the U.S.-Argentina Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), to continue discussions and collaboration on IP topics of mutual interest. The United States intends to monitor all the outstanding issues for progress, and urges Argentina to continue its efforts to create a more attractive environment for investment and innovation.

For statistics on illegal sales in Argentina, go to the following link: http://redcame.org.ar/seccion/relevamiento-venta-ilegal 

Armenia

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Armenian law protects secured interests in property, both personal and real.  Armenian legislation provides a basic framework for secured lending, collateral, and pledges and provides a mechanism to support modern lending practices and title registration.  According to Armenia’s constitution, foreign citizens are prohibited from owning land, though they may take out long-term leases. In the World Bank’s 2019 Ease of Doing Business report, Armenia ranked 14th among 190 economies for the ease of registering property.  Lack of clear title to land is not an issue in Armenia.

Intellectual Property Rights

Armenia has a strong intellectual property rights (IPR) framework.  Domestic legislation, including the 2006 Law on Copyright and Related Rights, provides for the protection of IPR on literary, scientific, and artistic works (including computer programs and databases), patents and other rights of invention, industrial design, know-how, trade secrets, trademarks, and service marks.  The Intellectual Property Agency (IPA) in the Ministry of Economic Development and Investments is responsible for granting patents and overseeing other IPR-related matters. Armenia requires no state registration for copyright. The collective management organization ARMAUTHOR manages authors’ economic rights. Trademarks and patents require state registration by the IPA.  There is no special trade secret law in Armenia, but protection of trade secrets is partially covered by patent registration. Formal registration is easy and transparent, the database of IPR registrations is public, and applications to register intellectual property are published online for two months for comment by third parties.

Armenia’s legislation is in compliance with the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Properties Agreement.  In 2005, Armenia created an IPR Enforcement Unit in the Organized Crime Department of the Armenian Police, which does not, however, exercise ex-officio powers and acts only based on complaints from right holders.

Despite the existence of relevant legislation and executive government structures, the concept of IPR remains unrecognized by a large part of the local population. The onus for IPR complaints remains with the offended party.  The police assert that the majority of cases are settled through out-of-court proceedings. While the Armenian government has made some progress on IPR issues, strengthening enforcement mechanisms remains necessary.

A new Law on Copyright has been drafted and submitted to the government.  It includes provisions from new international agreements and provides additional detail on many of the provisions in the current law.  Copyright contract rights are better defined and examples of contracts between the user and the rights-holder are included. Phonogram producers’ rights are harmonized with copyright holders’ rights and are extended to 70 years.  The new legislation includes specific provisions from the Marrakesh and Beijing Treaties that regulate the rights of disabled artists and orphan works. Two new laws, the Law on Patents and Law on Industrial Design, have also been drafted by the IPA and submitted to the government.

The Armenian customs authorities track statistics related to the seizure of counterfeit goods, but the reports are not regularly updated.  The latest relevant information can be found at http://www.petekamutner.am/Content.aspx?itn=csVLDepFightAgainstSmug  .

Armenia is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.

Australia

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Strong legal frameworks protect property rights in Australia and operate to police corruption.  Mortgages are commercially available, and foreigners are allowed to buy real property subject to certain registration and approval requirements.  Property lending may be securitized, and Australia has one of the most highly developed securitization sectors in the world. Beyond the private sector property market, securitization products are being developed to assist local and state government financing.  Australia has no legislation specifically relating to securitization, although issuers are governed by a range of other financial sector legislation and disclosure requirements.

Intellectual Property Rights

Australia generally provides strong intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and enforcement through legislation that, among other things, criminalizes copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting.  Australia is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 report or on USTR’s notorious market report.

Enforcement of counterfeit goods is overseen by the Australian Department of Home Affairs through the Notice of Objection Scheme, which allows the Australian Border Force to seize goods suspected of being counterfeit.  Penalties for sale or importation of counterfeit goods include fines and up to five years imprisonment. The Australia Border Force reported seizing 190,000 individual items of counterfeit and pirated goods, worth approximately AUD 16.9 million (USD 11.8 million), during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016, the last available year for which this data is provided.

IP Australia is the responsible agency for administering Australia’s responsibilities and treaties under the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).  Australia is a member of a range of international treaties developed through WIPO. Australia does not have specific legislation relating to trade secrets, however common law governs information protected through such means as confidentiality agreements or other means of illegally obtaining confidential or proprietary information.

Australia was an active participant in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations and signed ACTA in October 2011.  It has not yet ratified the agreement. ACTA would establish an international framework to assist Parties in their efforts to effectively combat the infringement of intellectual property rights, in particular the proliferation of counterfeiting and piracy.

Under the AUSFTA, Australia must notify the holder of a pharmaceutical patent of a request for marketing approval by a third party for a product claimed by that patent.  U.S. and Australian pharmaceutical companies have raised concerns that unnecessary delays in this notification process restrict their options for action against third parties that would infringe their patents if granted marketing approval by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration.

The Australian Parliament introduced two amendments to the Copyright Act in 2018.  In June 2018, the Australian Parliament passed the Copyright Amendment (Service Providers) Bill 2017.  This amendment extends safe harbor provisions in the Act to the disability, education, library, archive, and cultural sectors, protecting organizations in these sectors from legal liability where they can demonstrate that they have taken reasonable steps to deal with copyright infringement by users of their online platforms.  However, the legislation specifically excludes online platforms such as Google and Facebook from safe harbor provisions. Prior to this extension, the safe harbor provisions, set out in Division 2AA of Part V of the Copyright Act, applied only to carriage service providers. Carriage service providers were broadly defined as telecommunications network providers, but do not include online platforms such as Google and Facebook.  Having passed the amendment, the Australian Government has indicated it will not revisit legislation to extend the safe harbor provisions to cover service providers in the near future. In November 2018, the Australian Parliament passed the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2018. This legislation reduces the threshold for capturing overseas online locations under the Copyright Act and makes it easier for individuals to seek injunctions against material distributed online, including against online search engines making that material publicly available.  The legislation allows the Communications Minister to exempt certain search engines or classes of search engines.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Austria

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Austrian legal system protects secured-interests in property.  For any real estate agreement to be effective, owners must register with the land registry.  Mortgages and liens must also be registered. As a rule, property for sale must be unencumbered.  In case of rededication of land, approval of the land transfer commission or the office of the state governor is required.  The land registry is a reliable system for recording interests in property, and access to the registry is public.

Non-EU/EEA citizens need authorization from administrative authorities of the respective Austrian province to acquire land.  Provincial regulations vary, but in general there must be a public (economic, social, cultural) interest for the acquisition to be authorized.  Often, the applicant must guarantee that he does not want to build a vacation home on the land in order to receive the required authorization.

Intellectual Property Rights

Austria has a strong legal structure to protect intellectual property rights, including patent and trademark laws, a law protecting industrial designs and models, and a copyright law.  Austria is a party to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and several international property conventions. Austria also participates in the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) program with the USPTO (started in 2014), which allows filing of streamlined applications for inventions determined to be patentable in other participating countries.

Austria’s Copyright Act conforms to EU directives on intellectual property rights. It grants authors exclusive rights to publish, distribute, copy, adapt, translate, and broadcast their work.  The law also regulates copyrights of digital media (restrictions on private copies), works on the Internet, protection of computer programs, and related damage compensation. Infringement proceedings, however, can be time-consuming and costly.   Between 2015 and 2017, the Austrian High Court confirmed that Austrian Internet providers must prevent access to illegal music and streaming platforms once they are made aware of a copyright violation. They must also block workaround websites from these platforms.

Austria also has a law against trade in counterfeit articles.  In 2018, Austrian customs authorities confiscated pirated goods worth EUR 2.6 million (USD 3.1 million).

Austria is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 report, but its trade secrets regime is a concern for some U.S. businesses.  Austrian and U.S. companies have voiced specific concerns about both the scope of protection and the difficulty of adjudicating breaches. Following years of steady U.S. government advocacy, and because Austria was required to implement the 2016 EU Directive on Trade Secrets, the country improved its trade secrets regime in the Law Against Unfair Competition (entered into force in February 2019) to address these concerns.  The most relevant change in the law is a requirement for safeguarding the confidentiality of trade secrets (and other business confidential information) in court procedures. Under the old law, the opposing party could learn confidential trade secrets during court hearings, so companies often avoided taking legal action against offenders.  The new law requires a party to only “credibly demonstrate that the violation of a trade secret exists,” without having to disclose it to other parties during the court proceedings. The court is required to ensure full confidentiality of the proceedings.  The new law also defines injunctive relief and claims for damages in case of breach of trade secrets.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

Azerbaijan

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

International organizations, foreign citizens, and foreign legal entities may not own land or be granted a purchase option on a lease, but are permitted to lease land.  Following independence, the government implemented land reforms that divided state-owned farms into privately-held small plots. Due to poor record keeping and titling in rural areas, it is often difficult to determine definitively who owns a particular plot.  Amendments made to Azerbaijan’s Constitution in September 2016 enabled authorities to expropriate private property with compensation in instances where necessary for “social justice and efficient use of the land.”

Azerbaijan’s State Real Estate Registry Service at the Committee for Property Issues registers real estate.  April 2016 amendments to the Law on Immovable Property Register cut the time to register property from 20 to 10 working days.  The World Bank’s Doing Business Report ranked Azerbaijan 17 out of 190 countries in 2018 in its country rankings on the Ease of Registering Property.

Intellectual Property Rights

The legal structure covering intellectual property protections in Azerbaijan is relatively strong, but experts and business people report the level of enforcement within the country is weak.  Piracy and blatant infringements on intellectual property rights (IPR) of both digital and physical goods are commonplace and stifle foreign investment and local entrepreneurship. The Business Software Alliance estimated the prevalence of software piracy at 84 percent in 2015.  U.S. companies routinely list weak IPR protections as a key concern. Intellectual property rights in Azerbaijan are regulated by the Law on Copyrights and Related Rights, the Law on Trademarks and Geographic Designations, the Law on Patents, the Law on the Topology of Integrated Microcircuits, the Law on Unfair Competition, and the Law on Securing Intellectual Property Rights and Combating Piracy.

Azerbaijan is a party to the Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Paris Convention for Protection of Industrial Property, and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.  Azerbaijan is also a party to the Geneva Phonograms Convention and acceded to the two WIPO Internet treaties in 2005. Violation of IPR can result in civil, criminal, and administrative charges. Azerbaijan tracks and reports on seizures of counterfeit goods but does not publish statistics on this effort.  Azerbaijan is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 report, nor is it listed 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 http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Bahamas, The

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Bahamas’ score for ease of “registering property” in the World Bank’s 2018 Doing Business Report is 169 out of 190 countries.  The cost of registering property in The Bahamas dropped slightly to 4.3 percent of property value, as compared with 5.8 percent for Latin America and The Caribbean, and 4.2 percent for OECD high-income countries.  The time to complete the registration process remains high at 15 days, and there has been limited progress in creating digital land registries or establishing time limits for procedures. These facts resulted in the World Bank ranking quality of land administration at 3 on a scale of 0 to 30.  The Bahamian government does not publish an official number citing the proportion of land without clear title. Property legally purchased, but unoccupied, cannot revert to other owners, such as squatters.

The various forms of land ownership in The Bahamas have their foundation in English law and can include crown land, commonage land, and generational land.  The legal system facilitates the investor’s secured interest in both mobile and immobile property and is recognized and enforced in law. Mortgages in real property and security interests in personal property are recorded with the Registrar General of The Bahamas.

The Embassy has received reports of problems obtaining clear title to property, either because the seller had no legal right to convey, or because separate claims to ownership arose after a purchase was made.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Bahamian government is taking steps to strengthen Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) protection as part of its WTO accession process.  These new regulations cover patents, trademarks, copyrights, integrated circuits, false trade descriptions act, protection of new plant varieties, and geographical indicators.

The government anticipates the new regulations will bring The Bahamas into compliance with the terms of the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

The Bahamas is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) but has not ratified the WIPO Internet treaties.  The Bahamas is also signatory to the following intellectual property conventions and agreements:

  • Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works;
  • Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property;
  • Universal Copyright Convention (UCC);
  • Convention establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO);
  • Convention on the means of prohibiting and preventing the illicit import, export, and transfer of ownership of cultural property.

The Bahamas has not recently been listed as a country of concern in the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report and is not named in the Notorious Markets List.

The Bahamas’ intellectual property registry is maintained by the Department of the Registrar General and enforcement responsibility is coordinated by the Royal Bahamas Police Force with support from Bahamas Customs.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Bahrain

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Government of Bahrain enforces property rights protections for land and homeowners.  Most land has a clear title. Ownership of land is highly concentrated among a few royal family members, and certain areas are off-limits for Bahraini nationals and expatriates alike.  Foreign firms and GCC nationals may own land in certain areas in Bahrain. Non-GCC nationals may own high-rise commercial and residential properties in certain areas. Foreign investors may own property to operate businesses in various fields of business, including but not limited to manufacturing, tourism, banking and financial services, education and training, design, and advertising.

Foreign investors may own commercial property in the following geographic areas of Bahrain:

  • Ahmed Al-Fateh (Juffair) district
  • Hoora district
  • Bu Ghazal district
  • Seef district
  • Northern Manama, including the Diplomatic Area, where the main international corporations are located.

Foreign investors may own residential property in the following tourist areas:

  • Durrat Al Bahrain
  • Riffa Views
  • Amwaj Islands
  • Bahrain Financial Harbor
  • Bahrain Bay
  • Reef Island
  • Diyyar Al Muharraq
  • Some areas in Saar

Most of the new development projects in Bahrain permit expatriates and international investors to own houses, buildings, outlets, or freehold apartments.  Legally purchased property cannot revert to other owners, even if such property is unoccupied.

Intellectual Property Rights

Under the U.S.-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement, the GOB committed to enforce intellectual property rights (IPR) protections.  Bahrain signed the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property in 1996.  The GOB ratified revised legislation in 2006 to implement Bahrain’s obligations under the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).  The GOB has passed laws related to IPR to bring Bahrain’s local laws into compliance with its current Paris Convention commitment and in anticipation of acceding to the Nice Agreement, Vienna Agreement, Patent Cooperation Treaty, Trademark Law Treaty, Madrid Agreement, Budapest Treaty, and the Rome Convention.  Bahrain has acceded to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.

The government has made progress in reducing copyright piracy and there are few reports of significant violations of U.S. patents and trademarks in Bahrain.  The government’s copyright enforcement campaign began in late 1997 and was based on inspections, closures, and improved public awareness. The campaign targeted the video, audio, and software industries with impressive results.  Commercially pirated video and audio markets have been mostly eliminated. However, audio, video, and software piracy by end-users remain problematic.

There are no technology transfer requirements that force firms to share or divulge technology through compulsory licensing to a domestic partner, nor are firms required to undertake research and development activities in Bahrain.

In May 2016, the GOB issued the Implementing Regulations for the Trademark Law of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which had originally been approved by Law No. 6 of 2014.  Law No. 6 provided a unified trademark regime for all six GCC countries.

Bahrain is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.  Bahrain does not track or report on seizures of counterfeit goods.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

The Embassy’s webpage also offers a link to local lawyers, some of whom specialize in IPR and/or patent law: https://bh.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/local-resources-of-u-s-citizens/attorneys/

Resources for Rights Holders

Peter Mehravari
Intellectual Property Attaché for the Middle East & North Africa
U.S. Embassy Kuwait City, Kuwait
U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
Telephone: +965 2259 1455
Email Peter.Mehravari@trade.gov

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Bangladesh

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Although land, whether for purchase or lease, is often critical for investment and as security against loans, antiquated real property laws and poor record-keeping systems can complicate land and property transactions.  Instruments take effect from the date of execution, not the date of registration, so a bona fide purchaser can never be certain of title. Land registration records have historically been prone to competing claims. Land disputes are common, and both U.S. companies and citizens have filed complaints about fraudulent land sales.  For example, sellers fraudulently claiming ownership have transferred land to good faith purchasers while the actual owners were living outside of Bangladesh. In other instances, U.S.-Bangladeshi dual citizens have purchased land from legitimate owners only to have third parties make fraudulent claims of title to extort settlement compensation.

Property owners can obtain mortgages but parties generally avoid registering mortgages, liens, and encumbrances due to the high cost of stamp duties (i.e., transaction taxes based on property value) and other charges.  There are also concerns that non-registered mortgages are often unenforceable.

Article 42 of the Bangladesh Constitution guarantees a right to property for all citizens but property rights are often not protected due to a weak judiciary system.  The Transfer of Property Act of 1882   and the Registration Act of 1908   are the two main laws that regulate transfer of property in Bangladesh but these laws do not have any specific provisions covering foreign and/or non-resident investors.  Currently, foreigners and non-residents can incorporate a company with the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms. The company would be considered a local entity and would be able to buy land in its name.

Intellectual Property Rights

Counterfeit goods are readily available in Bangladesh.  The GOB has limited resources for intellectual property rights (IPR) protection.  Industry estimates that 90 percent of business software is pirated. A number of U.S. firms, including film studios, manufacturers of consumer goods, and software firms, have reported violations of their IPR.  Investors note that police are willing to investigate counterfeit goods producers when informed but are unlikely to initiate independent investigations.

The Software Alliance, also known as BSA, is a trade group established by Microsoft Corporation in 1988.  It opened a Bangladesh office in early 2014 as a platform to improve IPR protection in Bangladesh. Public awareness of IPR is growing, thanks in part to the efforts of the Intellectual Property Rights Association of Bangladesh: http://www.ipab.org.bd/ .  Bangladesh is not currently listed in the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 or Notorious Markets reports.  Bangladesh is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and acceded to the Paris Convention on Intellectual Property in 1991.

Bangladesh has slowly made progress toward bringing its legislative framework into compliance with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).  The government enacted a Copyright Law in July 2000 (amended in 2005), a Trademarks Act in 2009, and Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act in 2013. The Department of Patents, Designs and Trademarks (DPDT) drafted a new Patent Act in 2014 prepared in compliance with the requirements of the TRIPS Agreement.  However the draft act still remains under Ministry of Industries review and this effort has not made measurable progress during the past year.

A number of government agencies are empowered to take action against counterfeiting, including the NBR/Customs, Mobile Courts, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), and local Police.  The Department of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP) is charged with tracking and reporting on counterfeit goods and the NBR/Customs tracks counterfeit goods seizures at ports of entry.  Reports are not publicly available.

Barbados

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

There are no restrictions on foreign ownership of property in Barbados.  Foreign investors and locals are treated equally with regard to property taxes.  Civil law protects physical property and mortgage claims. The CBB must verify real property purchases for non-residents.  If a non-resident uses foreign funds and pays for the property in Barbados, the CBB will normally endorse the transaction. The sale of property is subject to a 2.5 percent Property Transfer Tax in addition to a 1 percent stamp duty.  Brokerage and legal fees are not included in those levies. Buyers should seek the advice of a local attorney when purchasing property.

With respect to commercial, industrial, hotel and villa properties, the applicable rate of land tax is 0.65 percent on the improved value of the property.  Holders of a certificate from the Barbados Tourism Authority enjoy rebate of 50 percent for hotels and 25 percent for villas. The Commissioner of Land Tax charges an annual fee based on the assessed property value on residential property as follows:

  • 0 percent on the first $75,000
  • 0.10 percent on amounts between $75,001 and $225,000
  • 0.70 percent on amounts between $225,000 and $425,000
  • 1 percent on excess of $425,000
  • 0.8 percent on vacant land under 4,000 sq. ft.
  • 1.0 percent on vacant land over 4,000 sq. ft.

Barbados ranks 129 of 190 countries in ease of registering property in the 2019 World Bank Doing Business Report.  It takes approximately 105 days to complete six procedures and the cost is about 4 percent of the property value.

Intellectual Property Rights

Barbados has a good legislative framework governing intellectual property, but enforcement needs improvement.  Barbados signed the Paris Convention on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), the Nice Agreement, and is a member of the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).  The government of Barbados adopted a new Copyright Act in 1998 and amended it in 2004 to provide tougher penalties. In the early 2000s, Barbados also approved legislation covering integrated circuits topography, geographical indications, and protection against unfair competition.  In addition, Barbados revised its Trademark and Industrial Designs Acts to meet international standards.

Article 66 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (2001) establishing the CSME commits all 15 members to implement stronger intellectual property protection and enforcement.  The EPA signed between the CARIFORUM states and the European Community contains the most detailed obligations regarding intellectual property in any trade agreement to which Barbados is a party.  The EPA provides for the protection and enforcement of intellectual property. Article 139 of the EPA requires parties to “ensure an adequate and effective implementation of the international treaties dealing with intellectual property to which they are parties and of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS).”

Barbados was listed on the Office of the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report Watch List in 2019.  USTR cited an absence of commitment to enforcement of existing legislation. The country’s failure to accede to the WIPO Internet Treaties to protect works in both physical and online environments was also a factor in Barbados’ listing. USTR also cited continuing concerns about the refusal of Barbadian TV and radio broadcasters and cable and satellite operators to pay for public performances of music.  Barbados’ slow legal system, ineffective enforcement, and lack of reform also contributed to its inclusion on the Watch List.

It is the responsibility of the importer to pay for and destroy counterfeit goods.  Failure to observe certain standards regarding the importation of goods may result in a recommendation to the Comptroller of Barbados’ Customs and Excise Department to have the goods destroyed.  If the goods fall under Ministry of Health jurisdiction, they are destroyed under that ministry’s guidance. If the goods are prohibited and do not pertain to the Ministry of Health, the Customs and Excise Department will destroy them as appropriate. Information on the prevalence of counterfeit goods in the local market is not readily available, as there is no tracking method in place to collect data.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Belarus

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Property rights are enforced by the Civil Code.  Mortgages and liens are available, and the property registry system is reliable.  Investors and/or duly established commercial organizations with the participation of a foreign investor (investors) have the right to rent plots of land for up to 99 years.  According to the Belarusian Land Code, foreign legal persons and individuals are denied land ownership. According to the 2019 World Bank Doing Business Report, Belarus ranked fifth in the world on ease of property registration (http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/exploreeconomies/belarus  ).

Intellectual Property Rights

In 2015, Belarus was taken off the USTR’s Special 301 Report Watch List.  As of 2019, Belarus has made progress on improving legislation to protect IPR and prosecute violators.  However, challenges for effective enforcement include a lack of sufficiently qualified officers and limited focus to those areas that have the most impact on the economy.  The United States expects Belarus to continue improving its IPR regime as part of its WTO accession negotiations and will continue to assist Belarus with technical consultations to that end.

According to information provided by Belarus’ National Center of Intellectual Property, the government amended Article 4.5 of the Administrative Code in 2018 to allow greater prosecution of intellectual and industrial property rights violations.  Notably, in 2018 Belarusian law enforcement prosecuted five legal persons for distribution of counterfeit products under Article 9.21 of Belarus’ Administrative Code, based on a request filed by a U.S. company operating in Belarus.

As of February 2019, Belarus’ National Customs Register of IP objects, run by the State Customs Committee, included 70 trademarks whose rights holders were U.S. registered companies.  U.S. registered trademarks account for 23 percent of IP objects secured by the Register.

In 2018, the National Center of Intellectual Property continued discussions with U.S. Broadcast Music, Inc. on an agreement that could help secure the recording rights of U.S. property rights holders and enable the collection of royalties in Belarus.

In 2018, Belarusians paid a total of USD 50 million for using IPR.

Belarus does not appear in the USTR’s Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets report, nor does it appear in the Special 301 report.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) provides 186 Country Profiles, including Belarus.  These profiles are available at: http://www.wipo.int/directory/en  

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Resources for Rights Holders

Monica Sendor
Economic Officer
tel.+375 (17) 210-1283
e-mail: usembassyminsk@state.gov

Belgium

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Property rights in Belgium are well protected by law, and the courts are independent and considered effective in enforcing property rights.  Mortgages and liens exist through a reliable recording system operated by the Belgian notaries.

However, on the World Bank’s latest ranking on the ease for registering property, Belgium ranks only 143rd on a total of 190 countries.

Intellectual Property Rights

While Belgium generally meets very high standards in the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), rights granted under specific American patent, trademark, or copyright law can only be enforced in the United States, its territories, and possessions.  The European Union has taken a number of initiatives to promote intellectual property protection, but in cases of non-implementation, national laws continue to apply. Despite legal protection of intellectual property, Belgium experiences a rate of commercial and private infringement – particularly internet music piracy and illegal copying of software – similar to most EU states.

All intellectual property rights are administered and enforced by the Belgian Office of Intellectual Property in the Ministry for Economic Affairs: https://economie.fgov.be/en/themes/intellectual-property/institutions-and-actors/belgian-office-intellectual   The Office of Intellectual Property, Directorate General Regulation and Market Organization (ORPI) administers intellectual property in Belgium.  The Director General is Ms. Severine Waterbley. This office manages and provides Belgian intellectual property titles, informs the public about IPR, drafts legislation and advises Belgian authorities with regard to national and international issues. Belgium is currently not listed on USTR’s Special 301 Report.

Enforcement of IPR is in the hands of the Belgian Ministry of Justice.  For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see the World Intellectual Property Organization’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ 

Belize

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Preamble of the Belize Constitution preserves the right of the individual to the ownership of private property and the right to operate private businesses.  Private entities, whether foreign or local, have the right to freely establish, acquire, and dispose of interests in property and business enterprises. Generally, the country has no restrictions on foreign ownership and control; however, foreign investments in Belize must be registered at the Central Bank of Belize.

Mortgages and liens do exist and related real estate would be recorded with the registry of the Lands and Survey Department.  There have been cases of land fraud, abuses, and corruption in the Lands and Survey Department. Investors are strongly advised to do their due diligence prior to purchasing property.

Foreign and/or non-resident investors are not allowed to acquire national lease property but may acquire titled privately owned property.  Central Bank regulations require real estate transactions between residents and non-residents to be in Belize dollars. Additionally, the rate of stamp duty chargeable on land transfers involving foreign persons or a foreign controlled company is eight percent for land transfers valued in excess of USD10,000.  The rate of such transactions involving Belizeans and CARICOM nationals, however, is five percent.

There are three different types of titles to freehold property in Belize: Deed of Conveyance, Transfer of Certificate of Title, and Land Certificate.  Leasehold property from the government is available to Belizeans who can then apply for conversion to a fee simple title. The government is in the process of re-registering all freehold lands to achieve a uniform system of nationwide land ownership.

Squatters’ rights are only enforceable by order of the Supreme Court after having proven uninterrupted possession for at least 30 years on National and Conveyed lands or at least 12 years on registered lands.

Intellectual Property Rights

Belize is a party to the WTO and has implemented the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS).  Generally, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) must be registered and enforced in Belize. IPR protections are enforceable through civil proceedings initiated by the IPR right holder.  BELIPO (http://belipo.bz  ) was established to administer IPR laws and functions as the country’s national intellectual property registry.  Its mandate covers the protection of copyrights, industrial designs, patents, trademarks, new plant varieties, and layout designs (topographies) of integrated circuits.

In practice, however, enforcement is largely non-existent.  Illegally copied CDs and DVDs are widespread and continue to be marketed throughout the country.  In an effort to halt IPR infringements, Home Box Office, Inc. (HBO) concluded negotiations with cable operators in March 2019, outlining the terms for local cable providers to legally access the company’s entertainment content.

During the last year, Belize acceded to six major Intellectual Property treaties that will provide enhanced protection to copyright owners, with added impact on live performers, music producers and broadcasters.  Five treaties are copyright-related and include:

  • The International Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms & Broadcasting Organizations (“Rome Convention”);
  • The WIPO Copyright Treaty (“WCT”);
  • The WIPO Performances & Phonograms Treaty (“WPPT”);
  • The Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances (“Beijing Treaty”); and
  • The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Disabled or Otherwise Print Disabled (“Marrakesh Treaty”)

The sixth treaty, the Geneva (1999) Act of the Hague Agreement concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs, allows applications for industrial design protection to be filed into an international database.

While the Customs Department of Belize does track seizures of counterfeit goods, it does not properly document IPR and contraband seizures.

Belize is not listed in the 2018 USTR’s Special 301 report nor the 2018 notorious market report.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en  

Benin

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Benin’s Land Act, enacted on August 24, 2013, and amended in 2017, codifies real property rights.  Land ownership disputes account for 80 percent of the cases seen by Beninese tribunals. The Land Act is designed to ensure fair access to land and protect ownership rights.  It stipulates that unoccupied acquired land cannot be reverted to other or previous owners (though there still exists the risk of squatters). The Land Act establishes a transparent legal procedure for obtaining and documenting ownership, reduces property speculation in urban and rural areas, and encourages land development.  In an effort to identify property owners and register land titles, the government declared that the land registration process would be free of charge until further notice.

The Land Act stipulates that development projects financed by international or multinational agencies cannot involve or lead to forced evictions.  The state is obligated to do everything possible at each stage of development project implementation to ensure due respect of economic, social and cultural rights recognized by international conventions and covenants and guarantees by the Beninese constitution.

Secured interests in real and personal property are recognized and enforced.  Benin’s legal system protects and facilitates acquisition and disposition of property, land, buildings, and mortgages.  Secured interests in property are registered with the Land Office of the Ministry of Finance. However, it is recommended that foreign and non-resident investors buy land with title deeds and the intervention of a notary public in order to help avoid any land disputes that may result from the acquisition process.  Large land leases for investment in rural areas are enforced by local city halls in conformity with the Land Act. Additional information regarding the acquisition of property may be found at the Beninese Land Agency’s website at http://www.beninfoncier.bj/?page_id=173  .

Intellectual Property Rights

Benin is a signatory to both World Intellectual Property Organization Internet treaties.  As a member of the World Trade Organization, Benin is party to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).  However, enforcement of intellectual property rights is constrained by Benin’s limited capacity.

In July 2016, Benin’s Director of Pharmacies announced the seizure of 2.4 tons of counterfeit solid and injectable medication from a private residence in Cotonou and the arrest of a suspect.  In February 2017, the government seized another 80 tons of counterfeit drugs in Cotonou and the court found 12 individuals guilty of illegally acting as pharmacists.

Benin is not included in the U.S. Trade Representative’s 2019 Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en  .

Bolivia

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Property rights are legally protected and registered in the Real Estate Office, where titles or deeds are recorded and mortgages/liens are registered.  The recording system is reliable, although there have been complaints regarding the amount of time required to register a property.

The Office of Property Registry oversees the acquisition and disposition of land, real estate, and mortgages.  Mortgages are easy to obtain, taking usually no more than 60 days to obtain a standard loan.  However, challenges to land titles are common due to bureaucratic delays encountered while registering properties, especially in rural areas.  Competing claims to land titles and the absence of a reliable dispute resolution process create risk and uncertainty in real property acquisition.  Nevertheless, illegal occupation of rural private property is decreasing since the passage of Law 477 combatting land seizures.

The Bolivian Constitution grants citizens and foreigners the right to private property but stipulates that the property must serve a social or economic function.  If the government determines that a given property is not sufficiently useful (according to its own unclear criteria), the constitution allows the government to expropriate.  The agricultural sector has been most hard hit by this policy due to uncertainty from year to year about whether farmland would be productive.  In 2015, the government agreed to do away with the annual productivity inspections and reduce their frequency from every two to every five years, though the Legislative Assembly has not yet passed these modifications.  There are other laws that limit access to land, forest, water and other natural resources by foreigners in Bolivia.

The constitution also grants formal, collective land titles to indigenous communities, in order to restore their former territories (Article 394.3), stating that public land will be granted to indigenous farmers, migrant indigenous communities, Afro-Bolivians, and small farmer communities that do not possess or who have insufficient land (Article 395).  Foreigners cannot acquire land from the Bolivian Government (Article 396).  Under law 3545, passed in 2006, the government will not grant public lands to non-indigenous people or agriculture companies.  The Mother Earth Integral Development Law to Live Well (Mother Earth Law, or Law #300) passed in October 2012 specifies that the state controls access to natural resources, particularly when foreign use is involved.  In action, the law limits access to land, forest, water and other natural resources by foreigners in Bolivia.

According to Bolivia’s Agrarian Reform Institute (INRA), approximately 25 percent of all land in Bolivia lacks clear title, and as a result, squatting is a problem.  In some cases, squatters may be able to make a legal claim to the land.  While the Criminal Code criminalizes illegal occupation, the judicial system is slow and ineffective in its enforcement of the law.  Financial mechanisms are available for securitization of properties for lending purposes, although the threat of reversion for properties failing to fulfill a social function discourages the use of land as collateral.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Bolivian Intellectual Property Service (SENAPI) leads the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) within Bolivia.  SENAPI maintains and regularly updates a complete set of IPR regulations currently in force within Bolivia.  The list is available on SENAPI’s website:  http://www.senapi.gob.bo/MarcoLegal.asp?lang=EN 

SENAPI also maintains an updated version of the services they provide, along with associated costs, at:  http://www.senapi.gob.bo/TasasPropiedadIntelectual.asp?lang=EN 

SENAPI reviews patent registrations for form and substance and publishes notices of proposed registrations in the Official Gazette.  If there are no objections within 30 working days, the organization grants patents for a period of 20 years.  The registration of trademarks parallels that of patents.  Once obtained, a trademark is valid for a 10-year renewable period.  It can be cancelled if not used within three years of the date of grant.

The existing copyright law recognizes copyright infringement as a public offense and the 2001 Bolivian Criminal Procedures Code provides for the criminal prosecution of IPR violations.  However, it is not common for prosecutors to file criminal charges, and civil suits, if pursued, face long delays.  Criminal penalties carry a maximum of five years in jail, and civil penalties are restricted to the recovery of direct economic damages.  SENAPI has established a conciliation process to solve IPR controversies in order to prevent parties from going to trial.

Bolivia does not have an area of civil law specifically related to industrial property, but has a century-old industrial privileges law still in force.  Bolivia is a signatory of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS).  SENAPI is aware of Bolivia’s obligations under the TRIPS Agreement and it sets out the minimum standards of IPR protection in compliance with this agreement.  SENAPI sustains its position that Bolivia complies with the substantive obligations of the main conventions of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (Paris Convention), and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (Berne Convention) in their most recent versions.  According to SENAPI, Bolivia complies with WTO’s dispute settlement procedures in accordance with its TRIPS obligations.  However, Bolivia falls short on the implementation of domestic procedures and providing legal remedies for the enforcement of intellectual property rights.

Bolivia is a signatory country of the 1996 WIPO Copyright Treaty, and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty; however, it did not ratify any of those treaties domestically.  Bolivia is not a member of the Madrid Protocol on Trademarks, the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs, or the Patent Law Treaty.

Bolivia is a signatory of Andean Community (CAN) Decision 486, which deals with industrial property and trade secrets and is legally binding in Bolivia.  Decision 486 states that each member country shall accord the Andean Community countries, the World Trade Organization, and the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, treatment no less favorable than it accords to its own nationals with regard to the protection of intellectual property.  Besides its international obligations, Bolivia has not passed any domestic laws protecting trade secrets.

On December 20, 2018, Bolivia’s National Assembly passed Law 1134, the “Bolivian Cinema and Audiovisual Arts Law.”  The law creates a fund to promote Bolivian cinema by charging foreign movie distributors and exhibitors three percent of their total monthly revenue.   Contacts contend that the law could help the Bolivian Government target piracy networks that currently operate with impunity.  Article 27 of the new law strengthens IPR protections for visual works and allows Bolivian Customs to pursue criminal prosecution, but it is unlikely that foreign works would be protected in practice.

Bolivian Customs lacks the human and financial resources needed to intercept counterfeit goods shipments at international borders effectively.  Customs authorities act only when industries trying to protect their brands file complaints.  Moreover, there is a sense of unregulated capitalism with regard to the sale of goods in the informal sector.  Many importers believe the payment of customs fees will “legalize” the sale of counterfeit products.  Sellers either do not know about or do not take into consideration intellectual property rights, particularly in the textile, electrical appliances, and entertainment markets (including markets for CDs/DVDs/Blu-rays).  Large quantities of counterfeit electrical appliances imported from China with labels denoting “Sony,” “Panasonic,” and “General Electric” are available for purchase in local markets.  There is also a flourishing market of textile products made in Bolivia marketed using counterfeit labels of major U.S. brands.  While most counterfeit items come with the illegal brand already attached, brands and logos are available for purchase on the street and can easily be affixed to goods.

Although court actions against those infringing upon IPR are infrequent, there have been some significant cases.  The Industrial Property Director at SENAPI reported that the number of indictments related to counterfeit products increased steadily over the years.  In 2010 there were only 20 such cases.  In 2011, they increased to 27.  In 2012, 48 cases were reported.  In 2013, cases dipped slightly to 43, sharply rose to 60 in 2014, to 65 in 2015, and then to 109 in 2016. SENAPI has not made this data public since then.  According to SENAPI, this does not necessarily represent an increase in the total volume of counterfeit products.  Rather, the increase in indictments is due to SENAPI’s emphasis on enforcement efforts and the public’s greater awareness of IPR rights.  In April 2018, a Bolivian Police task force launched several raids to counter an international group of counterfeit medicine smugglers who were rebranding generic marks, forging medicines using flour, sugar, and dyes, and changing expiration dates.  This group was smuggling these products from Peru through the border.  Bolivian Police estimated that they seized more than USD1 million in counterfeit medicines.  The Bolivian Pharmaceutical Association estimates that they experience losses of approximately USD80 million per year due to contraband.

Bolivia is listed on the Watch List of 2019 USTR’s Special 301 Report.  Bolivia is not named in the 2019 Notorious Market Report.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ 

Bosnia and Herzegovina

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The 2019 World Bank Doing Business Report ranked BiH at number 99 out of 190 in the ease of registering property, which takes 7 procedures and an average of 24 days.  Registration of real property titles is generally acknowledged as a significant barrier to the real property and mortgage market development. The present system consists of separate geodetic administrations for the Federation and the RS, which are responsible for real property cadasters.  Real property cadasters describe and certify the legal object, e.g. land, house, etc. Separately, the land registry establishes legal ownership and rights for the specific object and is maintained by the municipal courts. A significant portion of land and real estate property does not have a clear title due to restitution issues.  Foreigners must register a local company to purchase property; the company then makes the purchase and is recorded as the land owner. The exception to this rule is if the foreigners’ country of citizenship has a reciprocal land ownership agreement with BiH. In that case, the foreigner may directly own land.

Intellectual Property Rights

Companies should consider several general principles for effective management of intellectual property rights (IPR) in BiH.  It is important for companies to have a comprehensive IPR protection strategy. IPR is protected differently in BiH than in the United States and rights must be registered and enforced according to local law. U.S. trademark and patent registrations do not protect IPR in BiH.

Bosnia’s IPR framework consists of seven laws, adopted and put into force by the BiH Parliament in 2010.  This legislation is compliant with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and EU legislation.  BiH belongs to over 20 international treaties related to IPR and, in 2009, ratified the 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty.  Although existing legislation provides a basic level of protection, BiH’s civil and criminal enforcement remains weak.

Jurisdiction over IPR investigations is split between customs officials, entity inspectorates, and state and entity law enforcement agencies, and no institution has specialized IPR investigation teams.  IPR crimes are prosecuted primarily at the state level. Cases in which companies are indicted often involve fairly low-level violators. More significant cases have sometimes languished for years with little action from prosecutors or judges.

The entity governments have been using licensed software for a number of years.  The state-level government came into compliance in 2009, a significant step forward in the government’s commitment to IPR protection.  Some of the Cantonal governments continue using unlicensed software, as some officials still lack understanding of the importance of IPR.

In BiH’s private sector, awareness of IPR, particularly the importance of copyright protection, remains low, though the emergence of a local software development industry is helping to raise awareness.  Curbing business software piracy could significantly improve the local economy by creating new jobs and generating tax revenue. The failure to recognize the importance of preventing copyright infringement makes software producers and official distributors less competitive and the establishment of a legitimate market more difficult.  Businesses in BiH lose an estimated USD 15 million annually from the sale of counterfeit software, CDs, and DVDs. According to the Business Software Alliance (BSA), the rate of illegal software installed on personal computers in Bosnia and Herzegovina currently remains at 66 percent, which is the regional average.

Registration of patents and trademarks is on a first-in-time, first-in-right basis, so businesses should consider applying for trademark and patent protection prior to introducing their products or services in the BiH market.  The U.S. government generally cannot enforce rights for private individuals in BiH. Companies may wish to seek advice from local attorneys who are experts in IPR law.

Collective copyright protection also remains a challenge in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The Association of Composers and Musical Authors is the only licensed collective management organization for music authors in BiH.  It faces enforcement challenges, and both members and users remain skeptical and unfamiliar with collective copyright management protection.  There is currently no established local representative to collect and distribute royalties for visual artists, filmmakers, and literary authors.

Online and broadcast piracy remains a challenging copyright enforcement issue in BiH.  The U.S. Government, in conjunction with local partners, has made IPR awareness within the enforcement community a priority through training and public awareness programs. The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) recently conducted a judicial training on intellectual property rights in the Republika Srpska.  DOC supports other capacity building for judiciary in intellectual property, including assistance with writing and publishing a judicial bench book and promoting the international arbitration regime in Bosnia.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is not included in the USTR’s Special 301 report.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Botswana

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Property rights are enforced in Botswana.  The World Bank ranks Botswana 80 out of 190 in the Registering Property category.  There are three main categories of land in Botswana: freehold, state land, and tribal land.  Tribal and state land cannot be sold to foreigners. There are no restrictions on the sale of freehold land, but only about 5 percent of land in Botswana is freehold.  In the capital city of Gaborone, the number of freehold plots is limited.

State land represents about 25 percent of land in Botswana.  On application to the Department of Lands, both foreign-owned and local enterprises registered in Botswana may lease state land for industrial or residential use.  Commercial use leases are for 50 years and residential leases are for 99 years. Waiting periods tend to be long for leasehold applications, but subleases from current leaseholders are available.  In 2014, the GoB changed its implementing regulation to allow companies with less than five employees to operate in residential areas if their operations do not pose a health or safety risk to residents.

Tribal land represents 70 percent of land in Botswana.  To obtain a lease for tribal land, the investor must approach the relevant local Land Board.  Processes are unlikely to be streamlined or consistent across Land Boards.

Since independence, the trend in Botswana has been to increase the area of tribal land at the expense of both state and freehold land.  Landlord-tenant law in Botswana tends to be moderately pro-landlord.

In addition to helping investors who meet its criteria obtain appropriate land leaseholds, BITC has also built factory units for lease to industrialists with the option to purchase at market value.

Intellectual Property Rights

Botswana’s legal intellectual property rights (IPR) structure is adequate, although some improvements are needed.  The key challenge facing the GoB is effective implementation. The Companies and Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA) was established in 2014 and is comprised of three offices: the Companies and Business Office, the Industrial Property Office, and the Copyright Office.  Intellectual property is registered through CIPA. The priorities of this Authority are to strengthen and implement Botswana’s IPR regime and improve interagency cooperation. IPR infringement does occur in Botswana, primarily through the sale of counterfeit items in low-end sales outlets.  In 2017, CIPA cooperated with the Botswana Police to seize 12,923 counterfeit CDs and DVDs valued over USD 107,000.00. The U.S. government continues to work with the GoB to modernize and improve enforcement of IPR.

IPR is protected under the Industrial Property Act of 2010, which provides protections on patents, trademarks, utility designs, handicrafts, traditional knowledge and geographic indicators.  The 2000 Copyright and Neighboring Rights Act also protects art and literary works and the 1975 Registration of Business Names Act oversees corporate name and registration procedures. Other IPR-related Laws include the Competition Act, the Value Added Tax Act, the Botswana Penal Code, the Customs and Excise Duty Act, the Monuments and Relics Act, the Broadcasting Act, and the Societies Act.

Botswana is a signatory to the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances, the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Deposit of Industrial Designs, the Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks, the Convention establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the WIPO Copyright Treaty, the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, and the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.  For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Resources for Rights Holders

Goitseone Montsho
Economic/Commercial Specialist
MontshoG@state.gov
+267 373-2431

Local lawyers’ list: https://bw.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/local-resources-of-u-s-citizens/attorneys/

Brazil

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Brazil has a system in place for mortgage registration, but implementation is uneven and there is no standardized contract.  Foreign individuals or foreign-owned companies can purchase real property in Brazil. Foreign buyers frequently arrange alternative financing in their own countries, where rates may be more attractive.  Law 9514 from 1997 helped spur the mortgage industry by establishing a legal framework for a secondary market in mortgages and streamlining the foreclosure process, but the mortgage market in Brazil is still underdeveloped, and foreigners may have difficulty obtaining mortgage financing.  Large U.S. real estate firms, nonetheless, are expanding their portfolios in Brazil.

Intellectual Property Rights

The last year brought increased attention to IP in Brazil, but rights holders still face significant challenges.  Brazil’s National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) streamlined procedures for review processes to increase examiner productivity for patent and trademark decisions.  Nevertheless, the wait period for a patent remains nine years and the market is flooded with counterfeits. Brazil’s IP enforcement regime is constrained by limited resources.  Brazil has remained on the “Watch List” of the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 report since 2007. For more information, please see: https://ustr.gov/issue-areas/intellectual-property/Special-301 .

Brazil has no physical markets listed on USTR’s 2017 Review of Notorious Markets, though the report does acknowledge a file sharing site popular among Brazilians that is known for pirated digital media.  For more information, please see: https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/files/Press/Reports/2017 percent20Notorious percent20Markets percent20List percent201.11.18.pdf .

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)’s country profiles: http://www.wipo.int/directory/en 

Bulgaria

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Bulgaria assigned the rights of land use back to its original owners in early 1990s.  Restrictions still exist on ownership of agricultural land by non-EU citizens. Companies whose shareholders are registered offshore are banned from acquiring or owning Bulgarian agricultural land.

Mortgages are recorded centrally with the Bulgarian Registry Agency.   In the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business report, Bulgaria placed 67th out of 190 countries in the category of registering property http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings  

Intellectual Property Rights

Bulgarian patent law has been harmonized with EU law for patents and utility model patent protection.  However, in patent procedures, there are reports of conflicts of interest and delays in decision-making and informing patent holders.  These issues, coupled with a lack of accountability of the Bulgarian Patent Office, have weakened patent protection in the country.

Bulgaria is a member of the Convention on Granting of European Patents (European Patent Convention) and a contracting state of the European Patent Office (EPO).  Bulgaria has also signed the London agreement for facilitating the validation process but has yet to amend its own law accordingly. Bulgaria is also part of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).  Bulgaria grants the right to exclusive use of inventions for 20 years from the date of patent application, subject to payment of annual fees, which range from BGN 50 (USD 29) to BGN 1,700 (USD 987), depending on the time remaining before the patent expires. Supplementary protection certificates (SPCs) are also an available protection option.  Innovations can also be protected as utility models (small inventions). They are registered without novelty examination. The term of validity of a utility model registration is four years from the date of filing with the Patent Office. It may be extended by two consecutive three-year periods, but the total term of validity may not exceed 10 years.  There is no accessible database for registered and valid patent and utility models in Bulgaria.

Under Bulgarian law, new and original industrial designs can be granted certificates from the Patent Office and entered in the state register. The registration does not require examination by the Patent Office for novelty or originality. The term of protection is 10 years, renewable for up to 25 years. Bulgaria is a contracting state of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Deposit of Industrial Designs.

Compulsory licensing (allowing competitors to enter the market despite a valid patent) may be ordered under certain conditions, including failure to execute the patent. Disputes arising from the creation, protection, or use of inventions and utility models can be settled under administrative, civil, or arbitration procedures.

Pursuant to the 1996 Protection of New Plant Varieties and Animal Breeds Act, the Patent Office can issue a certificate protecting new plant varieties and animal breeds for between 25 and 30 years. Responding to long-standing industry concerns, the Bulgarian government included in its Drug Law a provision to provide data exclusivity (i.e., protection of confidential data submitted to the government to obtain approval to market pharmaceutical products).

Bulgaria is a member of the Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their International Registration.  Bulgaria enforces EU legislation for protecting geographical indications (GIs) and Traditional Specialties Guaranteed (TSG).

Trademarks, service marks, and rights to geographic indications are only protected pursuant to registration with the Bulgarian Patent Office or an international registration (under the Madrid Agreement and the Madrid protocol) designating Bulgaria; protection does not arise merely from use in commerce.  A trademark is normally granted within ten months of filing a complete application. Refusals can be appealed to the Disputes Department of the Patent Office. Decisions of this department can be appealed to the Sofia Administrative Court within three months of the decision. The right of exclusive use of a trademark is granted for ten years from the date of submitting the application. Extension requests must be filed during the final year of validity and can be renewed up to six months after expiration.  Protection may be terminated at third-party request if a trademark is not used for a five-year period.

Trademark infringement is a significant problem in Bulgaria for U.S. cigarette and apparel producers, and smaller-scale infringement affects other U.S. products.  Bulgarian legislation provides for criminal, civil, and administrative remedies against trademark violation. Bulgaria has implemented simplified border control procedures for the destruction of seized fake goods without civil or criminal trial.  In addition to civil penalties prescribed by the Trademarks and Geographical Indications Act (TGIA), the Criminal Code prohibits use of a third person’s trademark without the proprietor’s consent. In practice, criminal convictions for trademark and copyright infringement are rare and sentencing tends to be lenient.  Legal entities cannot be held liable under the Criminal Code.

The 1993 Copyright Act defines copyrightable work as any work of literature, art, or science, which is the result of creative activity, including: literary works, publications and computer programs; musical works; stage productions; films and other audiovisual works; fine arts, including applied art, design and folk artistic crafts; architectural works and spatial development plans; photographic works; and works created in a manner similar to photographic works.  Under Bulgarian law, translations and reprocessing of existing works and folklore works, periodicals, encyclopedias, collections, anthologies, bibliographies, databases that include two or more works or materials, are also eligible for copyright protection. The law allows rights holders to form organizations for collective management of rights.

In 2018, Bulgaria was taken off USTR’s Special 301 Watch List after demonstrating improvement in its IP law enforcement.  In 2019 Bulgaria remained off the list for a second consecutive year.

Bulgaria is not formally listed in the 2018 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets but is mentioned as a possible location for a popular torrent site allegedly infringing the U.S. content industry’s copyrights.  Online and broadcast piracy remains a challenging copyright enforcement issue in Bulgaria.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at https://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Burkina Faso

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Since the 2009 land tenure reform law, the government of Burkina Faso has been engaged in an effort to issue titles recognizing land ownership rights.  The first Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact focused on beginning this process in 47 communes, with plans for the government to expand the effort throughout the country.

Only about 5,000 land titles have been granted countrywide since 1960, according to the National Land Observatory, and the majority of those were issued pursuant to the first Millennium Challenge compact.  Obtaining a title is the last step in the process of land acquisition, and is preceded by obtaining a use permit or an urban dwelling permit, developing the land, and paying applicable fees. The title-holder becomes the owner of the surface and the subsoil.

Mortgages exist in Burkina Faso both for land and for structures.  Rules governing mortgages are set at the regional level by the West African Economic and Monetary Union, specifically under the Organization for the Synchronization of Business Rights in Africa (Organisation pour l’Harmonisation en Afrique des Droits des Affaires (OHADA)).  Liens are not widely used.

Intellectual Property Rights

Burkina Faso has a legal system that protects and facilitates acquisition and disposition of all property rights, including intellectual property rights (IPR).  Legal protection exists for intellectual property, including patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, and semiconductor chip design. In practice, however, government enforcement of intellectual property law is lax.  Burkina Faso is a destination point for counterfeit medicines, which can readily be purchased on the street in Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso.

Burkina Faso is not cited in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

Burkina Faso is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the African Intellectual Property Organization (AIPO).  The national investment code guarantees foreign investors the same rights and protection as Burkinabe enterprises for trademarks, patent rights, labels, copyrights, and licenses.  In 1999, the government ratified both the WIPO Copyrights Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT). In 2002, Burkina Faso was one of 30 countries that put the WCT and WPPT treaties into force.  The government issued several decrees and rules to implement the two treaties.

The implementation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is under the purview of two ministries: (1) the Office of Copyrights (le Bureau Burkinabe des Droits d’Auteurs, or BBDA), under the Ministry of Art, Culture and Tourism, has the lead on copyrights and related rights, and (2) the National Directorate of Industrial Property, under the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Handicrafts, has the lead concerning industrial property.  These two authorities have the technical competence to identify needs. Arrangements are underway to assess the needs for the implementation of the TRIPS Agreement in Burkina Faso.

Statistics on the seizure of counterfeit goods are available upon request from the relevant agency.  For example, please contact BBDA if the inquiry pertains to artistic material, or contact the National Directorate of Industrial Property if it pertains to pharmaceuticals.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  

Burma

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The MIL provides that any foreign investor may enter into long-term leases with private landlords or – in the case of state-owned land – the relevant government departments or government organizations, if the investor has obtained a Permit or Endorsement issued by the MIC.  Upon issuance of a Permit or an Endorsement, a foreign investor may enter into leases with an initial term of up to 50 years (with the possibility to extend for two additional terms of ten years each). Longer periods of land utilization or land leases may be allowed by the MIC to promote the development of difficult-to-access regions with lower development.

In September 2018, Burma amended the Vacant, Fallow, and Virgin Lands Management Law and required occupants of land considered vacant, fallow or virgin to go to the nearest land records office and register within a six-month period.  The six-month deadline was intended to offer clear title to lands for investment and infrastructure construction. However, controversy exists over which lands were designated as vacant, fallow or virgin and whether the notification or registration period was sufficient.

In January 2016, the government published the approved National Land Use Policy.  The policy includes provisions on ensuring the use of effective environmental and social safeguard mechanisms; improving public participation in decision-making processes related to land use planning; improving public access to accurate information related to land use management; and developing independent dispute resolution mechanisms.  The policy is to be updated every five years as necessary and stipulates that a new national land law will be drafted and enacted using this policy.  The policy also establishes the National Land Use Council. Chaired by the Vice President, the council constitutes the highest authority within the government presiding over land issues, and is intended to ensure the policy and new national land law are implemented and used as a guide for the harmonization of all existing laws relating to land in the country.

A continuing area of concern for foreigners involves investment in large-scale land projects.  Property rights for large plots of land for investment commonly are disputed because ownership is not well established, particularly following a half-century of military expropriations.  It is not uncommon for foreign firms to face complaints from local communities about inadequate consultation and compensation regarding land.

Burma’s parliament passed the Condominium Law in 2016.  The law states that up to 40 percent of condominium units of “saleable floor area” can be sold to foreign buyers.  Condominium owners shall also have the shared ownership of both the land and apartment.  In 2017 the Ministry of Construction pasted the Condominium Rules, implementing and clarifying provisions of the Condominium law.  One clarification per the rules is that state-owned land may be registered as condominium land (Rules 20 and 21).

In accordance with the Transfer of Immovable Property Restriction Law of 1987, mortgages of immovable property are prohibited if the mortgage holder is a foreigner, foreign company or foreign bank.

Intellectual Property Rights

Burma improved its intellectual property rights protection in 2019 by enacting three laws on intellectual property: the Trademark Law, the Industrial Design Law, and the Patent Law.  A fourth law on copyrights has been passed by Parliament but has not yet been signed by the President. The laws improve protections for intellectual property owners by offering legal protections and implementing fines or legal actions in case of infringement.

The Trademark Law introduces a “first-to-file” system from the previous “first-to-use” system.  Trademark holders who previously registered their trademark will need to re-register their marks.  The new law also includes protections for “well-known” trademarks. Geographical indications will also be protected through registration.  In anticipation of passage of the trademark bill, Burma established a single national Intellectual Property Office that will monitor compliance with intellectual property laws and be responsible for developing IPR policy rules and regulations.  In addition, the WTO has delayed required implementation of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPs) Agreement for Least Developed Nations – including Burma – until 2021.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Resources for Rights Holders

For Intellectual Property Rights issues in Burma, please contact:

Kitisri Sukhapinda, Regional IP Attache
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
American Embassy Bangkok, Thailand
Tel: (662) 205-5913
Email: kitisri.sukhapinda@trade.gov

Information on the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) Burma Chapter can be found at: http://www.amchammyanmar.com/  

Information on legal service providers available in Burma can be found at: https://mm.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/

Burundi

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Secured interests in both real and movable property are nominally recognized under Burundian law.  The legal system in general and the investment code in particular claim to protect and facilitate the acquisition and disposition of all property rights.  The Land Titles Service registers real estate and security instruments, such as mortgages. Property titles are accepted as a guarantee by commercial banks for mortgages, but documents for properties located outside the capital city of Bujumbura are less easily accepted.

The legal system and the investment code do not differentiate local and foreign investors regarding land acquisition or lease.  However, land acquisition is subject to reciprocity between Burundi and the investor’s home country.

Properties in urban areas have to be registered.  However, according to estimates, more than 90 percent of houses and land in rural areas are not registered.  When the property has been legally purchased, it cannot legally be reverted unless it undergoes an expropriation procedure in compliance with legal and regulatory procedures.

Intellectual Property Rights

Burundi has adopted the 1995 World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of International Property Rights (TRIPS), which introduced global minimum standards for the protection and enforcement of virtually all intellectual property rights (IPR).  The legal system in general and the investment code in particular aim to protect and facilitate the acquisition and disposition of all property rights, including IPR. The law also guarantees protection for patents, copyrights, and trademarks. However, there is no record of enforcement action on IPR violations.  No IPR-related law has been enacted during the past year and no bills are pending.

The Burundi Bureau of Standardization (BBN) is the state authority responsible the monitoring of the quality of consumer products on the market; however, this Bureau lacks the necessary expertise and resources to be effective.  Counterfeiters who are apprehended are fined and their products are seized. There are no statistics available on seizures of counterfeit goods. Burundi is not listed in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Market List.

Cabo Verde

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The access, use, and transfer of land and real estate are recognized and guaranteed by a series of norms that include the Constitution, the Civil Code and Legislative Decree 2/2007 (Land Law). Everyone, regardless of nationality, may acquire ownership rights or obtain special permits to occupy and use land.

There is a legal entity that records secured interests in property.  Property documents are obtained in the land registry (Certidão de Registo Predial), including an official map with the property’s exact location (Planta de Localização).  A tax information certificate (Certidão Matricial) is requested at the municipality.

If the property is unregistered, it is necessary to obtain a certificate confirming that the property is not registered in anyone else’s name (Certidão Negativa) and a tax certificate confirming this (Certidão Matricial). With these two documents, it is possible to register the property.  In 2016, the government made transfers of property less costly by lowering the property registration tax.

In 2017, Cabo Verde completed its second MCC Compact, worth USD 66.2 million, USD 17.3 million of which was dedicated to a Land Management for Investment Project.  The project aimed to improve Cabo Verde’s investment climate by supporting the government’s efforts in creating a single, reliable, and easily accessible source of land rights and land boundaries information.  It is expected to improve confidence in investment conditions for large and small investors and reduce land registration time and costs. The project has refined the legal, institutional, and procedural environment to create conditions for increased reliability of land information, greater efficiency in land administration transactions, and strengthened protections of land rights.  It developed and implemented a new land information management system and clarified parcel rights and boundaries on four targeted islands with high investment potential. The islands of Sal, Boa Vista, and Maio have been finalized, as well as all rural and high potential tourism zone parcels on the island of Sao Vicente. Cabo Verde ranks now number 70 in terms of Registering Property in the World Bank’s Doing Business report.

Despite progress, the process of the land cadaster (land information database) and registration reforms remains incomplete.  The government has expressed its determination to expand the reforms to the remaining islands.

Intellectual Property Rights

Legislation on intellectual property rights (IPR) is in line with international standards.  The legal framework has been revised in accordance with provisions of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) agreements and those of the World Trade Organization (WTO).  The law provides for the protection of intellectual property and establishes limits to protection.

On April 4, 2019, Cabo Verde completed the ratification of three important copyright treaties – the two so-called “Internet Treaties” and the Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise seeing disabled.

The main laws and regulations for the protection of IPR are Decree-Law 1/2009 (amending the Law on Copyright 101/90), the Industrial Property Code (Decree-Law 4/2007), and the Resolution 25/2010 that created the Intellectual Property Institute of Cabo Verde (IPICV).

Cabo Verde is not listed in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Cambodia

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Mortgages exist in Cambodia, and Cambodian banks often require certificates of property ownership as collateral before approving loans. The mortgages recording system, which is handled by private banks, is generally considered reliable.

Cambodia’s 2001 Land Law provides a framework for real property security and a system for recording titles and ownership. Land titles issued prior to the end of the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-79) are not recognized due to the severe dislocations that occurred during that time period. The government is making efforts to accelerate the issuance of land titles, but in practice, the titling system is reported to be cumbersome, expensive, and subject to corruption. The majority of property owners lack documentation proving ownership. Even where title records exist, recognition of legal titles to land has not been uniform, and there are reports of court cases in which judges have sought additional proof of ownership.

Foreigners are constitutionally forbidden to own land in Cambodia; however, the 2001 Land Law allows long and short-term leases to foreigners. Cambodia also allows foreign ownership in multi-story buildings, such as condominiums, from the second floor up. 

Cambodia was ranked 124 out of 190 economies for ease of registering property in the 2019 World Bank Doing Business Report.

Intellectual Property Rights

Infringement of IPR is prevalent in Cambodia. Counterfeit and pirated goods are readily available in local markets and stores, and the enforcement  is weak. IP-infringing goods include counterfeit apparel, footwear, cigarettes, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, and pirated media such as software, music, and books. Although Cambodia is not a major center for the production and export of counterfeit or pirated materials, local businesses report that the problem is growing because of the lack of enforcement. To date, however, Cambodia has not been listed by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) in its annual Special 301 Report, which identifies trading partners that do not adequately protect and enforce IPR.

Cambodia has enacted several laws pursuant to its WTO commitments on intellectual property. Its key IP laws include the Law on Marks, Trade Names and Acts of Unfair Competition (2002), the Law on Copyrights and Related Rights (2003), the Law on Patents, Utility Models and Industrial Designs (2003), the Law on Management of Seed and Plant Breeder’s Rights (2008), the Law on Geographical Indications (2014), and the Law on Compulsory Licensing for Public Health (2018).Cambodia joined WIPO in 1995 and has acceded to a number of international IPR protocols, including the Paris Convention (1998), the Madrid Protocol (2015), the WIPO Patent Cooperation Treaty (2016), The Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Design (2017), and the Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications (2018). Despite this, many of the commitments included in these treaties remain unfulfilled due to Cambodia’s lack of institutional capacity.

To combat the trade in counterfeit goods, the Cambodian Counter Counterfeit Committee (CCCC) was established in 2014 under the Ministry of Interior to investigate claims, seize illegal goods, and prosecute counterfeiters. The Economic Police, Customs, the Cambodia Import-Export Inspection and Fraud Repression Directorate General, and the Ministry of Commerce also have IPR enforcement responsibilities; however, the division of responsibility among each agency is not clearly defined. This causes confusion to rights owners and muddles the overall IPR environment. Although in recent years seizure of counterfeit goods has increased, seizure usually does not occur unless a formal complaint has been made.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see the World Intellectual Property Organization’s country profiles at www.wipo.int/directory/en/details.jsp?country_code=KH  

Cameroon

5. Protection of Property Rights

Property rights are recognized by law, but Cameroon’s weak judiciary makes enforcement sporadic.  For mortgage transactions between two private parties, a proper contract is required for the agreement to be binding and enforceable in the courts.  Liens have to be recorded in the contract.  A registry of land title exists in Cameroon.  The land rights of indigenous peoples, tribes, and farmers are recognized in the constitution.  Property rights are enforced or not according to the relative economic and/or political power of those involved.

Existing legislation does not discriminate against foreign landowners.

Records from the Ministry of State Property and Land Tenure (French acronym “MINDAF”) indicate that land registration rates have not significantly increased since colonial times.  Between 1884 and 2005, only 125,000 title deeds were issued.  On average, this represents approximately 1,000 titles per year, covering less than 2 percent of the land in Cameroon.  In 2009, a study by the African Development Bank (AfDB) identified other distinctive patterns in land ownership.  For example, formal land registration is more common in urban (60 percent) than in rural areas.  There have been token efforts to identify property owners, but unregistered land remains common.

Land disputes are common between Cameroonian citizens.  The disputes are generally caused by non-respect of commercial sales contracts or by informal sales of land.  Illegal occupations of lands are also common.  Globally, Cameroon stands at 177 in the ranking of 190 economies on the ease of registering property.

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)

The legal structure for intellectual property rights (IPR) and corresponding enforcement mechanisms are weak.  Infringement on IPR is especially common in the media, pharmaceutical, software, and print industries.  Theft is common.

There were no new IPR related laws or regulations enacted during the previous year.  The Embassy is not aware of any pending reform bills.

The government seizes and publicly burns counterfeit goods, but these actions are not documented systematically and no cumulative data exists on the seizures.  The Embassy is unaware of any prosecutions related to IPR violations.

Cameroon is not listed in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Canada

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Foreign investors have full and fair access to Canada’s legal system, with private property rights limited only by the rights of governments to establish monopolies and to expropriate for public purposes. Investors from NAFTA countries have mechanisms available to them for dispute resolution regarding property expropriation by the Government of Canada. The recording system for mortgages and liens is reliable. Canada is ranked 34 in 2019 in the World Bank’s “Ease of Registering Property” rankings. About 89 percent of Canada’s land area is Crown Land owned by federal (41 percent) or provincial (48 percent) governments; the remaining 11 percent is privately owned. British Columbia began a 15 percent tax on foreign buyers of residential real estate in the Metro Vancouver area in August 2016.

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/property-taxes/property-transfer-tax/understand/additional-property-transfer-tax  ). In early 2017, the province announced that foreign buyers with work permits would be exempt from the tax.  In 2018, British Columbia increased this tax to 20 percent and expanded its geographical coverage to include several other metro areas, including that of the provincial capital Victoria.

A 2014 Supreme Court decision recognized the existence of aboriginal title on land in British Columbia, which has ramifications for aboriginal land claims across Canada. While stopping short of giving aboriginals a veto on projects, the decision gives them increased influence on the economic development of any land with a colorable (potentially valid) aboriginal title claim.

In terms of non-resident access to land, including farmland, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have no restrictions on foreign ownership of land. However, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan maintain measures aimed at prohibiting or limiting land acquisition by foreigners. The acreage limits vary by province, from as low as five acres in Prince Edward Island to as high as 40 acres in Manitoba. In certain cases, provincial authorities may grant exemptions from these limits, for instance for investment projects. In British Columbia, Crown land cannot be acquired by foreigners, while there are no restrictions on acquisition of other land.

Intellectual Property Rights

Canada was placed on the Watch List in the U.S. Trade Representative’s 2019 Special 301 Report.  While this represents an improvement from 2018 when Canada was on the Special 301 Priority Watch List, Canada remains the only G7 country identified in the report.  The report applauds Canada’s agreement to important intellectual property (IP) provisions in the USMCA that will significantly improve Canada’s IP environment once implemented.  Canada’s commitment to high IP standards was welcomed through the seizure of suspected counterfeit items from the Pacific Mall in Ontario, which was listed in the 2017 Notorious Markets List.  Right holders also report that Canadian courts have established meaningful penalties against circumvention devices and services.  Canada has also made positive progress in reforming proceedings before the Copyright Board related to tariff-setting procedures for the use of copyrighted works.

Significant challenges to adequate and effective protection of IP rights remain in Canada, including poor border and law enforcement with respect to counterfeit or pirated goods, weak patent and pricing environment for innovative pharmaceuticals, deficient copyright protection, and inadequate transparency and due process regarding geographical indications.

Canada continues to exclude shipments of goods in-transit to the U.S. from counterfeit inspection, which permits large-scale shipments of counterfeit and pirated goods to enter our highly integrated supply chains.

On pharmaceuticals, Canada has drawn concern from stakeholders by proposing changes that would dramatically reshape how the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board evaluates patented pharmaceuticals and sets their ceiling prices. Further, the U.S. has serious concerns about the fairness of Canada’s Patented Medicines (Notice of Compliance) proceedings as amended in September 2017. Canada’s long-anticipated proposal to provide for patent term restoration for delays in obtaining marketing approval appears to be disappointingly limited in duration, eligibility, and scope of protection. The U.S. also has serious concerns about the breadth of the Minister of Health’s discretion in disclosing confidential business information.

Commercial-scale online piracy is a significant issue in Canada where some notorious copyright-infringing websites are hosted or operated.  Stream-ripping, the unauthorized converting of a file from a licensed streaming site into an unauthorized copy, is now a dominant method of music piracy, including in Canada, causing substantial economic harm to music creators and undermining legitimate online services.  Industry is also concerned with uneven application of new notice and notice regulations requiring Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to notify (and address) sites of trademark or copyright infringements. Canada’s ambiguous education-related exemption added to the 2012 copyright law has significantly damaged the market for educational publishers and authors.  While Canadian courts have helped clarify this exception, confusion remains and the educational publishing sector reports lost revenue from licensing.

On Geographical Indications (GIs), the U.S. has concerns about lack of due process and transparency relating to the GI system in Canada, including commitments Canada made without public notification or opposition procedures to protect certain GIs under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the EU, which came into force provisionally on September 21, 2017. These measures negatively affect market access for U.S. agricultural producers. The U.S. prefers the protection or recognition of GIs, including with respect to existing trademarks, safeguards for the use of common names, and meaningful opposition and cancellation procedures.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ 

Chad

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Chadian Civil Code protects real property rights.  Since 2013, landowners may register land titles with the One-Stop Land Titling Office (Guichet Unique pour les Affaires Foncieres).  However, enforcement of these rights is difficult because a majority of land owners do not have a title or a deed for their property.

The office of Domain and Registration (Direction de Domaine et Enregistrement) in the Ministry of Finance and Budget is responsible for recording property deeds and mortgages.  In practice, this office asserts authority only in urban areas; rural property titles are managed by traditional leaders who apply customary law.  Chadian courts frequently deal with cases of multiple or conflicting titles to the same property. In cases of multiple titles, the earliest title issued usually has precedence.  Fraud is common in property transactions. By law, all land for which no title exists is owned by the government, and can only be given to a separate entity by Presidential decree.  There have been incidents in which the government has reclaimed land for which individuals held titles, which government officials granted to other individuals without the backing of Presidential decrees. 

The GOC does not provide clear definitions and protections of traditional use rights of indigenous peoples, tribes, or farmers.

The World Bank’s 2018 Doing Business Report ranks Chad 159of 190 in ease of registering property.  The report cites the high cost of property valuation plus other associated costs for registering property as the major impediment.  Time required and number of procedures are on par with the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Intellectual Property Rights

Chad is a member of the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).  Chad ratified the revised Bangui Agreement (1999) in 2000 and the Berne Convention in 1971. The GOC adheres to OAPI rules within the constraints of its administrative capacity.

Within the Ministry responsible for trade, the Department of Industrial Property and Technology addresses intellectual property rights (IPR) issues.  This department is the National Liaison Unit (SNL) within the OAPI, and is the designated point of contact under Article 69 of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). 

Counterfeit pharmaceuticals and artistic works, including music and videos, are common in Chad.  Counterfeit watches, sports clothing, footwear, jeans, cosmetics, perfumes, and other goods are also readily available on the Chadian market.  These products are not produced locally, and are generally imported through informal channels. Despite limited resources, Chadian customs officials make occasional efforts to enforce copyright laws, normally by seizing and burning counterfeit medicines, CDs, and mobile phones.

Chad does not regularly track and report on seizures of counterfeit goods.  Occasionally, Chadian authorities will announce such a seizure in the local press.  Customs officers have the authority to seize and destroy counterfeit goods ex officio.  The Government pays for storage and destruction of such goods.

Chad is not listed on the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.  For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  

Chile

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Secured interests in real property are recognized and generally enforced in Chile.  Chile ranked 61 out of 190 economies in the “Registering Property” category of the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business report.  There is a recognized and generally reliable system for recording mortgages and other forms of liens.

There are no restrictions on foreign ownership of buildings and land, and property rights do not expire.  The only exception, based on national security grounds, is for land located in border territories, which may not be owned by nationals or firms from border countries, without prior authorization of the President of Chile.  There are no restrictions to foreign and/or non-resident investors regarding land leases or acquisitions. In the Doing Business specific index for “quality of land administration” (which includes reliability of infrastructure, transparency of information, geographic coverage and land dispute resolution), Chile obtains a score of 14 out of 30.

Unoccupied properties can always be claimed by their legal owners and, as usurpation is criminalized, several kinds of eviction procedures are allowed by the law.

Intellectual Property Rights

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s International IP Index, Chile’s legal framework provides for fair and transparent use of compulsory licensing; extends necessary exclusive rights to copyright holders and voluntary notification system; and provides for civil and procedural remedies.  However, intellectual property (IP) protection challenges remain. Private stakeholders have deemed Chile’s framework for trade secret protection insufficient. Pharmaceutical and agrochemical products suffer from relatively weak patenting procedures, there is an absence of an effective patent enforcement and resolution mechanism, and gaps exist in regulations governing data protection.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Country Profile study, no new IP-related laws were enacted in 2018.  A draft bill submitted to Congress in October 2018 would reform Chile’s Industrial Property Law. The new IP bill aims to reduce timeframes, modernize procedures and increase legal certainty for patents and trademarks registration.  On April 9, 2019, the Lower Chamber passed the bill, and it moved to the Senate for a vote.

The Chilean Senate passed a Pharmaceutical Law (Farmacos II) bill in January 2018 “to further modernize local pharmaceutical regulations and provide greater and more informed pharmaceutical access to the Chilean population.”  In addition to problematic provisions related to labeling and prescriptions, the bill introduced for the first time the concept of “economic accessibility” as a criterion that could be used to justify importation of generic medicines despite the existence of a patented drug in the market.

On March 9, 2018, on the last working day of the Bachelet government, the outgoing Minister of Health issued a resolution that allows the government to issue compulsory licenses (CLs) for patent-protected hepatitis C drugs.  Resolution 399 stipulates a “public interest” that justifies granting one or more CLs for the exploitation of patents protecting the active ingredient Sofosbuvir, useful for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C. The Ministry of Health subsequently upheld Resolution 399 through Resolution 1165.

As of April 2019, the Farmacos II bill is still pending Chamber approval.  Although the Piñera administration revised the bill to address several problematic trademark-related provisions in May 2018, members of the Chamber’s opposition-controlled Health Committee reincorporated most of these provisions through the amendment process.  The committee then took the more troubling step of introducing into Farmacos II, for the first time, amendments that stipulate the criteria and process for issuance of a compulsory license.

The Intellectual Property Brigade (BRIDEPI) of the Chilean Investigative Police (PDI) reported that in 2018 Chile seized 1,041,708 items which amounted to USD 9.4 million (a 32.6 percent increase compared to 2017), and arrested 56 individuals on charges related to IPR infringement.  The National Customs Service seized more than 7 million counterfeit products in 2018, worth a total of nearly USD 103 million. These seizures included 113.5 million cigarette boxes and 3.3 million products that violated health regulations (medicines, cosmetics, toys and food).

Chile’s IPR enforcement, according to the WIPO report mentioned above, remains relatively lax, particularly in relation to piracy, copyright and patent protection, while prosecution of IP infringement is hindered by gaps in the legal framework and a lack of expertise in IP law among judges.  Rights holders indicate a need for greater resources devoted to customs operations and a better-defined procedure for dealing with small packages containing infringing goods. The legal basis for detaining and seizing suspected transshipments is also insufficiently clear.

Chile has been included on the Special 301 Priority Watch List (PWL) since January 8, 2007, and remains on the 2019 Priority Watch List.  In October 2018, Chile’s Congress successfully passed a law that criminalizes satellite piracy. However, other big challenges remain, related to longstanding IPR issues under the U.S.-Chile FTA: the implementation of measures against circumvention of technological protection; pending implementation of UPOV 91; the implementation of effective patent linkage in connection with applications to market pharmaceutical products; adequate protection for undisclosed data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical products; and amendments to Chile’s Internet Service Provider liability regime to permit effective action against internet piracy.

Chile is not listed in the USTR’s Notorious Markets List.  For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  

China

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Foreign companies have long complained that the Chinese legal system, responsible for mediating acquisition and disposition of property, has inconsistently protected the legal real property rights of foreigners.

Urban land is entirely owned by the State.  The State can issue long-term land leases to individuals and companies, including foreigners, subject to many restrictions.  China’s Property Law stipulates that residential property rights will renew automatically, while commercial and industrial grants shall be renewed if the renewal does not conflict with other public interest claims.  A number of foreign investors have reported that their land use rights were revoked and given to developers to build neighborhoods designated for building projects by government officials. Investors often complain that compensation in these cases has been nominal.

In rural China, collectively-owned land use rights are more complicated.  The registration system chronically suffers from unclear ownership lines and disputed border claims, often at the expense of local farmers who are excluded from the process by village leaders making “handshake deals” with commercial interests.  The central government announced in 2016, and reiterated in 2017 and 2018, plans to reform the rural land registration system so as to put more control in the hands of farmers, but some experts remain skeptical that changes will be properly implemented and enforced.

China’s Securities Law defines debtor and guarantor rights, including rights to mortgage certain types of property and other tangible assets, including long-term leases.  Chinese law does not prohibit foreigners from buying non-performing debt, which can only be acquired through state-owned asset management firms. However, in practice, Chinese official often use bureaucratic hurdles that limit foreigners’ ability to liquidate assets, further discouraging foreign purchase of non-performing debt.

Intellectual Property Rights

Following WTO accession, China updated many laws and regulations to comply with the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and other international agreements.  However, despite the changes to China’s legal and regulatory regime, some aspects of China’s IP protection regime fall short of international best practices.  In addition, enforcement ineffectiveness of Chinese laws and regulations remains a significant challenge for foreign investors trying to protect their IPR.

Major impediments to effective IP enforcement include the unavailability of deterrent-level penalties for infringement, a lack of transparency, unclear standards for establishing criminal investigations, the absence of evidence production methods to compel evidence from infringers, and local protectionism, among others.  Chinese government officials tout the success of China’s specialized IP courts – including the establishment of a new appellate tribunal within the SPC – as evidence of its commitment to IP protection; however, while this shows a growing awareness of IPR in China’s legal system, civil litigation against IP infringement will remain an option with limited effect until there is an increase in the amount of damages an infringer pays for IP violations.

Chinese-based companies remain the largest IP infringers of U.S. products.  Goods shipped from China (including those transshipped through Hong Kong) accounted for an estimated 87 percent of IPR-infringing goods seized at U.S. borders.  (Note: This U.S.  Customs statistic does not specify where the fake goods were made.)  China imposes requirements that U.S. firms develop their IP in China or transfer their IP to Chinese entities as a condition to accessing the Chinese market, or to obtain tax and other preferential benefits available to domestic companies.  Chinese policies can effectively require U.S. firms to localize research and development activities, practices documented in the March 2018 Section 301 Report released by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).  China remained on the Priority Watch List in the 2019 USTR Special 301 Report, and several Chinese physical and online markets were included in the 2018 USTR Notorious Markets Report.  For detailed information on China’s environment for IPR protection and enforcement, please see the following reports:

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local intellectual property offices, please see the World Intellectual Property Organization’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en  

Colombia

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The 1991 Constitution explicitly protects individual rights against state actions and upholds the right to private property.

Secured interests in real property, and to a lesser degree movable property, are recognized and generally enforced after the property is properly registered.  In terms of protecting third-party purchasers, existing law is inadequate. The concepts of a mortgage, trust, deed, and other types of liens exists, as does a reliable system of recording such secured interests.  Deeds, however, present some legal risk due to the prevalence of transactions that have never been registered with the Public Instruments Registry.

According to Amnesty International, as of November 2015, eight million hectares of land had been abandoned or acquired illegally, equivalent to 14 percent of the Colombian territory.  The government estimates that approximately 6.5 million hectares of land are affected by violent usurpation. Around 18 percent of land owners do not have clear title. The Colombian government is working to title these plots and has started a formalization program for land restitution.

In the seven years that the Law on Victims and Land Restitution has been in force (2011-2018), the government has received nearly 112,000 restitution claims, corresponding to 99,155 properties and approximately 290,000 hectares.  Of these, the “Land Restitution Unit” (URT) created by the 2011 law has studied 58,291 cases and has transferred 14,851 cases for review by a restitution judge. As of March 2018, there have been 6,986 cases resolved by these judges, covering 5,598 properties.  With the entry into force of the 2016 peace deal with the FARC, the government is confident restitution efforts will be more effective as former violent areas become more accessible, although security in some of those areas remains a challenge. While some landowners who received their formal land titles have been threatened by illegal armed groups, the government confirms that the vast majority of land restitution beneficiaries have returned and stayed on their parcels, accessing a two-year subsidy for the implementation of productive projects provided by the URT.

The URT’s work is complementary to the work of the National Land Agency, which deals with property titles for lower income and minority communities.  The Agency was created at the end of 2015 to implement many of the commitments established in the peace deal with the FARC on formalization of rural land and aimed to formalize the property of 50,000 Colombian families in 2017.  Thanks to the implementation of a massive strategy to formalize rural property, the agency formalized the properties of 71,000 rural families by the end of 2017.

In March 2017, the Colombia’s Prosecutor’s Office announced the recovery of 277,000 hectares of land from dissidents and ex-combatants of the FARC and from narcotraffickers.  Colombia ranked 59 out of 190 economies for ease of registering property, according to the 2019 Doing Business report.

Intellectual Property Rights

In Colombia, the granting, registration, and administration of IPR are carried out by four primary government entities.  The SIC acts as the Colombian patent and trademark office. The Colombian Agricultural Institute (ICA) is in charge of issuing plant variety protections and data protections for agricultural products.  The Ministry of Interior administers copyrights through the National Copyright Directorate (DNDA). The Ministry of Health and Social Protection handles data protection for products registered through the National Food and Drug Institute (INVIMA).  Colombia is subject to Andean Community Decision 486 on trade secret protection, which is fully implemented domestically by the Unfair Competition Law of 1996.

Colombia made no significant changes to the distribution of responsibilities for IPR protection in 2018.  Decree 1162 of 2010 created the National Intellectual Property Administrative System and the Intersectoral Intellectual Property Commission (CIPI).  The CIPI serves at the interagency technical body for IPR issues, but has not issued any recent policy documents. The last comprehensive interagency policy for IPR issues (Conpes 3533) was issued by the National Planning Department in 2008.  Colombia’s National Development Plan (NDP) for 2018-2022 contains a requirement to update this policy.

The patent regime in Colombia currently provides for a 20-year protection period for patents, a 10-year term for industrial designs, and 20- or 15-year protection for new plant varieties, depending on the species.  Colombia has been on the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 Watch List every year since 1991, and in 2018 was downgraded to “Priority Watch List” status. Special 301 reports can be found at https://ustr.gov/issue-areas/intellectual-property/Special-301.

The CTPA improved standards for the protection and enforcement of a broad range of IPR.  Such improvements include state-of-the-art protections for digital products such as software, music, text, and videos; stronger protection for U.S. patents, trademarks, and test data; and prevention of piracy and counterfeiting by criminalizing end-use piracy.  Colombia is a member of the Inter-American Convention for Trademark and Commercial Protection. Various procedures associated with industrial property, patent, and trademark registration are available at http://www.sic.gov.co/propiedad-Industrial

Colombia has outstanding CTPA commitments related to IPR.  In January 2013, the constitutional court declared Law 1520 of 2012 implementing several of these requirements (specifically related to copyright law and internet service provider liability) unconstitutional on procedural grounds.  In the case of copyright law reform, the Santos administration then introduced the legislation to congress in October 2017; it was subsequently enacted in July 2018. The bill extends the term of copyright protection, imposes civil liability for circumvention of technological protection measures, and strengthens enforcement of copyright and related rights.

Regarding other CTPA requirements, Colombian officials are discussing with the United States a draft of legislation regulating internet service providers on issues such as compulsory takedown of online content and the protection of intermediaries with “safe harbor” provisions for unintentional copyright infringement.  The legislation has not yet been introduced to congress. Colombia did not make progress in 2018 on an international agreement that it needs to sign in order to comply with CTPA provisions: the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV 91). Colombia’s constitutional court declared accession to UPOV 91 unconstitutional in December 2012 due to lack of consultation with Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities.  Colombia also maintains that the existing Andean Community Decision 345 is in effect and equivalent to UPOV 91.

Colombia’s success combating counterfeiting and IPR violations remains limited.  A 2015 law increased penalties for those involved in running contraband, but more effective implementation is needed.  Colombian law continues to limit the ability of law enforcement (police, customs, and prosecutors) to effectively combat counterfeiting because they do not have the requisite authorities to effectively inspect, seize, and investigate smugglers and counterfeiters.  Colombian authorities did make a number of high-profile seizures of contraband (including counterfeit) goods in 2018. However, counterfeit goods remain widely available in Colombia’s “San Andresitos” markets, as a number of industry stakeholders have noted. Enforcement in the digital space remains weak as well.

Resources for Rights Holders

Embassy point of contact:

U.S. Embassy Bogota
Economic Section
Carrera 45 #22B-45
Bogota, Colombia
(571) 275-2000
Email: BogotaECONShared@state.gov

Country/Economy resources:

Congo, Democratic Republic of the

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The DRC’s Constitution (Chapter 2, Articles 34-40) protects private property ownership without discriminating between foreign and domestic investors.  Despite this provision, the GDRC has acknowledged the lack of enforcement in the protection of property rights.  Relevant draft bills have been pending before Parliament since 2015. Congolese law related to real property rights enumerates provisions for mortgages and liens, and real property (buildings and land) is protected and registered through the Ministry of Land’s Office of the Mortgage Registrar.  Nevertheless, land registration may not fully protect property owners, as records can be incomplete and legal disputes over land deals are common.  In addition, there is no specific regulation of real property lease or acquisition.

Ownership interest in personal property (e.g. equipment, vehicles, etc.) is protected and registered through the Ministry of the Interior’s Office of the Notary.

Intellectual Property Rights

In principle, intellectual property rights (IPR) are legally protected in the DRC, but enforcement of IPR regulations is limited.  Prior to independence in 1960, IPR was regulated by multiple Belgian instruments.  In 1963, the DRC became a party to the Berne Convention of 1886 for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, and in 1975 it joined the 1883 Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.  The DRC introduced Law No. 82-001 on Industrial Property in 1982, and Law No. 86-022 on the Protection of Copyright and Neighboring Rights in 1986.  Both instruments remain in force, but legislative action in the area of IPR and enforcement of the existing laws has been virtually non-existent since their passage.

The country is also a signatory to a number of relevant agreements with international organizations such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), and is thus ostensibly subject to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), an international legal agreement between all the member nations of the WTO which sets down minimum standards for the regulation by national governments of many forms of IPR.  Specifically, TRIPS requires WTO members to provide copyright rights covering content producers, including performers; producers of sound recordings and broadcasting organizations; geographical indications, including appellations of origin; industrial designs; integrated circuit layout-designs; patents; new plant varieties; trademarks; trade dress; and undisclosed or confidential information.  TRIPS also specifies enforcement procedures, remedies, and dispute resolution procedures.  As a least-developed country member, DRC was given a longer transition period, through 2006, to comply with TRIPS, but it continues to be out of compliance with its international IPR obligations.

The pertinent conventions provide maximum protection of 20 years for patents, and 20 years, renewable, for trademarks, starting from the date of registration.  If not used within three years, a trademark can be cancelled. By contrast, the current Congolese laws provide only 15 years of protection on a number of patents, and do not include all the means mentioned in TRIPS for enforcement of IPR rights.  In July 2011, the Ministry of Culture and Art established the Société des Droits d’Auteur et des Droits Voisins (SOCODA) to address IPR issues faced by authors, and presented a bill to the government that seeks to rectify shortcomings of the existing 1982 IPR law.  Still, the reform bill is pending Parliamentary approval and it is unclear when that will be forthcoming.

Congo, Republic of the

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

A process exists for the acquisition and retention of real property. The government enforces property rights, though companies and individuals cite inconsistent enforcement. Mortgages and liens exist. A generally reliable system of property exists.

No known regulations exist to prohibit land lease or acquisition by foreign investors.

The government has no definitive registry of untitled land.

Property ownership can transfer to other owners if the property remains unoccupied for 10 consecutive years while having been simultaneously used by another user (squatter).

Intellectual Property Rights

As a member of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), ROC participates in the African Intellectual Property Organization (AIPO). AIPO manages a single copyright system for all member states. Additionally, as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), ROC must ensure that legislation conforms to WTO intellectual property norms and standards.  The Ministry of Commerce leads issues related to counterfeit products. Local authorities have historically seized and destroyed contraband items, such as medical supplies and food products. The ROC government reportedly uses unlicensed software on its computers; however, overall infringement of intellectual property rights (IPR) remains uncommon.

The government has enacted no new IP-related laws or regulations in the past year.

ROC maintains no formal system of tracking and reporting seizures of counterfeit goods.

The ROC is not listed in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report.

The ROC is not included in USTR’s Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ 

Costa Rica

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The laws governing investments in land, buildings, and mortgages are generally transparent.  Secured interests in both chattel and real property are recognized and enforced. Mortgage and title recording are mandatory and the vast majority of land in Costa Rica has clear title.  However, there are continuing problems of overlapping title to real property and fraudulent filings with the National Registry, the government entity that records property titles. In addition, squatters do have rights under Costa Rican law such that legally purchased and registered property if left unoccupied long enough and under certain circumstances may revert to the person occupying the land rather than the registered owner.  Potential investors in Costa Rican real estate should also be aware that the right to use traditional paths is enshrined in law and can be used to obtain court-ordered easements on land bearing private title; disputes over easements are particularly common when access to a beach is an issue. Costa Rica is ranked 47th of 190 for ease of “registering property” within the World Bank 2018 Doing Business Report.

Foreigners are subject to the same land lease and acquisition laws and regulations as Costa Ricans with the exception of concessions within the Maritime Zone (Zona Maritima Terrestre – ZMT).  Almost all beachfront is public property for a distance of 200 meters from the mean high tide line, with an exception for long-established port cities and a few beaches such as Jaco. The first 50 meters from the mean high tide line cannot be used for any reason by private parties.  The next 150 meters, also owned by the state, is the Maritime Zone and can only be leased from the local municipalities or the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) for specified periods and particular uses, such as tourism installation or vacation homes. Concessions in this zone cannot be given to foreigners or foreign-owned companies.

Intellectual Property Rights

Costa Rica’s legal structure for protecting intellectual property rights (IPR) is quite strong, but enforcement is sporadic and does not always get the attention and resources required to be effective.  As a result, infringement of IPRs is relatively common in both physical and online markets. Costa Rica is a signatory of many major international agreements and conventions regarding intellectual property.  Building on the existent regulatory and legal framework, CAFTA-DR required Costa Rica to further strengthen and clarify its IPR regime, with several new IPR laws added to the books in 2008.  Prior to that, the GATT agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) took effect in Costa Rica on January 1, 2000.  Costa Rica in 2002 ratified the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) internet treaties pertaining to Performances and Phonograms (WPPT) and Copyright (WCT).

The Ministry of Foreign Trade (COMEX) and Costa Rica’s National Registry agreed in 2017 to amend the country’s treatment of geographic indicators (GI) to require that any GI identify a generic term in a compound name.  On February 27, 2019, through Executive Decree 41572-JP-COMEX, Costa Rica’s updated GI decree entered into force.

Online piracy is another major concern for the country with poor enforcement of online IPR infractions and lengthy notice and takedown procedures.  On February 8, 2019, Costa Rica passed and published in La Gaceta, Executive Decree #41557-COMEX-JP with modifications to the existing regulation on Internet Service Providers -ISP’s- (Executive Decree #36880-COMEX-JP) that significantly shorten the 45 days previously allowed for notice and takedown of pirated online content.  Amendments of Articles 12 and 13 of the regulation effectively create an expeditious safe harbor system for ISP’s in Costa Rica without requiring new legislation or changes to the General Law of Public Administration.

During 2018, the Registry of Industrial Property implemented a series of tools to support the services provided by the Patent Office.  As of December 3, 2018, the Patent Office began accepting electronic filing of international applications through ePCT-filing. Since 2016, Costa Rica has been a member of the Cooperation Systems on Aspects of Operational Information and Industrial Property (PROSUR), and as part of its activities has implemented a pilot program of Accelerated Patent Procedure, PPH by its acronym in Spanish.

While Costa Rica is not listed in the Notorious Market Report, it is and has been listed in the USTR’s Special 301 Watch List since 1995.  However, the 2018 Special 301 Report noted that Costa Rica has taken steps to increase intragovernment coordination on IP matters resulting in a significant increase in the number of criminal investigations and prosecutions. The Costa Rican government does not release official statistics on the seizure of counterfeit goods, but the Chamber of Commerce compiles the following from Costa Rican government sources: http://observatorio.co.cr/.  Costa Rica’s Economic Crimes Prosecutor investigated 75 cases as of September 2018, on pace for a similar number to the 99 cases investigated in 2017. As in years past, prosecutors ultimately dismissed a number of cases due to lack of interest, collaboration, and follow-up by the representatives of trademark rights holders.  The Costa Rican government continues to publish statistics on IPR criminal enforcement at http://www.comex.go.cr/estad percentC3 percentADsticas-y-estudios/otras-estad percentC3 percentADsticas/  .

Costa Rica has made less progress on implementing a systematic solution to ensure that government entities use licensed software.  Only one person currently compiles and tracks the data, stalling the effort to fully monitor compliance.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Resources for Rights Holders

Contact at Mission:

Attention:  Investment Climate Statement
Economics Section
Embassy San Jose, Costa Rica
2519-2000
Email: SanJoseEcon@state.gov

Country/Economy resources:

  • Costa Rican American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham):  http://www.amcham.co.cr/  
  • The U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica (Consular Section) maintains an extensive list of legal service providers, including some firms engaged in intellectual property law.  This list does not represent an endorsement on the part of the U.S. government: https://cr.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/).
  • The Department of Commerce also maintains a list of Business Service Providers that includes law firms specializing in IPR, under the Business Service Provider tab at: http://www.export.gov/costarica  .

Observatory of Illicit Trade:  http://observatorio.co.cr/  

Cote d’Ivoire

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Ivoirian civil code provides for the enforcement of private property rights, and the government has undertaken reform efforts to secure property rights.  Mortgages and liens exist. Secured interests in property are enforced by the Land Registry Office of the Ministry of Economy and Finance. In the World Bank’s Doing Business report, Cote d’Ivoire is ranked 112 out of 190 countries for registering property.

Foreign and/or nonresident investors who wish to lease land must obtain a permit for the development of the site, as well as a bylaw from the prefecture or sub-prefecture for the occupation of the site.

In Cote d’Ivoire, 96 percent of land does not have a clear title.  The government has committed to titling all private land within 10 years.  The government has made efforts to raise awareness on land titling throughout the country and to streamline procedures for obtaining land titles.  In 2018, the World Bank approved a program to build the capacity and institutions to support the implementation of the national rural land tenure security program, and register customary land rights in selected rural areas.  All land that is to be titled must be professionally surveyed. The surveying, which must be performed by one of the few companies allowed to execute land surveys in Cote d’Ivoire, can cost more than the value of the land. The status of the land from which thousands of refugees moved during the 2011 post-election conflict has not been resolved.  Much of that land is now occupied by squatters, many of whom are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from neighboring countries to the north of Cote d’Ivoire, particularly from Burkina Faso. A lack of titles and a conflict between modern land-tenure law and common practice hinders resolution of the land tenure issue.

If legally purchased property is unoccupied, ownership cannot be reverted to other owners (such as squatters).

Intellectual Property Rights

The Ivoirian Civil Code protects intellectual property rights (IPR).  The government’s Office of Industrial Property is charged with ensuring the protection of patents, trademarks, industrial designs, and commercial names.  Patents are valid for ten years, with the possibility of two five-year extensions. Trademarks are valid for ten years and are renewable indefinitely. Copyrights are valid for 50 years.  The Ivoirian Copyright Office has a labeling system in place to prevent counterfeiting and protect audio, video, literary, and artistic property rights in music and computer programs. In general, the protection of IPR in Cote d’Ivoire is weak and the government has limited resources for IPR protection.  While Ivoirian IPR law is in conformity with standards established by the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), enforcement is weak due to a lack of custom checks at the country’s porous borders, limiting the law’s impact.

No IPR related laws or regulations have been enacted in the past year.

Legally the government must protect intellectual property on both exported and imported goods.  Customs has the power to seize products imported with equipment installed, detained, marketed, or illegally supplied.  Such seizures, generally of counterfeit consumer goods, are routinely publicized on government websites and media outlets, although statistics on seizures are unavailable.  The intellectual property office’s police unit has sometimes held raids against retail outlets and street vendors to confiscate pirated CDs and DVDs, and they have instituted legal proceedings against counterfeiters.  IPR violations are prosecuted and sanctions vary from three months to two years of imprisonment and fines from USD 163 to USD 8,000.

Cote d’Ivoire is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 Report.

Cote d’Ivoire is not listed in the USTR’s Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Croatia

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The right to ownership of private property is enshrined in the Croatian Constitution and in numerous acts and regulations. A foreign physical or legal person incorporated under Croatian law is considered to be a Croatian legal person and has the right to purchase property. The Ownership and Property Rights Act establishes procedures for foreigners to acquire property by inheritance as well as legal transactions such as purchases, deeds, and trusts. Croatia has a well-functioning banking system, which provides mortgages, while courts and cadaster offices handle property records. 

However, real property ownership can be particularly challenging in Croatia owing to unique titling issues, separate ownership of buildings and the land on which they sit, reciprocity laws, special treatment of agricultural land and coastal regions, and zoning disputes more generally.  For all of these reasons, investors should seek competent, independent legal advice in this area. The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of English-speaking attorneys (https://hr.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/local-resources-of-u-s-citizens/attorneys/). The Croatian Agency for Investments and Competitiveness is also a helpful service for those seeking information about property status in Croatia.

While the cadaster offices reliably maintain records, there is a significant volume of property in Croatia which has changed hands without appropriate documentation of the transfer because the owners have sought to avoid paying the title transfer fees. The embassy routinely learns of companies or individuals who have bought property in Croatia, only to learn there are conflicting claims to the property.  These individuals and companies may spend years in court attempting to resolve these claims.  For this reason potential buyers should seek to verify that the seller possesses clear title to both the land and buildings (which can be titled and owned separately). 

In order to acquire property by means other than inheritance or as an incorporated Croatian legal entity, foreign citizens must receive the approval of the Ministry of Justice. Approval can be delayed, owing to a lengthy interagency clearance process. While citizens of EU member states are afforded the same rights as Croatian citizens in terms of purchasing property, the right of all other foreigners to acquire property in Croatia is based on reciprocity. 

In the case of the United States, reciprocity exists on a (sub-federal) state-by-state basis. Croatia’s Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs has confirmed the existence of positive reciprocity for real estate purchases for residents of the following states:  Alabama, Arizona, Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.  

Alternatively, for U.S. citizens from Arkansas, Hawaii, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Vermont, property acquisition is only allowed with the condition of Croatian permanent residence.  Residents of other states could face longer waiting periods. The Foreign Ministry has confirmed that Croatian nationals can purchase real estate throughout the United States without restrictions. A foreign investor, incorporated as a Croatian legal entity, may acquire and own property without ministry approval, with the caveat that the purchase by any private party of certain types of land (principally land directly adjacent to the sea or in certain geographically designated areas) can be restricted to foreign investors for purposes of national security.

Inheritance laws have led to situations in which some properties can have claims by dozens of legal owners, some of whom are deceased and others of whom emigrated and cannot be found. 

It is also important to verify the existence of necessary building permits, as some newer structures in coastal areas have been subject to destruction at the owner’s expense and without compensation for not conforming to local zoning regulations. Investors should be particularly wary of promises that structures built without permits will be regularized retroactively. The Act on Legalization of Buildings and Illegal Construction is intended to resolve ambiguities regarding ownership of real estate.

Land ownership is distinct from ownership of buildings or facilities on the land. Investors interested in acquiring companies from the Ministry of State Owned Property should seek legal advice to determine whether any deal also includes the right to ownership of the land on which a business is located, or merely the right to lease the land through a concession. Property may be mortgaged. Inconsistent regulations and restrictions on coastal property ownership and construction have also provided challenges for foreign investors in the past. Croatian law restricts construction and commercial use within 70 meters of the coastline. 

When purchasing land for construction purposes, potential buyers should determine whether the property is classified as agricultural or construction land. The Agricultural Land Act provides for additional fees for re-zoning of up to 50 percent of the value of the land that is diverted from agriculture to construction purposes. The Agricultural Land Agency works with local governments to review potential agricultural land purchases. However, the Agricultural Land Act no longer covers the sale of privately owned farmland, which is now treated solely as the subject of a sales agreement between the parties. Buyers of this type of land should still proceed with caution and be aware of potentially unresolved legacy issues with land ownership. Land in Croatia is either publicly or privately owned and cannot be transferred to squatters solely based on physical presence.

The Ministry of Justice and the State Geodetic Office co-manage the National Program for Resolving Land Registration and Cadaster Issues. This program includes a One Stop Shop system, which is a single point for accessing land registry and cadaster data.  For more information see uredjenazemlja.hr. 

Croatia is also working with the World Bank on implementation of the Integrated Land Administration System project (ILAS) to modernize the land administration and management system in order to improve the efficiency, transparency and cost effectiveness of government services.  Croatia continues to process a backlog of cases and potential investors should seek a full explanation of land ownership rights before purchasing property. 

Note that Croatia’s land records are also available online (see www.pravosudje.hr   and www.katastar.hr  ). Katastar.hr includes information on over 14 million pieces of land throughout the country. 

The World Bank Ease of Doing Business 2018 report ranks Croatia as 51st out of 190 countries on ease of registering property, up eight spots from the 2017 ranking of 58th. 

There is no property tax in Croatia; a proposal to introduce a property tax failed in 2018.

Intellectual Property Rights

Croatian intellectual property rights (IPR) legislation includes the Patent Act, Trademark Act, Industrial Design Act, Act on the Geographical Indications of Products and Services, Act on the Protection of Layout Design of Integrated Circuits, and the Act on Copyrights and Related Rights. These acts define the process for protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights. Texts of these laws are available on the website of the State Intellectual Property Office (https://www.dziv.hr/en/ip-legislation/national-legislation/).

Legislation pertaining to Intellectual Property Rights can be found at http://www.dziv.hr/en/ip-legislation/national-legislation/  . The Law on Protecting Unpublished Information with Market Value went into force in 2018. 

Croatian law enforcement officials keep public records of seized counterfeit goods. According to the latest available report from the Customs Office, in 2018, customs officials stopped 540 international deliveries that resulted in a total of 593 procedures for temporary detainment of goods, which included 88,827 items.  Customs also detained 137 domestic deliveries, which contained 18,384 counterfeit goods. They initiated 3 criminal proceedings against those who were involved in the transportation of seized goods. Croatian customs officials and Ministry of Interior work together to locate and seize goods.

Although some areas of IPR protection remain problematic, Croatia is currently not on the U.S. Special 301 Watch List nor is it in the Notorious Markets List. Problem areas are piracy of digital media and counterfeiting. Due to its geographic position, Croatia is also one of the transit routes for various illegal products bound for other countries in the region. There have been no problems reported with regard to registration of intellectual property in Croatia by American companies. In May 2016, the American Chamber of Commerce in Croatia delivered to the Croatian government Recommendations for Improving the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Protection in Croatia based on discussions with their members in regard to treatment of intellectual property http://www.amcham.hr/position-papers-d207   (please scroll down to the 15th line). The American Chamber of Commerce continues dialogue with the Croatian government in regard to intellectual property rights issues.

As a WTO member, Croatia is a party to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Croatia is also a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). For a list of international conventions to which Croatia is a signatory, consult the State Intellectual Property Office’s website at www.dziv.hr  .

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Cyprus

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Republic of Cyprus

EU nationals and companies domiciled in any EU country are not subject to any restrictions when buying property in the ROC.  By contrast, Cypriot law imposes significant restrictions on the foreign ownership of real estate by non-EU residents. Non-EU persons and entities may purchase a maximum of two real estate properties for private use (defined as a holiday home built on land of up to 4,014 square meters; plus a second home or office of up to 250 square meters, or shop of up to 100 square meters).  Exceptions can be made for projects requiring larger plots of land but are difficult to obtain and rarely granted. This restriction applies to non-EU citizens or non-EU companies. A legal entity is deemed to be controlled by non-EU citizens if it meets any of the conditions listed below:

  • 50 percent or more of its board members are non-EU citizens;
  • 50 percent or more of its share capital belongs to non-EU citizens;
  • Control (50 percent or more) belongs to non-EU citizens; and
  • Either the company’s Memorandum or Articles of Association provides authority to a non-EU citizen securing the company’s activities are conducted based on his/her will during the real estate acquisition period.  In the case that the authority is provided to two or more persons, a legal entity is considered to be controlled by non-EU citizens if 50 percent or more of the people granted such authority are non-EU citizens.

For additional information and application forms for the acquisition of property by non-EU residents, please refer to the Ministry of Interior website: http://www.moi.gov.cy/moi/moi.nsf/index_en/index_en?OpenDocument  .

Legal requirements and procedures for acquiring and disposing of property in Cyprus are complex, but professional help from real estate agents and developers can ease the burden of complying with government requirements.  The ROC Department of Lands and Surveys keeps excellent records and follows internationally-accepted procedures. Non-residents are allowed to sell their property and transfer abroad the amount originally paid, plus interest or profits, without restriction.

The UK government website also offers useful information on buying property in Cyprus: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/how-to-property-in-cyprus  .

Additionally, there are restrictions on investing in Turkish Cypriot property located in the ROC.  The Turkish Cypriot Property Management Service (TCPMS), established in 1991, administers properties of Turkish Cypriot  who are not ordinarily residents of the government-controlled area. This service acts as the temporary custodian for such properties until a comprehensive political settlement is reached.  The TCPMS is mandated to administer properties under its custodianship “in the manner most beneficial for the owner.” Ownership of Turkish Cypriot properties cannot change (except for inheritance purposes) except in exceptional cases when this is deemed beneficial for the owner or necessary for the public interest

The World Bank’s 2018 Doing Business report ranked Cyprus 94th among 190 countries in terms of efficiency and quality for registering property.  For more information, please see: http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/exploreeconomies/cyprus#DB_rp  .

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

Special Note: Investors are advised to consider the risks associated with investing in immovable property in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots.  Potential investors are strongly advised to obtain independent legal advice prior to purchasing or leasing property there. Purchase or use of property in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots is a contentious issue in Cyprus, as per the following note posted on the Republic of Cyprus Ministry of Foreign Affairs website: http://www.mfa.gov.cy/mfa/properties/occupiedarea_properties.nsf/index_en/index_en?OpenDocument  .

For property in the Turkish Cypriot-administered areas, only pre-1974 title deeds are uncontested.  In response to the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) 2005 ruling that Turkey’s “subordinate local authorities” in Cyprus had not provided an adequate local remedy for property disputes, Turkish Cypriot authorities established an Immovable Property Commission (IPC) to handle property claimed by Greek Cypriots.  In a March 2010 ruling, the ECHR recognized the IPC as a domestic remedy. As of March 19, 2019, the IPC had received 6,518 applications, of which 943 have been concluded through friendly settlements, and 32 through formal hearings. The ROC does not consider the IPC to be a legitimate body. For more information on IPC please visit http://www.tamk.gov.ct.tr/  .

On January 19, 2010, the UK Court of Appeal enforced an earlier court decision taken in the ROC in support of a Greek Cypriot person’s trespassing claim (the Orams case – http://curia.europa.eu/juris/liste.jsf?language=en&num=C-420/07   and http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2010/9.html  ), effectively voiding the transfers of Greek Cypriot property in the Turkish Cypriot-administered areas.  This landmark decision also establishes precedent in cases where foreign investors purchasing disputed properties outside of the ROC-controlled area can be found liable for damages.

There are significant restrictions on the foreign ownership of real estate by non-“TRNC” residents who may purchase only one real estate properties for private use subject to the approval of the “Council of Ministers.”

Intellectual Property Rights

Republic of Cyprus

On the whole, intellectual property rights (IPR) protection in the ROC has improved over time, and Cyprus has not appeared in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report since 2006, and it is not included in the Notorious Markets List.

Cypriot Law (Law 207(I) (2012)) places the burden of proof on the defendant in cases of IPR infringement.  The Law also allows the police to assess samples of pirated articles in lieu of the whole shipment and allows for out-of-court settlement in some cases.  Other important IPR laws include Law 103 (2007) on unfair commercial practices and Law 133(I) (2006), which strengthens earlier legislation targeting copyright infringement.  The Department of Customs and the Police confiscate thousands of counterfeit items every year, including pirated articles of clothing, luggage, accessories, and optical media.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at: http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Resources for Rights Holders

Embassy point of contact:

George F. Demetriou
Economic Specialist
U.S. Embassy, Nicosia
Telephone: +357-22-393361
Email: demetriougf@state.gov

Local attorneys listed with Embassy: https://cy.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/

AmCham Cyprus: http://www.amchamcyprus.com.cy.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

Intellectual property rights are not adequately protected in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots.  Related “laws” in this area are inadequate, antiquated, and there is a lack of enforcement. Infringing goods imported from Turkey and other countries are a concern, such as counterfeit merchandise.

Czech Republic

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real estate (land and buildings) located in the Czech Republic must be registered in the Cadastral Register under the Cadastral Office.  The Cadastral Register contains information on plots of land and buildings, housing units and non-residential premises, liens, and other information and is publicly available online in Czech only at:  https://nahlizenidokn.cuzk.cz/  .  Transfer of ownership title to real estate (e.g., sale and purchase agreement) is effective from the date of execution of a written agreement and registration of the transfer of the ownership title in the Cadastral Register.  The Czech Republic ranked 33rd for ease of registering property in the 2019 World Bank’s Doing Business Index.

There is a negligible proportion of land that does not have clear title.  If property legally purchased is unoccupied, property ownership does not revert to squatters.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Czech Republic is a signatory to the Bern, Paris, and Universal Copyright Conventions.  In 2001, the government ratified the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Treaty on Performances and Phonograms.  Domestic legislation protects all intellectual property rights, including patents, copyrights, trademarks, industrial designs, and utility models. Amendments to the trademark law and the copyright law have brought Czech law into compliance with relevant EU directives and WTO Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) requirements.  The Customs Administration of the Czech Republic and the Czech Commercial Inspection have legal authority to seize counterfeit goods. The Criminal Code, which came into effect January 1, 2010, increased maximum penalties for trademark, industrial rights, and copyright violations from two to eight years. Information on seizures of counterfeit goods and cases of IPR infringement are tracked by the Customs Administration.  Information is available in Czech at https://www.celnisprava.cz/cz/statistiky/Stranky/dusevni-vlastnictvi.aspx  .

IPR violations at markets on the borders of Germany and Austria were once an issue of great concern, but since 2008 Czech authorities have made substantial efforts against physical markets and have adopted an acceptable legal framework for IPR protection.  In recognition of this fact, USTR removed the Czech Republic from the Special 301 Watch List in 2011. While online piracy is a growing concern, the legal framework for IPR protection has been tested and proven successful in punishing infringers. The Czech Republic is not listed in the Notorious Markets Report.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local intellectual property (IP offices), please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Denmark

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Property rights in Denmark are well protected by law and in practice. Real estate is chiefly financed through the well-established Danish mortgage bond credit system, the security of which compares to that of government bonds. To comply with the covered bond definition in the EU Capital Requirements Directive (CRD), the Danish mortgage banking regulation was amended effective July 1, 2007. With the amended Danish mortgage banking regulation, commercial banks now have the same opportunities as mortgage banks and ship-financing institutions to issue covered bonds. Only issuers that have been granted a license from the Danish Financial Supervisory Authority (FSA) are able to issue Danish covered bonds.

Secured interests in property are recognized and enforced in Denmark. All mortgage credits in real estate are recorded in local public registers of mortgages. Except for interests in cars and commercial ships, which are also publicly recorded, other property interests are generally unrecorded. The local public registers are a reliable system of recording security interests. Denmark is ranked 11th in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report for its ease of “registering property.”

Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property in Denmark is well protected. Denmark adheres to key international conventions and treaties concerning protection of property rights. Denmark has ratified the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) internet treaties, the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT), have also been signed, ratified, and are in force.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

A list of attorneys in Denmark known to accept foreign clients can be found at https://go.usa.gov/xmkME  . This list of attorneys and law firms is provided by the American Embassy as a convenience to U.S. citizens. It is not intended to be a comprehensive list of attorneys in Denmark, and the absence of an attorney from the list is in no way a reflection on competence. A complete list of attorneys in Denmark, Greenland and the Faeroe Islands may be found at the Danish Bar Association web site: www.advokatnoeglen.dk.

Dominica

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Civil law protects physical property and mortgage claims.  There are some special license requirements for the acquisition of land, development of buildings, and expansion of existing construction, and special standards for various aspects of the tourism industry.  Individuals or corporate bodies who are not citizens and who are seeking to acquire land require an Alien Landholders License prior to the execution of transactions, depending upon the amount of land in question.  A foreign national may hold less than one acre of land for residential purposes or less than three acres for commercial purposes without obtaining an alien landholding license. If more land is required then a license must be obtained, and the applicant must pay a fee of XCD USD 6,000 (USD2,239) the Office of the Accountant-General.  Applicants must meet all the submission requirements before Cabinet can consider granting the license. Failure to apply for the license will result in a penalty of XCD USD 20,000 (USD 7,408). Upon acquiring land under Section 5 for an approved development, foreign investors must apply for development permission under the Physical Planning Act (2002) within six months of acquiring the land and must start construction of the approved development within one year of receipt of development permission.  Dominica is ranked 168th of 190 countries for ease of registering property in the World Bank Doing Business Report 2019.  It takes about 42 days to complete the five necessary procedures and the cost is about 13.3 percent of the property value.  The report describes the procedure for purchasing and registering property in Dominica.

Intellectual Property Rights

Dominica has a legislative framework supporting its commitment to the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR).  While the legal structures governing IPR are generally adequate, enforcement could be strengthened. The Attorney General is responsible for the administration of IPR laws.  The Companies & Intellectual Properties Office (CIPO) registers patents, trademarks, and service marks.

Dominica is signatory to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.  It is also a member of the UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Article 66 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (2001) establishing the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) commits all 15 members to implement IPR protection and enforcement.  The CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) contains the most detailed obligations regarding IPR in any trade agreement to which Dominica is a party. The EPA recognizes the protection and enforcement of IPR.  Article 139 of the EPA requires parties to “ensure an adequate and effective implementation of the international treaties dealing with intellectual property to which they are parties, and of the [World Trade Organization (WTO)] Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).”

The Comptroller of Customs of Dominica spearheads the enforcement of IPR, which includes the detention, seizure, and forfeiture of goods.  The Customs and Excise Department investigates customs offences and administers fines and penalties.

Dominica is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local intellectual property offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Dominican Republic

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Dominican Constitution guarantees the right to own private property and provides that the state shall promote the acquisition of property, especially titled real property.  The Constitution further provides that it is “in the public interest that land be devoted to useful purposes and that large estates be gradually eliminated.” Furthermore, the state social policy shall promote land reform and effectively integrate the rural population to the national development process by encouraging renewal of agricultural production.

Mortgages and liens exist in the Dominican Republic, and there is a National Registry of Deeds.  The government advises that investors are ultimately responsible for due diligence and recommends partnering with experienced attorneys to ensure that all documentation, ranging from title searches to surveys, have been properly verified and processed.

Under Dominican law, all land must be registered, and that which is not registered is considered state land.  Registration requires seven steps, an average of 60 days, and payment of 3.7 percent of the value of the land as a registration fee.  The landowner is required to have a survey of the land, a certificate demonstrating that property taxes are current, and a certificate from the Title Registry Office that evidences any encumbrances on the land (such as mortgages or easements) and serves as a check on the extent of land rights to be transferred.  Property ownership may revert to occupants (such as squatters) after twenty years, if they properly register the property.

Many businesses have complained that land tenure insecurity persists, fueled by government land expropriations, institutional weaknesses, lack of effective law enforcement, and local community support for land invasions and squatting.  Some companies have reported that concessions granted by the government are subsequently interfered with or not respected, and alleged political expediency or influence as a reason for such actions. Despite the requirement of land registration, some land in the Dominican Republic is not registered, and even if land rights are registered, tenure is not assured, according to some reports.  Investors have claimed that ln some parts of the country, unregistered land has been expropriated for development without notice or compensation. In some cases, however, holders of title certificates have reported to receive little or no additional security. Several companies note that long-standing titling practices, such as issuing provisional titles that are never completed or providing title to land to multiple owners without requiring individualization of parcels, have created substantial ambiguity in property rights and undermined the reliability of land records.  Some report that certain of these practices have been curtailed in the last few years, but nonetheless undermine the reliability of existing land documentation. In addition, companies have complained of the country’s struggles to control fraud in the creation and registration of land titles, including illegal operations within the government agencies responsible for issuing titles.

In the last decade, the Dominican government has implemented reform programs focused on developing institutional frameworks and strengthening government agencies and public administration.  As part of its overarching program to modernize the justice sector, the Dominican Republic Supreme Court modernized its property title registration process through a USD 10 million USD Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan in an effort to address deficiencies and gaps in the land administration system and strengthen land tenure security.  The project involved digitization of land records, decentralization of registries, establishment of a fund to compensate people for title errors, separation of the legal and administrative functions within the agency, and redefinition of the roles and responsibilities of judges and courts.

The Dominican government has instituted a number of reforms, including the development of a cadaster with digitized property titles and the establishment and expansion of 23 land registry offices across the country.  In 2012, the government created the State Lands Titling Commission, which, working with the Dominican Agrarian Institute, is intended to achieve the titling of around 150,000 urban and rural properties.

Intellectual Property Rights

Since 2003, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has designated the Dominican Republic as a Special 301 Watch List country for serious intellectual property rights (IPR) deficiencies.  Despite strong IPR laws on the books, enforcement is reported to remain weak. In the 2019 Watch List designation, USTR cited the Dominican government’s lack of progress in addressing long-standing IPR issues such as signal piracy and the widespread availability of counterfeit products.  Weak IPR enforcement can be attributed to lack of resources and properly trained personnel; weak institutions and the absence of an inter-institutional enforcement mechanism to unite the various IPR authorities; and widespread cultural acceptance of piracy and counterfeiting.

Key IPR issues that third parties have flagged include rampant television signal broadcast piracy, insufficient enforcement actions against the manufacturers of counterfeit pharmaceuticals and other products, and weak customs enforcement against counterfeit trafficking. A 2018 Euromonitor International report noted that 30.8 percent of all alcohol consumed in the Dominican Republic was either counterfeit or smuggled, the highest rate in all of Latin America.

Customs officers have ex officio authority to seize any goods suspected as counterfeit.  Prior to destroying counterfeit goods, customs officers must notify the rights holder. During this time, customs stores the goods at the expense of the rights holder.  The rights holder then has 30 days to inspect the shipment and reach an agreement with the sender and manufacturer. At the end of the 30 days, if no agreement has been reached, then the rights holder can pay to send the items back or to have them destroyed.  If the rights holder does not act, customs will release the shipment to the importer.

U.S. industry representatives observe more willingness on the part of Dominican authorities to prosecute health and safety crimes as opposed to copyright and trademark violations.  In 2018, industry representatives said the Attorney General’s office for Technology Crimes, which oversees IPR prosecutions, deprioritized the prosecution of copyright and trademark violations and focused instead on cybercrimes.  By contrast, industry representatives complimented the work of the Attorney General’s Office for Health Matters, which is responsible for prosecuting manufacturers and distributors of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, cigarettes, and food products.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Resources for Rights Holders

Contact at Mission:

Economic Officer
U.S. Embassy Santo Domingo
(809) 567-7775
Email: InvestmentDR@State.gov

Country/Economy resources:

List of Attorneys in the Dominican Republic, compiled by the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo: https://do.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/local-resources-of-u-s-citizens/legal-assistance/

American Chamber of Commerce of the Dominican Republic
Avenida Sarasota No. 20
Torre Empresarial, 6to. Piso.
Santo Domingo
(809) 381-0777
Email: amcham@amcham.org.do

National Copyright Office (ONDA)
Ministry of Industry and Commerce
Edificio del Archivo General de la Nación
Calle Modesto Diaz No. 2
Zona Universitaria
Santo Domingo, D.N.
809-508-7373 / 809-508-7742
Email: admin.onda@onda.gob.do

National Office of Industrial Property (ONAPI)
Ministry of Industry and Commerce
Av. Los Próceres No.11, Santo Domingo, D.N.
(809) 567-7474
Email: serviciocliente@onapi.gob.do

Ecuador

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Ecuador ranks 75 out of 190 in the 2018 World Bank’s Doing Business Report’s category for Ease of Registering Property.  Foreign citizens are allowed to own land.

Intellectual Property Rights

According to some sources, enforcement against intellectual property infringement remains a problem in Ecuador.  In April 2016, the United States Trade Representative moved Ecuador from the Priority Watch List to the Watch List in its annual Special 301 Report on intellectual property where Ecuador has remained in 2017 and 2018.  This decision was in recognition of Ecuador’s passage of an amendment reinstating criminal procedures and penalties for intellectual property violations.  The government has drafted implementing regulations for the 2016 Code of the Social Economy of Knowledge, Creativity, and Innovation, which is the legislation that covers Intellectual Property Rights, and allowed for public input into the regulations; however, those regulations have not yet been approved.

Piracy of computer software and counterfeit activity in brand name apparel is widespread, and enforcement is weak.  Pirated CDs and DVDs are readily available on many streets and in shopping malls and copyright enforcement reportedly remains a significant problem.  The National Service for Intellectual Rights (SENADI – formerly Ecuadorian Intellectual Property Institute (IEPI)) was established in January 1999 to handle patent, trademark, and copyright registrations.  SENADI reports information on its activities on its website at http://www.propiedadintelectual.gob.ec/ .

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ 

Egypt

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Egyptian legal system provides protection for real and personal property.  Laws on real estate ownership are complex and titles to real property may be difficult to establish and trace.  According to the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business Report, Egypt ranks 125 of 190 for ease of registering property.

The National Title Registration Program introduced by the Ministry of State for Administrative Development has been implemented in nine areas within Cairo.  This program is intended to simplify property registration and facilitate easier mortgage financing. Real estate registration fees, long considered a major impediment to development of the real estate sector, are capped at no more than EGP 2000 (USD 110), irrespective of the property value.  In November 2012, the government postponed implementation of an enacted overhaul to the real estate tax and as of April 2017 no action has been taken.

Foreigners are limited to ownership of two residences in Egypt and specific procedures are required for purchasing real estate in certain geographical areas.

The mortgage market is still undeveloped in Egypt, and in practice most purchases are still conducted in cash.  Real Estate Finance Law 148//2001 authorized both banks and non-bank mortgage companies to issue mortgages. The law provides procedures for foreclosure on property of defaulting debtors, and amendments passed in 2004 allow for the issuance of mortgage-backed securities.  According to the regulations, banks can offer financing in foreign currency of up to 80 percent of the value of a property.

Presidential Decree 17//2015 permitted the government to provide land free of charge, in certain regions only, to investors meeting certain technical and financial requirements.  This provision expires on April 1, 2020 and the company must provide cash collateral for five years following commencement of either production (for industrial projects) or operation (for all other projects).

The ownership of land by foreigners is governed by three laws: Law 15//1963, Law 143//1981, and Law 230//1996.  Law 15//1963 stipulates that no foreigners, whether natural or juristic persons, may acquire agricultural land.  Law 143//1981 governs the acquisition and ownership of desert land. Certain limits are placed on the number of feddans (one feddan is equal to approximately one hectare) that may be owned by individuals, families, cooperatives, partnerships and corporations.  Partnerships are permitted to own up to 10,000 feddans. Joint stock companies are permitted to own up to 50,000 feddans.

Partnerships and joint stock companies may own desert land within these limits, even if foreign partners or shareholders are involved, provided that at least 51 percent of the capital is owned by Egyptians.  Upon liquidation of the company, however, the land must revert to Egyptian ownership. Law 143 defines desert land as the land lying two kilometers outside city borders. Furthermore, non-Egyptians owning non-improved real estate in Egypt must build within a period of five years from the date their ownership is registered by a notary public.  Non-Egyptians may only sell their real estate five years after registration of ownership, unless the consent of the Prime Minister for an exemption is obtained.

Intellectual Property Rights

Egypt remains on the Special 301 Watch List in 2019.  Egypt’s IPR legislation generally meets international standards, but is weakly enforced.  Shortcomings in the IPR environment include infringements to copyrights and patents, particularly in the pharmaceuticals sector.

Book, music, and entertainment software piracy is prevalent in Egypt, and a significant portion of the piracy takes place online.  American film studios represented by the Motion Pictures Association of America are concerned about the illegal distribution of American movies on regional satellite channels.

Multinational pharmaceutical companies complain that local generic drug-producing companies infringe on their patents.  Delays and inefficiencies in processing patent applications by the Egyptian Patent Office compound the difficulties pharmaceutical companies face in introducing new drugs to the local market.  The government views patent linkage as “a legal violation” against the concept of separation of authorities between the Ministry of Health and the Egyptian Patent Office. As a result, the Ministry of Health has the authority to issue permits for the sale of drugs, but generally issues these permits without cross-checking patent filings.

Eight GoE ministries have the responsibility to oversee IPR concerns: Supply and Internal Trade for trademarks, Higher Education and Research for patents, Culture for copyrights, Agriculture for plants, Communications and Information Technology for copyright of computer programs, Interior for combatting IPR violations, Customs for border enforcement, and Trade and Industry for standards and technical regulations.  Article 69 of Egypt’s 2014 constitution mandates the establishment of a “specialized agency to uphold [IPR] rights and their legal protection.” A National Committee on IPR was temporary established to address IPR matters until a permanent body is established. All IPR stakeholders are represented in the committee, and members meet every two months to discuss issues. The National Committee on IPR is chaired by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and reports directly to the Prime Minister. As of April 2019, Parliament was drafting a revision of the 2002 IPR law, and was receptive to U.S. government advice and input.

The Egyptian Customs Authority (ECA) handles IPR enforcement at the national border and the Ministry of Interior’s Department of Investigation handles domestic cases of illegal production. The ECA cannot act unless the trademark owner files a complaint.  Moreover, Egypt’s Economic Courts often take years to reach a decision on IPR infringement cases.

ECA’s customs enforcement also tends to focus on protecting Egyptian goods and trademarks. The ECA is taking steps to adopt the World Customs Organization’s (WCO) Interface Public-Members platform, which allows customs officers to detect counterfeit goods by scanning a product’s barcode and checking the WCO trademark database system.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://wipo.int/directory/en/

El Salvador

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Private property, both non-real estate and real estate, is recognized and protected in El Salvador.  Mortgages and real property liens exist. Companies that plan to buy land or other real estate are advised to hire competent local legal counsel to guide them on the property’s title prior to purchase.

Per the Constitution, no single natural or legal person–whether national or foreign–can own more than 245 hectares (605 acres) of land. Reciprocity applies to the ownership of rural land, i.e., El Salvador does not restrict the ownership of rural land by foreigners, unless Salvadoran citizens are restricted in the corresponding states.  The restriction on rural land does not apply if used for industrial purposes.

Real property can be transferred without government authorization.  For title transfer to be valid regarding third parties, however, it needs to be properly registered.  Laws regarding rental property tend to favor the interests of tenants. For instance, tenants may remain on property after their lease expires, provided they continue to pay rent.  Likewise, the law limits the permissible rent and makes eviction processes extremely difficult.

Squatters occupying private property in “good faith” can eventually acquire title.  If the owner of the property is unknown, squatters can acquire title after 20 years of good faith possession through a judicial procedure; if the owner is known, squatters can acquire title after 30 years.

Squatters may never acquire title to public land, although municipalities often grant the right of use to the squatter.

Zoning is regulated by municipal rules.  Municipalities have broad power regarding the use of property within their jurisdiction.  Zoning maps, if they exist, are generally not available to the public.

The perceived ineffectiveness of the judicial system discourages investments in real estate and makes execution of real estate guarantees difficult.  Securitization of real estate guarantees or titles is legally permissible but does not occur frequently in practice.

El Salvador ranks 73rd of 190 economies on the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 report in the Ease of Registering Property category.  According to the collected data, registering a property takes an average of six steps over a period of 31 days, and costs 3.8 percent of the reported value of the property.

Intellectual Property Rights

El Salvador’s intellectual property rights (IPR) legal framework is strong.  El Salvador revised several laws to comply with CAFTA-DR’s provisions on IPR, such as extending the copyright term to 70 years.  The Intellectual Property Promotion and Protection Law (1993, revised in 2005), Law of Trademarks and Other Distinctive Signs (2002, revised in 2005), and Penal Code establish the legal framework to protect IPR.  Investors can register trademarks, patents, copyrights, and other forms of intellectual property with the National Registry Center’s Intellectual Property Office. In 2008, the government enacted test data exclusivity regulations for pharmaceuticals (for five years) and agrochemicals (for 10 years) and ratified an international agreement extending protection to satellite signals.

El Salvador’s enforcement of IPR protections falls short of its written policies.  Salvadoran authorities have limited resources to dedicate to enforcement of IPR laws.  The National Civil Police (PNC) has an Intellectual Property Section with seven investigators, while the Attorney General’s Office (FGR) has 13 prosecutors in its Private Property division that also has responsibility for other property crimes including cases of extortion.  According to ASPI, the PNC section coordinates well with other government and private entities. Nevertheless, the PNC admits that a lack of resources and expertise (e.g., regarding information technology) hinders its effectiveness in combatting IPR crimes.

The National Directorate of Medicines (NDM) has registered 82 products for data protection since 2008, including three in 2017 and eight in 2018.  The NDM protects the confidentiality of relevant test data and the list of such protected medications is available at the NDM’s website: https://www.medicamentos.gob.sv/index.php/es/servicios-m/informes/unidad-de-registro-y-visado/listado-de-productos-farmaceuticos-con-proteccion-de-datos-de-prueba 

The Salvadoran Intellectual Property Association (ASPI – Asociacion Salvadoreña de Propiedad Intelectual) notes that piracy is common in El Salvador because the police focus on investigating criminal networks rather than points of sale.  Trade in counterfeit medicines and pirated software is common.

In 2018, the PNC arrested 38 individuals for reproducing copyrighted material.  In 2018, the PNC also conducted 39 inspections and 20 raids, where it seized 30,300 pirated optical media discs (CDs and DVDs), along with five burner towers used to make pirated discs, and tens of thousands of fake products, including clothing (2,275 articles), footwear (2,526 pairs), toys (114,960 items), parts for sewing machines, and mobile phones.  Additionally, in a 2018 operation at El Salvador’s international airport, the Drug Division of the PNC and DNM confiscated 4,950 packages of counterfeit pharmaceuticals in violation of IP laws.

Contraband and counterfeit products, especially cigarettes, liquor, toothpaste and cooking oil, remain widespread.  According to the GOES and private sector contacts, most unlicensed or counterfeit products in El Salvador were imported.  The Distributors Association of El Salvador (ADES) estimated in 2017 that around 50 percent of the liquor consumed in El Salvador is smuggled.  Most contraband cigarettes come in from China, Panama, and Paraguay and undercut legitimately-imported cigarettes, which are subject to a 39 percent tariff.  According to ADES, most contraband cigarettes are smuggled in by gangs, with the complicity of Salvadoran authorities. A 2017 study by CID Gallup Latin America, noting the link between contraband cigarettes and gang finances, estimated that 32 percent of the 940 million cigarettes consumed annually in El Salvador are contraband.  Gallup estimated that the GOES lost USD 15 million in tax revenue due to cigarette smuggling in 2014.

Customs officials have identified some counterfeit products arriving directly from China through the Salvadoran seaport of Acajutla.  In 2018, Customs officials seized 39 shipments based on the presumption of containing fake products. These shipments primarily involved toys (e.g., Disney, Marvel, Hello Kitty, Barbie, and DC Comics), footwear (e.g., Adidas, Nike, Puma, and Converse), and handbags (e.g., Michael Kors).

The national Intellectual Property Registry has 22 registered geographical indications for El Salvador.  In 2018, the GOES registered four new geographic indications involving Denominations of Origin for “Jocote Baron Rojo San Lorenzo” (a sour fruit), “Pupusa de Olocuilta” (a variant of El Salvador’s traditional food), “Camarones de la Bahia de Jiquilisco” (shrimp from the Jiquilisco Bay), and “Loroco San Lorenzo” (flower used in Salvadoran cuisine).  Existing geographic indications include “Balsamo de El Salvador” (balm for medical, cosmetic, and gastronomic uses – since 1935), “Cafe Ilamatepec” (coffee – since 2010), and “Chaparro” (Salvadoran hard liquor- since 2016).

El Salvador is not listed in the notorious market report nor Special 301 list.  There are no IP-related laws pending.

El Salvador is a signatory of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works; the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property; the Geneva Convention for the Protection of Producers of Phonograms Against Unauthorized Duplication; the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty; the WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty; the Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Phonogram Producers, and Broadcasting Organizations; and the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances (2012), which grants performing artists certain economic rights (such as rights over broadcast, reproduction, and distribution) of live and recorded works.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/details.jsp?country_code=SV  

Equatorial Guinea

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea selectively enforces property rights.  While the government has laws on the books regarding the rights of property owners, the government can seize land in the interest of the country with very little, if any, due process via the judicial system.  Mortgages do exist under a ‘Social Housing Program’ where payments are made to the government via CCEI Bank, a commercial bank. The length of time varies and can be more than 20 years. Interest rates are high, ranging from 12 to 18 percent.  Non-payment for six months results in the foreclosure of the property.

According the World Bank’s Doing Business 2018 report, registering property in Equatorial Guinea required six procedures and usually took 23 days.  Equatorial Guinea was ranked 164 of 190 in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2018 for “registering property.”

Intellectual Property Rights

Equatorial Guinea is a member of the African Intellectual Property Organization (AIPO) and joined the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 1997.  Intellectual property rights (IPR) protections fall under the Council of Scientific and Technological Research of Equatorial Guinea. Equatorial Guinea does not report on seizures of counterfeit goods.  Legal structures are weak and enforcement of IPR is rare to non-existent. The government does not maintain publicly available statistics on law enforcement or judicial actions.

Equatorial Guinea is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Estonia

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Secured interests in property are recognized and enforced. Mortgages are quite common for both residential and commercial property and leasing as a means of financing is widespread and efficient.

The legal system protects and facilitates acquisition and disposition of all property rights, including land, buildings, and mortgages. As of 1 October 2011, land reform in Estonia was almost complete.   Restitution and privatization of lands commenced in 1991, but in almost every municipality there remain several complicated cases to be settled. In total, less than 4 percent of the Estonian territory (waterbodies included) lacks a clear title.

Foreign individuals and companies are allowed to acquire real estate with the permission of the local authorities. There are legal restrictions on acquiring agricultural and woodland of 10 hectares or more, and permission from the county governor is needed.  Foreign individuals are not allowed to acquire land located on smaller islands, or listed territories adjacent to the Russian border.

Property may be taken from the owner without the owner`s consent only in the public interest, pursuant to a procedure provided by law, and for fair and immediate compensation. Everyone whose property has been taken from them without consent has the right to bring an action in the courts to contest the taking of the property, the compensation, or the amount of the compensation.

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Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)

Estonia maintains a robust IPR regime. The quality of IP protection in legal structures is strong, enforcement is good, and infringements and theft are uncommon. Estonia adheres to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Berne Convention, the Rome Convention, the Geneva Convention, and the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Estonian legislation fully complies with EU directives granting protection to authors, performing artists, record producers, and broadcasting organizations. Equal protection against unauthorized use is provided via international conventions and treaties to foreign and Estonian authors.

Companies should recognize that IP is protected differently in Estonia than in the United States, and U.S. trademark and patent registrations will not protect IP in Estonia. Registration of patents and trademarks is on a first-in-time, first-in-right basis, so companies should consider applying for trademark and patent protection before selling products or services in the Estonian market. Intellectual property is primarily a private right and the U.S. government generally cannot enforce rights for private individuals in Estonia. It is the responsibility of the rights’ holders to register, protect, and enforce their rights where relevant, retaining their own counsel and advisors. Companies may wish to seek advice from local attorneys or IP consultants.

Estonia is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 Report or in the Notorious Markets List.

Estonian Customs tracks and reports periodically on seizures of counterfeit goods. In 2018, the Estonian Tax and Customs Board processed 384 cases involving counterfeit goods resulting in seizures of 15,582 items.  Most of the infringed goods were detected in mail and the volume of goods seized by case was small. The largest trademark infringed commodity groups were footwear, toys, clothes, accessories, handbags, wallets and electronics.  In Estonia, IPR crimes are prosecuted.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO`s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Eswatini

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

There are two major categories of land tenure: Swati Nation Land (SNL) and Title Deed Land (TDL), each subject to different rules and procedures. More than 60 percent of Eswatini’s territory is SNL, governed by the country’s traditional structures. SNL is “held in trust for the Swati people” by the King, who appoints chiefs to oversee its use. The chiefs keep records of who “owns” or resides on land in their chiefdom. For TDL, the Eswatini government recognizes and enforces secured interest in property and there is a reliable system of recording security interests. The Constitution protects the right to own property, but most rural land is SNL and is not covered by this constitutional protection. Most urban property, on the other hand, is TDL. The law allows for eminent domain in limited circumstances, but requires prompt payment of adequate compensation.

In the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business Report, Eswatini ranks 107 out of 190 economies for ease of registering property. This ranking refers to property in periurban areas, where TDL is widely available. SNL is not titled, and lending institutions are reluctant to use it as collateral. Though foreign or non-resident individuals generally may not own land (with some exceptions), foreign-owned businesses are able to own or lease land. Legally purchased property cannot revert to other owners (must be “willing buyer, willing seller”).

Intellectual Property Rights

Protection for patents, trademarks, and copyrights is currently inadequate under Swati law. Patents are currently protected under a 1936 act that automatically extends patent protection, upon proper application, to products that have been patented in either South Africa or Great Britain. Trademark protection is addressed in the Trademarks Act of 1981. Copyright protections are addressed under four statutes, dated 1912, 1918, 1933, and 1936.

Laws enacted in 2018 have updated Eswatini’s intellectual property legal framework.  The Copyright and Neighboring Rights Act of 2014 (replacing the Copyright Act of 1912) protects literary, musical, artistic, audio-visual, sound recordings, broadcasts, and published editions. It also criminalizes the illicit recording and false representation of someone else’s work. The Swaziland Intellectual Property Tribunal Act of 2015 establishes an Intellectual Property Tribunal, which will be responsible for hearing all matters and disputes involving intellectual property in Eswatini.

The Trademarks (Amendment) Act of 2015 brings the (1981) Trademarks Act into compliance with provisions of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), the Madrid Agreement concerning International Registration of Marks, and the Banjul Protocol on Trademarks.

Eswatini does not track and report on seizures of counterfeit goods.

Eswatini is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Notorious Markets List or the Special 301 Report.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  

Fiji

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Land tenure and usage in Fiji is a highly complex and sensitive issue.  Fiji’s Land Sales Act of 2014 restricts ownership of freehold land inside a city or town council boundaries areas to Fijian citizens. There are exceptions to allow foreigners to purchase strata title land, which is defined as ownership in part of a property including multi-level apartments or subdivisions.  Foreigners are still allowed to purchase, sell, or lease freehold land for industrial or commercial purposes, residential purposes within an integrated tourism development, or for the operation of a hotel licensed under the Hotel and Guest Houses Act. The Land Sales Act also requires foreign land owners who purchase approved land to build a dwelling valued at a minimum of USD 117,647 (FJD 250,000) on the land within two years, or face an annual tax of 20 percent of the land value (applied as ten percent every six months).  Freehold land currently owned by a non-Fijian can pass to the owners’ heirs and will not be deemed a sale.

Foreign land owners criticized the government of Fiji for the speed at which the act was passed and the perceived lack of consultation with land owners and developers.  The application of the Land Sales Act continues to create uncertainty among foreign investors. The Fiji government has yet to provide full clarification of the act, such as defining what constitutes an integrated tourism development.  The limited capacity of construction and architecture firms, especially with the high demand for construction services following Cyclone Winston in 2016, makes it difficult to comply with the two-year time frame for building a dwelling before tax penalties set in.

According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, registering property took a total of 69 days and involved four main processes, including conducting title searches at the Titles Office, presenting transfer documents for stamping at the Stamp Duty office, obtaining tax clearance on capital gains tax, and settlement at the Registrar of Titles Office.

Ethnic Fijians communally hold approximately 87 percent of all land.  Crown land owned by the government accounts for four percent while the remainder is freehold land, which private individuals or companies hold.  All land owned by ethnic Fijians, commonly referred to as iTaukei land, is held in a statutory trust by the iTaukei Land Trust Board (TLTB) for the benefit of indigenous landholding units.

To improve access to land, the government established a land bank in the Ministry of Lands under the land use decree for the purpose of leasing land from indigenous landowning units (collections of households; under the indigenous communal landowning system, land is not owned by individuals) through the TLTB and subleasing the land to individual tenants for lease periods of up to 99 years.

The constitution includes other new provisions protecting land leases and land tenancies, but observers noted that the provisions had unintended consequences, including weakening the overall legal structure governing leases.

The availability of Crown land for leasing is usually advertised.  This does not, however, preclude consideration given to individual applications in cases where land is required for special purposes.  Government leases for industrial purposes can last up to 99 years with rents reassessed every ten years. TLTB leases for land nearer to urban locations are normally for 50-75 years. Annual rent is reassessed every five years.  The maximum rent that can be levied in both cases is six percent of unimproved capital value. Leases also usually carry development conditions that require lessees to effect improvements within a specified time.

Apart from the requirements of the TLTB and Lands Department, town planning, conservation, and other requirements specified by central and local government authorities affect the use of land.  Investors are urged to seek local legal advice in all transactions involving land.

Intellectual Property Rights

Fiji’s copyright laws are in conformity with World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) provisions. Copyright laws adhere to international laws, and while there are provisions for companies to register a trademark or petition for a patent in Fiji through the Office of the Attorney General, trademark and patent laws are outdated. Furthermore, the enforcement of these laws remains inadequate.  There is no protection for designs or trade secrets.

Illegal materials and reproductions of films, sound recordings, and computer programs are widely available throughout Fiji.  The government is reviewing trademark and patent laws, but capacity is a challenge.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Finland

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Finnish legal system protects property rights, and secured interest in property, both movable and real, is recognized and enforced.  Finland ranked first of 125 countries in the Property Rights Alliance 2018 International Property Rights Index (IPRI) that concentrates on the Legal and Political Environment, Physical Property Rights, and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).

Mortgages exist in Finland, and can be applied to both owned and rented real estate.  Finland ranks 28th out of 190 countries in the ease of Registering Property according to the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business Report.  In Finland, real property formation, development, land consolidation, cadastral mapping, registration of real properties, ownership and legal rights, real property valuation, and taxation are all combined within one basic cadastral system (real estate register) maintained by the National Land Survey:  https://www.maanmittauslaitos.fi/en/real-property  .

Intellectual Property Rights

The Finnish legal system protects intellectual property rights (IPR), and Finland adheres to numerous related international agreements.  Finland is a member of the World International Property Organization (WIPO). Finland’s national IPR strategy 2014-2020 (in Finnish) can be found at:  http://luovasuomi.fi/www.tem.fi/files/39580/vnp_aineettoman_arvonluonnin_kehittamisohjelmasta.pdf .

The Finnish Copyright Act can be found at:  https://wipolex.wipo.int/en/text/397616  .  A set of guidelines applicable for international use was published in 2016 and can be found at:  https://www.cupore.fi/en/publications/cupore-s-publications/assessing-the-operation-of-copyright-and-related-rights-systems-141052-14122016  .  Finnish trademark law will undergo a major reform in 2019 when the new Finnish Trademarks Act enters into force.  The new legislation replaces the previous Trademarks Act from the 1960s, implements the revised EU Trademark Directive and enforces the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks.  The new Act aims to achieve a more coherent and uniform national legal framework in compliance with EU laws. Trademark applicants or proprietors not domiciled in Finland are required to have a representative resident in the European Economic Area.  The new Trademark Act is set to enter into force in May 2019. The current Trademark Act can be found at https://www.finlex.fi/en/laki/kaannokset/1964/en19640007_20000056.pdf .

Patent rights are consistent with international standards, and a granted patent is valid for 20 years.  In August 2018, the Finnish Parliament passed a new Trade Secrets Act to incorporate the provisions of the EU Trade Secrets Directive ((EU) 2016/943). The new Act replaces the Unfair Business Practices Act provisions regarding the unlawful use of trade secrets and technical specifications.  It provides harmonized definitions at the EU level for trade secrets and for their lawful and unlawful acquisition, use and disclosure. It includes a whistleblower provision, according to which a person (e.g. an employee) is allowed to disclose a trade secret in order to reveal malpractice or illegal activity, so long as it is done to protect the public interest and the person has significant reasons to reveal the information.  The new law entered into force in August 2018. The Trade Secrets Act can be found at: https://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/alkup/2018/20180595   (available only in Finnish and Swedish).

The regulatory framework for process patents filed before 1995, and pending in 1996, denied adequate protection to many of the top-selling U.S. pharmaceutical products currently on the Finnish market.   For this reason, Finland was placed on the Special 301 Report Watch List in 2009, but it was removed from the list in 2015 when the term for relevant patents expired. U.S. industry continues to identify concerns in several EU Member States, including Finland, with respect to transparency and the opportunity to engage in policies related to pricing and reimbursement.  This reportedly creates uncertainty and adversely impacts market access and incentives for further innovation. The 2019 Special 301 report can be found at: https://ustr.gov/issue-areas/intellectual-property/special-301/2019-special-301-review  .

While Finland is not specifically listed on the 2018 Notorious Markets List, it is reported that servers for hosting providers, which support multiple different websites associated with infringing activity, are located here.

The 2015 International Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property (AIPPI) group report on Finnish legal protection of trade secrets can be found at:  http://aippi.org/library/page/4/?publication_title=trade percent20secrets&start_date_range&end_date_range  .

Finnish customs officers have ex-officio authority to seize and destroy counterfeit goods.  IPR enforcement in Finland is based on EU regulation (EU) 608/2013. In 2018, according to Finnish Customs statistics, Finnish authorities inspected 126,169 suspected counterfeit goods items, and further measures were taken against suspected counterfeit goods items.  The right holders were notified in 92 cases with a combined value of USD 2.571 million.

The link to WIPO’s list of IPR legislation can be found at:  https://wipolex.wipo.int/en/legislation/profile/FI  .  For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles here:  https://www.wipo.int/directory/en/details.jsp?country_code=FI  .

France and Monaco

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Real property rights are regulated by the French civil code and are uniformly enforced. In the World Bank’s Doing Business Report (DBR), France ranks 32nd of 190 on registering property. French civil-law notaries (notaires) – highly specialized lawyers in private practice appointed as public officers by the Justice Ministry – handle residential and commercial conveyance and registration, contract drafting, company formation, successions, and estate planning. The official system of land registration (cadastre) is maintained by the French public land registry under the auspices of the French tax authority (Direction Generale des Finances Publiques or DGFiP), available online at http://www.cadastre.gouv.fr  . Mortgages are widely available, usually for a 15-year period.

Intellectual Property Rights

France is a strong defender of intellectual property rights. Under the French system, patents and trademarks protect industrial property, while copyrights protect literary/artistic property. By virtue of the Paris Convention and the Washington Treaty regarding industrial property, U.S. nationals have a priority period following filing of an application for a U.S. patent or trademark in which to file a corresponding application in France:  twelve months for patents and six months for trademarks.

Counterfeiting is a costly problem for French companies, and the government of France maintains strong legal protections and a robust enforcement mechanism to combat trafficking in counterfeit goods — from copies of luxury goods to fake medications — as well as the theft and illegal use of intellectual property. The French Intellectual Property Code has been updated repeatedly over the years to face this challenge.  Parliament recently passed a law reinforcing France’s anti-counterfeiting law and its implementation of EU directives on intellectual property rights. The new legislation increases the Euro amount for damages to companies that are victims of counterfeiting and extends trademark protection to smartcard technology, certain geographic indications, plants, and agricultural seeds. The new legislation also increases the statute of limitations for civil suits from three to ten years and strengthens the powers of customs officials to seize fake goods sent by mail or express freight.

The government also reports on seizures of counterfeit goods. In 2018, French Customs seized 5.4 million counterfeited goods, down from 8.5 million counterfeited goods in 2017. This sharp drop has been attributed to an increase of online purchases of fake goods, which are harder to control. France’s top private sector anti-counterfeiting organization, UNIFAB, called on the government in 2018 to launch a national public awareness campaign. France has robust laws against online piracy. A government agency called the High Authority for the Dissemination of Artistic Works and the Protection of Rights on Internet (Haute Autorite pour la Diffusion des Œuvres et la Protection des droits sur Internet – HADOPI) administers a “graduated response” system of warnings and fines. It has taken enforcement action against several online pirate sites, including Megaupload. HADOPI cooperates closely with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) including pursuing voluntary arrangements that target intermediaries that facilitate or fund pirate sites. (Note that one of HADOPI’s tasks is to ensure that the technical measures used to protect works do not prevent the right of individuals to make personal copies of television programs for their private use.) In October 2018, HADOPI released a study showing that 27 percent of French people acquired and consumed music, films and television series through illegal sites (44 percent for television series and 42 percent for films). This figure has remained steady over the past few years. Hadopi further noted a 6 percent increase in the use of legal sites for downloading media to 48 percent in 2018. Offenders risk fines of between EUR 1,500 and EUR 300,000 and/or up to three years imprisonment. For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

France does not appear on USTR’s 2019 Special 301 Report, but it is mentioned throughout the 2018 Notorious Markets List with regard to illicit streaming and copyright infringement websites.

Gabon

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Secured interest in property is recognized, and the recording system is relatively reliable.

There are no specific regulations for foreign and/or non-resident investors regarding land lease or acquisition.  Laws in Gabon for private and commercial property do not provide any restrictions on nationality for the possession and ownership of property in Gabon.

Almost 85 percent of Gabon’s area (and possibly 95 percent or more) is legally owned by the state.  Only 14,000 private land titles appear to have been registered in Gabon according to a 2012 report; most refer to tiny urban parcels.  Urban areas constitute no more than one percent of total land area.  The government created the National Agency for Urban Planning, Surveys and the Land Registry in 2011.

If property legally purchased is unoccupied by the owner, property ownership can revert to others.

Intellectual Property Rights

As a member of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Gabon adheres to the laws of the African Intellectual Property Office (OAPI).  Based in Yaoundé, Cameroon, OAPI aims to ensure the publication and protection of patent rights, encourage creativity and transfer of technology, and create favorable conditions for research. As a member of OAPI, Gabon acceded to a number of international agreements on patents and intellectual property rights (IPR), including the Paris Convention, the Berne Convention and the Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).  As a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Gabon is also a signatory of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). U.S. companies have not raised IPR concerns with the Embassy.

During the past year, no IPR related laws or regulations were enacted.  Gabon does not report on seizures of counterfeit goods.  Gabon is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see the WIPO country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Resources for Rights Holder:

Diana Costa
Political/Economic Officer
U.S. Embassy Libreville
+241 0145 7000
Librevilleeconomic@state.gov

For a list of local attorneys visit:  https://ga.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/

Gambia, The

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Property rights and interests exist and are clearly protected under the laws of The Gambia.

The Department of Lands and Regional Government issues title deeds, which are reliable. Property rights and interests, though clearly protected under the laws, were not enforced under the old regime.  However, the new administration has vowed to uphold the laws going forward. Mortgages and liens exist but are largely unused. The Department of Lands and Regional Government issues title deeds, which are reliable.  There are specific regulations regarding land lease or acquisition by foreign and/or non-resident investors. In 2007, the Lands Commission Act was established by the Ministry of Lands and Regional Government.

There are specific regulations regarding land lease or acquisition by foreign and/or non-resident investors. In 2007, the Ministry of Lands and Regional Government established the Lands Commission Act:

Section 14 of the act provides for the following functions, stating that the Commission shall:

(a) advise the Secretary of State on political matters relating to land administration to ensure strict adherence to those policies and transparency in land allocations;

(b) investigate disputes on land ownership and occupation in any area in The Gambia;

(c) assess land rent and premium for properties within any area in The Gambia;

(d) monitor the registration of properties and inspect land registers and records;

(e) be responsible for all matters relating to national boundaries, including monitoring and reporting to the Secretary of State; and

(f) perform such other functions as the Secretary of State may assign.

The Gambia ranks 132 on the 2018 World Bank Rankings for Registering Property and 21 for Dealing with Construction Permits.

In 2013, the Land Governance Assessment Framework (LGAF) was launched in The Gambia to assess the number of lands without clear title, but to date, the LGAF implementation has been practically non-existent.

Legal owners normally allow squatters to occupy empty lands until they are ready to begin construction, at which time disputes often result in the squatters being evicted.

Intellectual Property Rights

Due to a lack of intellectual property rights (IPR) experts, the legal structure for IPR protection is largely weak, thus there has been a history of infringement on rights in The Gambia. The Gambia is a signatory to both the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property and the Bern Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. According to The Gambia Police Force (GPF), few IPR crimes have been reported due to the lack of IPR experts in country.

No new IPR laws or regulations have been enacted in The Gambia in the past year.  There are also no reform bills pending in parliament. However, through the Ministry of Justice, the GOTG is currently in the draft stages of issuing an Intellectual Property and Trademarks Act.  Since there has not been a history of IPR prosecution in The Gambia, the extent to which the Act would improve/hinder the protection of IPR rights is unknown, but the introduction of legislation is expected to promote greater competition in the economy.

The Gambia Police Force (GPF) established an Anti-Intellectual Property Crime Unit at the Police Headquarters in Banjul.  The Gambia keeps track of seizures of counterfeit goods. However, there have been no recent reports of the government seizing counterfeit goods, despite the prevalence of counterfeit goods such as pirated movies, music CDs, toothpaste, and cigarettes imported from China. The Gambia does not prosecute IPR violations.

The Gambia is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 report, nor is it included in the Notorious Markets List.

The Gambia is not included in the Notorious Markets List.

Georgia

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Georgia ranks high in World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 report in general, but especially in the category of “registering property.”  Processes are streamlined and transparent, and takes minimal time. It takes one day and is conducted at Public Service Halls.

In June 2017, the Parliament adopted a legislative amendment that placed a moratorium on the sale of agricultural land to foreign citizens and stateless persons.  Under the amendment, foreigners, legal entities registered abroad, and legal entities registered by foreigners in Georgia were not able to purchase agricultural land in Georgia.  Furthermore, the new Constitution that came into force in December 2018, imposed restrictions on the sale of agricultural land. Currently the parliament is considering a draft law that would allow foreigners to purchase land under a relevant investment plan and other preconditions.

Mortgages and liens are registered through the public registry and information can be obtained from the webpage www.napr.gov.ge  .

The government has taken multiple steps to regulate land titling, including facilitating simplified procedures, free registration campaigns, and mediation services.  The National Public Registration Agency reported that from August 2016 through February 2019, 300 thousand hectares of land were registered under the land reform project, increasing the share of titled land to 45 percent.  Unclear or unregistered titling bears the potential to hamper investment projects.

Property ownership cannot revert to other owners when legally purchased property stays unoccupied.

Intellectual Property Rights

Georgia acceded to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in 2000.  The Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development is responsible for WTO compliance.

The legal framework for protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) in Georgia is approximated to international standards.  Six laws regulate IPR in Georgia: the Law on Patents, the Law on Trademarks, the Law on Copyrights and Neighboring Rights, the Law on Appellation of Origin and Geographic Indication of Goods, the Law on Topographies of Integrated Circuits, and the Law on IP-Related Border Measures.  Georgian law now provides protection for works of literature, art, science, and sound recordings for 50 years.

The National Intellectual Property Center of Georgia (Sakpatenti) provides legal protection for IPR in Georgia:  it issues protective documents on invention, utility model, trademark, design, geographical indication and appellation of origin, new animal breeds and plant varieties, and ensures the deposit of copyrighted work.  The Revenue Service, which is part of the Ministry of Finance, is responsible for enforcing IPR listed in the Register of Intellectual Property Subject-Matter. The Revenue Service is responsible for border control and can halt import or export of items based on the register data.  After the registration procedure is complete, the Revenue Service is able to suspend the movement of counterfeit goods for up to 10 working days, which may be extended by the Revenue Service for an additional 10 working days. The Law of Georgia on Border Measures Related to Intellectual Property provides for the possibility of destruction of counterfeit goods on the basis of a court decision.

IPR infringement of industrial property rights, copyrights, performers’ rights, rights of makers of databases, trademarks or other illegal use of commercial indications can incur civil, criminal, and administrative penalties.  Depending on the type and extent of the violation, penalties include fines, corrective labor, social work, or imprisonment.

Sakpatenti is an active and engaged partner of the United States in training to educate the public on IPR issues.  Sakpatenti coordinates the government’s approach to IPR enforcement under the Interagency Coordination Council (Council) for IPR Enforcement.  The Council is an efficient platform for government institutions to exchange their views on IPR enforcement issues. Georgia is improving IPR enforcement, but some problems persist, especially software licensing and pirated content available online.  Many judges and lawyers lack sufficient knowledge of IPR laws and issues; pirated video and audio recordings, electronic games, and computer software are sometimes available; and unlicensed content free for users to download or stream is available on some websites. The U.S. government Commercial Law Development Program continues to provide assistance to Sakpatenti and other governmental entities to build capacity to effectively deal with IPR-related issues.

In line with Georgia’s commitments under the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) agreement with the EU, to prevent and suppress IPR infringement and to ensure the implementation of appropriate sanctions, Sakpatenti drafted a package of amendments to the IP legislation, which the Parliament adopted on December 23, 2017, and entered into force on January 11, 2018.  The amendments apply to the following legislative acts regulating intellectual property: the Patent Law of Georgia, the Law of Georgia on Copyright and Related Rights, the Law of Georgia on Design, the Trademark Law of Georgia, the Code of Civil Procedure of Georgia, the Law of Georgia on Pesticides and Agrochemicals, and the Law of Georgia on Drugs and Pharmaceutical Activity.

According to the new amendments, in the case of IPR infringement, the rights holder is endowed with authority to demand that infringing objects be removed from circulation or destroyed, any images related to the objects are destroyed and any related material published online that infringes on exclusive rights be deleted, and any technical devices used to make the infringing objects also be destroyed.  According to the amendments, the rights holder is entitled to define, at their discretion, the caused damage and received benefit, and can demand a lump sum compensation payment. The amendments also stipulate provisional measures to preserve relevant evidence related to protection of IPR subject-matter, which is especially important in terms of effective enforcement of rights.

Georgia also approximated laws on “border measures related to IPR” with the EU regulation N608/2013.  Amendments were introduced in 2017 and identify intellectual property objects to be protected at the border, including: design, patent, utility model, topographies of integrated circuits, new breeds of animals, and varieties of plants.  Under these new amendments, customs authorities are entitled to take ex-officio actions at the border and detain suspected IPR infringing goods. Parliament approved the amendments on December 13, 2017, and they entered into force on February 7, 2018.

Development of an effective system of Internet Service Providers (ISP) Liability is also an obligation under the DCFTA.  In order to implement an ISP Liability in Georgian legislation, in 2017, Sakpatenti drafted amendments to the Law of Georgia “On Copyright and Related Rights” that include ISP-related provisions.  The amendments were drafted on the basis of the draft Law of Georgia “On Electronic Commerce,” prepared by the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia.

In 2018, the Ministry of Finance’s Investigation Service initiated 16 cases under Article 196 of the Criminal Code of Georgia (unlawful use of trademark, service marks, or other commercial designations).  Out of 16 cases, 12 were initiated ex-officio. As a result, 40,268 counterfeit goods were seized, with the total value of USD 45,000.

In 2018, the Revenue Service’s Customs Department issued 119 orders to suspend products.  In 82 of these cases the rights holder and the owner of the products agreed to destroy the products, with a total value of USD 30,500.  In 16 cases, the rights holder filed a lawsuit, and in 21 cases the goods were released, either because it was not proven that the goods were counterfeit or the rights holder did not file a lawsuit.

Georgia is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 Report.  Similarly, Georgia is not included in the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at:  http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

For a list of lawyers in Georgia, please visit: https://ge.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/.

Germany

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The German Government adheres to a policy of national treatment, which considers property owned by foreigners as fully protected under German law.  In Germany, mortgages approvals are based on recognized and reliable collateral. Secured interests in property, both chattel and real, are recognized and enforced.  According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, it takes an average of 52 days to register property in Germany.

The German Land Register Act dates back to 1897 and was last amended in 2017.  The land register mirrors private real property rights and provides information on the legal relationship of the estate.  It documents the owner, rights of third persons, liabilities and restrictions and how these rights relate to each other. Any change in property of real estate must be registered in the land registry to make the contract effective.  Land titles are now maintained in an electronic database and can be consulted by persons with a legitimate interest.

Intellectual Property Rights

Germany has a robust regime to protect intellectual property (IP) rights.  Legal structures are strong and enforcement is good. Nonetheless, internet piracy and counterfeit goods remain an issue, and specific infringing websites are included in the 2018 Notorious Markets List.  Germany has been a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) since 1970. The German Central Customs Authority annually publishes statistics on customs seizures of counterfeit and pirated goods.  The statistics for 2018 can be found under: https://www.zoll.de/SharedDocs/Broschueren/DE/Die-Zollverwaltung/jahresstatistik_2018.html?nn=287024  .  

Germany is also a party to the major international intellectual property protection agreements: the Bern Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Universal Copyright Convention, the Geneva Phonograms Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the Brussels Satellite Convention, the Treaty of Rome on Neighboring Rights, and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).  Many of the latest developments in German IP law are derived from European legislation with the objective to make applications less burdensome and allow for European IP protection.

The following types of protection are available:

Copyrights:  National treatment is also granted to foreign copyright holders, including remuneration for private recordings.  Under the World Trade Organization (WTO) TRIPS Agreement, Germany also grants legal protection for U.S. performing artists against the commercial distribution of unauthorized live recordings in Germany.  Germany signed the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)_Copyright Treaty and ratified it in 2003. Most rights holder organizations regard German authorities’ enforcement of intellectual property protections as effective.  In 2008, Germany implemented the EU enforcement directive with a national bill, thereby strengthening the privileges of rights holders and allowing for improved enforcement action.

Trademarks:  Foreigners may register trademarks subject to exactly the same terms as German nationals at the German Patent and Trade Mark Office.  Protection is valid for a period of ten years and can be extended in ten-year periods.

Patents:  Foreigners may register patents subject to the same terms as German nationals at the German Patent and Trade Mark Office.  Patents are granted for technical inventions which are new, involve an inventive step, and are industrially applicable. However, applicants having neither a domicile nor an establishment in Germany must appoint a patent attorney in Germany as a representative filing the patent application.  The documents must be submitted in German or with a translation into German. The duration of a patent is 20 years, beginning on the day following the invention patent application. Patent applicants can request accelerated examination when filing the application provided that the patent application was previously filed at the U.S. patent authority and that at least one claim had been determined to be allowable. There are a number of differences in patent law that a qualified patent attorney can explain to U.S. patent applicants.

Trade Secrets: Both technical and commercial trade secrets are protected in Germany by the Law Against Unfair Competition.  According to the law, the illegal passing of trade secrets to third parties – including the attempt to do so – for reasons related to competition, self-interest, the benefit of a third party, or with the intent to harm the business owner, is punishable with prison sentences of up to three years or a monetary fine.  In severe cases, including commercial-scale theft and those that involve passing trade secrets to foreign countries, courts can impose prison sentences of up to five years or a monetary fine.

U.S. grants of IP rights are valid in the United States only.  U.S. IPR owners should note that the EU operates on a “first-to-file” principle and not on the “first-inventor-to-file” principle, used in the United States.  It is possible to register for trademark and design protection nationally in Germany or with the European Union Trade Mark and/or Registered Community Design. These provide protection for industrial design or trademark in the entire EU market.  Both national trademarks and European Community Trade Marks (CTMs) can be applied for from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as part of an international trademark registration system (http://www.uspto.gov  ), or the applicant may apply directly for those trademarks from the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) at https://euipo.europa.eu/ohimportal/en/home  .

For patents, the situation is slightly different but protection can still be gained via the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  Although there is not yet a single EU-wide patent system, the European Patent Office (EPO) does grant individual European patents for the contracting states to the European Patent Convention (EPC), which entered into force in 1977.  The 38 contracting states include the entire EU membership and several additional European countries. As an alternative to filing patents for European protection with the USPTO, the EPO provides a convenient single point to file a patent in as many of these countries as an applicant would like: https://www.epo.org/index.html.

In addition, German law offers the possibility to register designs and utility models.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/.

Country resources:

For additional information about how to protect intellectual property in Germany, please see Germany Trade & Invest website at http://www.gtai.de/GTAI/Navigation/EN/Invest/Investment-guide/The-legal-framework/patents-licensing-trade-marks.html  .

Statistics on the seizure of counterfeit goods are available through the German Customs Authority (Zoll):

https://www.zoll.de/SharedDocs/Broschueren/DE/Die-Zollverwaltung/jahresstatistik_2018.html?nn=287024  

Investors can identify IP lawyers in AmCham Germany’s Online Services Directory: https://www.amcham.de/services/overview/member-services/address-services-directory/   (under “legal references” select “intellectual property.”)

Businesses can also join the Anti-counterfeiting Association (APM)

http://www.markenpiraterie-apm.de/index.php?article_id=1&clang=1   or the Association for the  Enforcement of Copyrights (GVU) http://www.gvu.de  .

Ghana

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The legal system recognizes and enforces secured interest in property.  The process to get clear title over land is difficult, complicated, and lengthy.  It is important to conduct a thorough search at the Lands Commission to ascertain the identity of the true owner of any land being offered for sale.  Investors should be aware that land records can be incomplete or non-existent and, therefore, clear title may be impossible to establish.

Mortgages exist, although there are only a few thousand in existence due to a variety of factors including land ownership issues and scarcity of long-term finance.  Mortgages are regulated by the Home Mortgages Finance Act 770 (2008) which has enhanced the process of foreclosure. A mortgage must be registered under the Land Title Registration Law, a requirement that is mandatory for it to take effect.  Registration with the Land Title Registry is a reliable system of recording the transaction.

Intellectual Property Rights

The protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) is an evolving area of law in Ghana.  Progress has been made in recent years to afford protection under both local and international law.  Ghana is a party to the Universal Copyright Convention, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PTC), the Singapore Trademark Law Treaty (STLT), and the Madrid Protocol Concerning the International Registration of Marks.  Ghana is also a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the English-speaking African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO), and the World Trade Organization (WTO). In 2004, Ghana’s Parliament ratified the WIPO internet treaties, namely the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty. Ghana also amended six IPR laws to comply with the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), including: copyrights, trademarks, patents, layout-designs (topographies) of integrated circuits, geographical indications, and industrial designs.  Except for the copyright law, implementing regulations necessary for fully effective promulgation have not been passed.

The Government of Ghana launched a National Intellectual Property Policy and Strategy in January 2016, which aimed to strengthen the legal framework for protection, administration, and enforcement of IPR and promote innovation and awareness, although progress on implementation stalled.  Enforcement remains weak and piracy of intellectual property continues to take place. Although precise statistics are not available for many sectors, counterfeit computer software is regularly available at street markets and counterfeit pharmaceuticals have found their way into public hospitals.  Counterfeit products have also been discovered in such disparate sectors as industrial epoxy, cosmetics, drinking spirits, and household cleaning products. Based on cases where it has been possible to trace the origin of counterfeit goods, most have been found to have been produced outside the region, usually in Asia.  Holders of IPR have access to local courts for redress of grievances, although the few trademark, patent, and copyright infringement cases that have been filed in Ghana by American companies have reportedly moved through the legal system slowly.

Ghana is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

Resources for Rights Holders

Please contact the following at Mission Accra if you have further questions regarding IP issues:

Margo Siemer
Economic Section
No. 24 Fourth Circular Road, Cantonments, Accra, Ghana
233-030-274-1000
SiemerME@state.gov

A list of local lawyers can be found at: https://gh.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/

American Chamber of Commerce Ghana
5TH Crescent Street, Asylum Down
P.O. Box CT2869, Cantonments-Accra, Ghana
Tel: 233 030 2247562/233 030 7011862
Fax: 233 030 2247562
Website: http://www.amchamghana.org/ 

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ 

Greece

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Greek laws extend the protection of property rights to both foreign and Greek nationals, and the legal system protects and facilitates acquisition and disposition of all property rights.

Multiple layers of authority in Greece are involved in the issuance or approval of land use and zoning permits, which can create disincentives to real property investment.  Secured interests in property are movable and real, recognized and enforced.  The concept of mortgage does exist in the market and can be recorded through the banks.  The government is working to create a comprehensive land registry — scheduled to be completed by 2020 — which is expected to increase the transparency of real estate management.  Greece ranks 153 out of 190 countries for Ease of Registering Property in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 Report, down from 141 last year.  Greece made registering property more burdensome by requiring a property tax certificate for registering a property transfer.

Foreign nationals can acquire real estate property in Greece, though they first need to be issued a tax authentication number.  However, for the border areas, foreign nationals first require a license from the Greek state (Law 3978/2011).  In another effort to boost investment, the government passed law 4146/2013, which allows foreign nationals who buy property in Greece worth overEUR250,000 (USD285,000) to obtain a five-year residence permit for themselves and their families.  The “Golden Visa” program has been extended to buyers of various types of Greek securities, including stocks, bonds, and bank accounts, with a value of at leastEUR400,000.  The permit can be extended for an additional five years and allows travel to other EU and Schengen countries without a visa.

Intellectual Property Rights

Greece is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the European Patent Convention, the Washington Patent Cooperation Treaty, and the Bern Copyright Convention.  As a member of the EU, Greece has harmonized its intellectual property rights (IPR) legislation with EU rules and regulations.  The World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) was incorporated into Greek legislation on February 28, 1995 (Law 2290/1995).  The Greek government also signed and ratified the WIPO internet treaties, and incorporated them into Greek legislation (Laws 3183 and 3184/2003) in 2003.  Greece’s legal framework for copyright protection is found in Law 2121 of 1993 on copyrights and Law 2328 of 1995 on the media.

Greece has been on the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Watch List since 2008.  Although Greece harmonized its IP legislation with the EU rules and regulations, overall enforcement of IPR laws has been inadequate and ineffective, and rights holders continue to experience problems in Greece.  Recently, the government improved IPR enforcement by establishing a special Committee to address online piracy and updated its Code of Civil Procedure, which improved the efficiency of civil infringement procedures.  However, other outstanding IP challenges remain unresolved, including government use of unlicensed software, inadequate enforcement against counterfeiting and piracy, and an ineffective criminal justice system.  IP related criminal investigations, prosecutions, and sentences, as well as customs seizures, are insufficient.

A law enacted in June 2011 (Law 3982/2011), which provides police ex officio authority to confiscate and destroy counterfeit goods, has been effective in some areas, but much remains to be done.  Due to continued budget cuts because of Greece’s fiscal commitments, IPR enforcement efforts remain lackluster, including seizures of counterfeit goods, investigations, operational programs, and fine collections.  Private sector companies have asked Greek authorities to require only storage of a sample of the seized goods in official government facilities to reduce the burden of having to pay for storage for long periods.  This remains an issue of contention.  Trademark violations, especially in the apparel and footwear sectors, are still widespread.  According to the government, counterfeit products in Greece are mainly luxury bags, wallets, footwear, clothing, accessories, watches, cigarettes, spirits, cell phone batteries and accessories, sunglasses, toys, and spare car parts.

Greece is not listed on USTR’s 2018 Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

Resources for Rights Holders

Embassy Point of Contact:

U.S. Embassy Athens
Economic Section
91 Vas. Sophias Avenue, Athens, Greece 10160
Phone:  +30-210-720-2490
Office.Athens@trade.gov

A list of local attorneys is available at athens.usembassy.gov/medical-legal.html

American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce
109-111 Messoghion Avenue, Politia Business Center
Athens, Greece 11526
Phone: +30-210-699-3559, Fax: +30-210-698-5686
Email: info@amcham.gr
Web Site: www.amcham.gr

Grenada

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Aliens Landholding Regulation Act No. 29 of 1968 (last amended in 2009) is the primary legislative instrument governing the right to private ownership by non-citizens.  Investors may purchase or lease privately owned land and dispose of, or transfer, interests in the land under the Act. Investors may hold state lands by grant or lease from the state.

The 2011 appointment of a registrar who focuses specifically on property has reduced the time needed to transfer property in Grenada by almost half.

Property rights and interests are enforced under the Alien Landholding Regulation Act.  The only specific regulation regarding land lease or acquisition by a foreign or non-resident investor is the requirement to acquire an Alien Landholding License.  This is also provided under the Act. The application process is described on the following website: http://grenadaidc.com/investor-centre/investors-guide/starting-up-a-business/#.WLBEUvnQe70 

Before a deed is issued, there is a title search on the previous owner, followed by conveyance, and the registering of the property to a new owner.  A clear title must first be identified before the process moves forward. Once the landholder possesses a deed, the property remains legally theirs, occupied or not, until the deed is signed over to someone else.

Grenada ranked 146 out of 190 for the ease of registering property on the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business Report.

Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property protection in Grenada is governed by the Patents Act (Cap. 227 of the Consolidated Laws of Grenada), the Trade Marks Act (Cap. 284 of the Consolidated Laws of Grenada), and the Copyright Act Cap. 32 of 1988 (Cap. 67 of the Consolidated Laws of Grenada).  Investors and investment enterprises can seek protection of their patents, trademarks, brand names, and copyrighted materials in printed, recorded, or electronic formats. Grenada is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Paris Convention, the Berne Convention, and the Patent Cooperation Treaty.

Domestic legislation regarding intellectual property protection has not been fully amended to comply with the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Agreement.  However, updates to existing legislation are currently being drafted and reviewed. The government of Grenada has implemented the Trademark Act No. 1 of 2012 and the Copyright Act of 2011.

The Patent Act of 2011 has been enacted but the implementing regulations are currently under review.

The geographic location bills have been drafted and are currently awaiting approval in parliament.  The Industrial Design Bill is reportedly a priority for 2020. Once these outstanding matters have been addressed, Grenada’s protection of intellectual property rights will be fully consistent with TRIPs.

Administration of intellectual property laws in Grenada is under the responsibility of the Ministry of Legal Affairs.

The registration of patents, trademarks, and copyrights is conducted at the Corporate and Intellectual Property Office.  Grenada operates a re-registration system based on registration in the United Kingdom. The Registration of the United Kingdom Patents Act, Cap. 283 and Grenada’s Patent Act No. 16 of 2011 govern Grenada’s system for registering patents.  In accordance with the legislation, based on Section 91 of the UK’s Patents and Design Act of 1907, any patent holder in the United Kingdom may apply within three years from the date of issue of the patent to have it registered in Grenada.

The United Kingdom Trade Marks Act, Cap. 284, authorizes any proprietor of a trademark in the United Kingdom to apply at any time during the existence of the registration to have it registered in Grenada.

Grenada is not listed in the 2019 Special 301 Report or on the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  

Guatemala

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Guatemala follows the real property registry system.  Defects in the titles and ownership gaps in the public record can lead to conflicting claims of land ownership, especially in rural areas.  The government stepped up efforts to enforce property rights by helping to provide a clear property title. Nevertheless, when rightful ownership is in dispute, it can be difficult to obtain and subsequently enforce eviction notices.

Mortgages are available to finance homes and businesses.  Approximately half of the banks offer mortgage loans with terms as long as 15-20 years for residential real estate.  Mortgages and liens are recorded at the real estate property registry. According to the 2019 World Bank’s Doing Business Report, registering property in Guatemala takes 24 days, and it costs 3.7 percent of the property value.  In the 2019 report, Guatemala ranked 86 out of 190 countries in the category of Registering Property.

The legal system is readily accessible to foreigners. Foreign investors are advised to seek reliable local counsel early in the investment process.

Intellectual Property Rights

Guatemala has been a member of the WTO since 1995 and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) since 1983.  It is also a signatory to the Paris Convention, Berne Convention, Rome Convention, Phonograms Convention, and the Nairobi Treaty.  Guatemala has ratified the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT). In June 2006, as part of CAFTA-DR implementation, Guatemala ratified the Patent Cooperation Treaty and the Budapest Treaty on the International Recognition of the Deposit of Microorganisms for the Purposes of Patent Procedure.  Also in June 2006, the Guatemalan Congress approved the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV Convention). Implementing legislation that would allow Guatemala to become a party to the convention, however, is still pending. The Guatemalan Congress approved the Trademark Law Treaty in February 2016.

Guatemala has a registry for intellectual property.  Trademarks, copyrights, patents rights, industrial designs, and other forms of intellectual property must be registered in Guatemala to obtain protection in the country.

Guatemala has a sound intellectual property rights legal framework.  The Guatemalan Congress passed an industrial property law in August 2000, bringing the country’s intellectual property rights laws into compliance with the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement.  Congress modified the legislation in 2003 to provide pharmaceutical test data protection consistent with international practice and again in 2005 to comply with IPR protection requirements in CAFTA-DR. CAFTA-DR provides for improved standards for the protection and enforcement of a broad range of IPR, which are consistent with U.S. standards of protection and enforcement as well as emerging international standards.  Congress approved a law to prohibit the production and sale of counterfeit medicine in November 2011. It approved amendments to the Industrial Property Law in June 2013 to allow the registration of geographical indications (GI), as required under the Association Agreement with the European Union. Guatemalan administrative authorities issued rulings on applications to register GIs that appear sound and well-reasoned for compound GI names, but U.S. exporters are concerned that 2014 rulings on single-name GIs will effectively prohibit new U.S. products in the Guatemalan market from using what appear to be generic or common names when identifying their goods locally.

Enforcement of IPR laws has been inconsistent. Guatemalan public prosecutors have pursued a number of raids, cases, and prosecutions but resource constraints and lack of coordinated government action impede efficient enforcement efforts.  Piracy of works protected by copyright and infringement of other forms of intellectual property, such as trademarks, including those of some major U.S. food and pharmaceutical brands, remains problematic in Guatemala.

Guatemala remains on USTR’s Special 301 Watch List in 2019 for more than 10 years.  Despite a generally strong legal framework in place, resource constraints, a lack of political will, and poor coordination among law enforcement agencies have resulted in IP enforcement that appears inadequate in relation to the scope of the problem in Guatemala.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Guinea

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Land Tenure Code of 1996 provides a legal base for documentation of property ownership.

As with ownership of business enterprises, both foreign and national individuals have the right to own property. However, enforcement of these rights depends upon an inefficient Guinean legal and administrative system. It is not uncommon for the same piece of land to have several overlapping deeds. Furthermore, land sales and business contracts generally lack transparency. According to the 2019 World Bank’s Doing Business Report, Guinea ranks 138 out of 190 countries for the ease of registering property, up three places from 2018 (http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/guinea/  ).

Intellectual Property Rights

Guinea is a member of the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). OAPI is a signatory to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Bern Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), and several other intellectual property treaties. Guinea modified its intellectual property rights (IPR) laws in 2000 to bring them into line with established international standards. There have been no formal complaints filed on behalf of American companies concerning IPR infringements in Guinea. However, it is not certain that an affirmative IPR judgment would be enforceable, given the general lack of law enforcement capability. The Property Rights office in Guinea is severely understaffed and underfunded. Guinea is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List. For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  

Guyana

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Guyana has a dual registry system of property rights with distinct requirements, processes, and enforcement mechanisms.  The two types of registry systems are deeds (Deeds and Commercial Registry) and title (Land Registry) registries that operate in separate jurisdictions, which in theory help to avoid the problem of double entry and dual registration.  Overall, companies have complained of Guyana’s property rights system to be overly bureaucratic and complex, with nontransparent regulations that overlap and compete. Some report this affects the proper allocation, enforcement, and effectiveness of property rights, as well as the efficiency of all property-based markets, such as housing, land, commercial property, and financial markets (especially primary ones, such as mortgage markets).  The judicial system is generally perceived to be slow and ineffective in enforcing legal contracts. The World Bank’s Doing Business report 2019 says it takes 581 days to enforce such contracts.

Mortgage transactions in the Guyanese financial system are limited, and the term, as used locally, refers solely to consumer loans dedicated to the construction of a primary residence.

There are three types of land ownership designations in Guyana: a) publicly owned lands, which account for 85 percent of land in Guyana and used to be known as state and government lands; b) Amerindian-owned land, which accounts for 14 percent of land in Guyana and is comprised of lands held in common by indigenous communities (such lands are titled to the individual community); and, c) privately owned lands, which are estimated at approximately one percent of all land in Guyana and can be transferred by either freehold or absolute grant.  A freehold transfer can be made either through a transport system or through a land registration system that is based on the Torrens type registry. Absolute grants are used in cases in which agricultural land is being transferred for non-agricultural use. In such cases, the land will first be transferred to the state, becoming public land, and is then titled to an individual. Such grants require a presidential decree.

Intellectual Property Rights

Upon independence in 1966, Guyana adopted British law on intellectual property rights (IPR). Guyana’s Copyright Act is dated 1956, and its Trademark Act and Patents and Design Act are dated 1973.  Some report that numerous attempts to pass comprehensive legislative updates to this legislation have been unsuccessful. Piecemeal modernization amendments contained in the Geographic Indication Act of 2005, the Competition and Fair Trading Act 2006, the Business Names Registration Act 2000, and the Deeds Registry Authority Act 1999 have offered additional protection to local products and companies.  No modern legislation exists to protect the foreign-registered rights of investors. Guyana joined the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and acceded to the Berne and Paris Conventions in late 1994. Guyana has not ratified a bilateral intellectual property rights agreement with the United States. The GoG announced in October 2018 its intention to table copyright legislation. That draft bill is currently with the Attorney General’s Office.

According to many businesses, registering a patent or trademark can take six months or longer, but even with a completed registration, no effective enforcement mechanisms exist to protect intellectual property rights.  Patent and trademark infringement are perceived to be common. Local television stations, including the state-owned and operated National Communication Network (NCN), pirate and rebroadcast TV satellite signals with impunity.  Most music, videos, and software for sale are pirated. Companies report that book piracy is also rampant, especially foreign textbooks. Some estimates say illegally photocopied textbooks account for nearly one-third of local sales.  HBO has recently accused a local firm of allegedly infringing its intellectual property rights.

Guyana’s laws have not been amended to fully conform to the requirements of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.  In 2001, the then-Ministry of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation and the Ministry of Legal Affairs drafted TRIPS legislation, but the draft has not moved forward.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Resources for Rights Holders

Alexandra King Pile
Economic and Political Counselor

Wynette Oudkerk
Economic and Commercial Specialist
Embassy of the United States of America
100 Duke and Young Streets Kingston
Georgetown, Guyana
Telephone: + (592) 225-4900-9 Ext. 4220 and Ext. 4213
Fax: + (592) 225-8597
Email: commercegeorgetown@state.gov

https://gy.usembassy.gov

Haiti

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Foreign investors have noted that real property interests are affected by the absence of a comprehensive civil registry. Lease agreement regulations are the same for locals and foreign investors.  Many companies report that legitimate property titles are often non-existent and, if they do exist, they often conflict with other titles for the same property. Verification of property titles can take several months, and often much longer. Mortgages exist, but real estate mortgages are expensive and involve allegedly cumbersome procedures. Banks are also risk-averse to issue loans or mortgages. Squatting is not a common practice, but was popular in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.

Additionally, mortgages are not always properly recorded under the debtor or creditor’s name. The Affordable Housing Institute (AHI), the World Council of Credit Unions, USAID, and Habitat for Humanity jointly launched the Home Ownership and Expansion (HOME) Program in 2015. The HOME project works with local financial institutions and housing developers to promote access to affordable housing to low and medium income households and to improve purchasing power through long-term financing.

Intellectual Property Rights

Haitian law protects copyrights, patent rights, and inventions, as well as industrial designs and models, special manufacturers’ marks, trademarks, and business names. The law penalizes individuals or enterprises involved in infringement, fraud, or unfair competition; however, enforcement is weak. Haiti is a signatory to the Buenos Aires Convention of 1910, the Paris Convention of 1883 regarding patents, and the Madrid Agreement regarding trademarks. Haiti has ratified the Bern Copyright Convention.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry is drafting a trademark law to align with the government’s international agreements and the modernization of commerce. The government of Haiti also intends to establish an independent office to focus on trademarks and patents. Some report that perceived weak enforcement mechanisms, inefficient courts, and judges’ inadequate knowledge of commercial law may impede the effectiveness of statutory protections.

Haiti is not mentioned in USTR’s 2019 Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets list. 

Resources for Rights Holders

For more information concerning intellectual property rights, please contact the U.S. Embassy’s Economic and Commercial Specialist at PAPECON@state.gov.

Local lawyers list: https://ht.usembassy.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/100/list-of-attorneys-.pdf .

Haitian Copyright Office (BHDA)
Ministry of Culture and Communication
31, Rue Cheriez
Canape-Vert
Port-au-Prince HAITI (West Indies)
Telephone: (509) 2811 0535 or (509) 2811 5626
Email: bhda.gouv@gmail.com or contact@bhda.gouv.ht

Director General/Directrice Generale: Mrs. Emmelie Phrophete Milce
Industrial Property Offices
Intellectual Property Service, Department of Legal Affairs
Ministry of Trade and Industry
Email: eprophete@bhda.gouv.ht
http://www.mci.gouv.ht/  

Director of Legal Affairs / Directeur des Affaires Juridiques: Mr. Rodrigue Josaphat
Ministry of Commerce and Industry
Telephone: (509) 4890-0144
Email: rodrigue.josaphat@mci.gouv.ht 

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  

Honduras

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Honduran law recognizes secured interests in movable and real property.  The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Tegucigalpa (CCIT) and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of San Pedro Sula (CCIC) both manage their own merchant records.  The national property registry is managed by the Property Institute. Honduras’ secured transactions law gives a concession to the CCIT and CCIC to administer their own merchant registries.

Land title procedures have been an issue leading to investment disputes involving U.S. nationals who are landowners.  Title insurance is not widely available in Honduras and approximately 80 percent of the privately held land in the country is either untitled or improperly titled.  Resolution of disputes in court often takes years. There are claims of widespread corruption in land sales, deed filing, and dispute resolution, including claims against attorneys, real estate companies, judges, and local officials.  Although Honduras has made some progress, the property registration system is perceived as unreliable and represents a constraint on investment, particularly in the Bay Islands. In addition, a lack of implementing regulations leads to long delays in the awarding of titles in some regions

Intellectual Property Rights

The legislative framework for protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), which includes the Honduran copyright law and its industrial property law, is generally adequate but often poorly implemented.  Honduras implements its obligations under the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Honduran law protects data exclusivity for a period of five years and protects process patents, but does not recognize second-use patents.  The Property Institute (IP) and Public Ministry handle protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights.

CAFTA-DR Chapter 15 on Intellectual Property Rights further provides for the protection and enforcement of a range of intellectual property rights, which are consistent with U.S. and international standards as well as with emerging international standards of IPR protection and enforcement.  There are also provisions on deterrence of piracy and counterfeiting. Additionally, CAFTA-DR provides authorities the ability to confiscate pirated goods and investigate intellectual property cases on their own initiative.

The Honduran legal framework provides deterrence against piracy and counterfeiting by requiring the seizure, forfeiture, and destruction of counterfeit and pirated goods and the equipment used to produce them.  The law also provides for statutory damages for copyright and trademark infringement, to ensure monetary damages are awarded even when losses associated with an infringement are difficult to assign.

Honduras is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 report or the Notorious Markets List.

Resources for Rights Holders

A list of local attorneys is available at https://hn.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/local-resources-of-u-s-citizens/attorneys/.

The Honduran-American Chamber of Commerce works with U.S. and Honduran companies that encounter commercial challenges, including intellectual property rights issues (http://www.amchamhonduras.org/  ).  For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see World Intellectual Property Organization’s country profiles: http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Hong Kong

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Basic Law ensures protection of leaseholders’ rights in long-term leases that are the basis of the SAR’s real property system.  The Basic Law also protects the lawful traditional rights and interests of the indigenous inhabitants of the New Territories. The real estate sector, one of Hong Kong’s pillar industries, is equipped with a sound banking mortgage system. HK ranked 53rd for ease of registering property, according to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 rankings.

Land transactions in Hong Kong operate on a deeds registration system governed by the Land Registration Ordinance. The Land Titles Ordinance provides greater certainty on land title and simplifies the conveyancing process.

Intellectual Property Rights

Hong Kong’s commercial and company laws provide for effective enforcement of contracts and protection of corporate rights. Hong Kong has filed its notice of compliance with the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) requirements of the WTO. The Intellectual Property Department, which includes the Trademarks and Patents Registries, is the focal point for the development of Hong Kong’s IP regime. The Customs and Excise Department (CED) is the sole enforcement agency for intellectual property rights (IPR). Hong Kong has acceded to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Bern Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, and the Geneva and Paris Universal Copyright Conventions. Hong Kong also continues to participate in the World Intellectual Property Organization as part of Mainland China’s delegation; the HKG has seconded an officer from CED to INTERPOL in Lyon, France to further collaborate on IPR enforcement.

The HKG devotes significant resources to IPR enforcement. Hong Kong courts have imposed longer jail terms than in the past for violations of Hong Kong’s Copyright Ordinance. CED works closely with foreign customs agencies and the World Customs Organization to share best practices and to identify, disrupt, and dismantle criminal organizations engaging in IP theft that operate in multiple countries. The government has conducted public education efforts to encourage respect for IPR. Pirated and counterfeit products remain available on a small scale at the retail level throughout Hong Kong. CED detected a total of 951 infringement cases in 2018, a four percent increase from 2017. Of these cases, 207 involved internet crime.

Other IPR challenges include end-use piracy of software and textbooks, internet peer-to-peer downloading, and the illicit importation and transshipment of pirated and counterfeit goods from Mainland China and other places in Asia. Hong Kong authorities have taken steps to address these challenges by strengthening collaboration with Mainland Chinese authorities, prosecuting  end-use software piracy, and monitoring suspect shipments at points of entry. It has also established a task force to monitor and crack down on internet-based peer-to-peer piracy.

The Drug Office of Hong Kong imposes a drug registration requirement that requires applicants for new drug registrations make a non-infringement patent declaration. The Copyright Ordinance protects any original copyrighted work created or published anywhere in the world and criminalizes  copying and distribution of protected works for business and circumventing technological protection measures. The Ordinance also provides rental rights for sound recordings, computer programs, films, and comic books; in addition to including enhanced penalty provisions and other legal tools to facilitate enforcement. The law defines possession of an infringing copy of computer programs, movies, TV dramas, and musical recordings (including visual and sound recordings) for use in business as an offense, but provides no criminal liability for other categories of works. In February 2019, the HKG announced that it would introduce to LegCo an amendment bill to implement the Marrakesh Treaty.

The HKG has consulted unsuccessfully with internet service providers and content user representatives on a voluntary framework for IPR protection in the digital environment. It has also failed to pass amendments to the Copyright Ordinance that would enhance copyright protection against online piracy. As of March 2018, the Infringing Website List Scheme established by the Hong Kong Creative Industries Association to clamp down on websites that display pirated content reportedly has deprived infringers of USD 833,000 monthly, or 24 percent of overall monthly advertising revenue, since December 2016.

The Patent Ordinance allows for granting an independent patent in Hong Kong based on patents granted by the United Kingdom and Mainland China. Patents granted in Hong Kong are independent and capable of being tested for validity, rectified, amended, revoked, and enforced in Hong Kong courts. In June 2016, the LegCo passed an “original grant patent” (OPG) bill that,  while retaining the current re-registration system for the granting of standard patents, takes into account the patent systems generally established in regional and international patent treaties. The HKG will implement the OGP system in 2019 upon the completion of all preparatory work.

The Registered Design Ordinance is modeled on the EU design registration system. To be registered, a design must be new and the system requires no substantive examination. The initial period of five years protection is extendable for four periods of five years each, up to 25 years.

Hong Kong’s trademark law is TRIPS-compatible and allows for registration of trademarks relating to services. All trademark registrations originally filed in Hong Kong are valid for seven years and renewable for 14-year periods. Proprietors of trademarks registered elsewhere must apply anew and satisfy all requirements of Hong Kong law. When evidence of use is required, such use must have occurred in Hong Kong. In March 2019, the HKG introduced into LegCo a draft bill to implement the Madrid Protocol. Upon enactment of the bill and completion of other preparatory work, the HKG will liaise with the Mainland to seek application of the Madrid Protocol to Hong Kong beginning in 2022.

Hong Kong has no specific ordinance to cover trade secrets; however, the government has a duty under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance to protect information from being disclosed to other parties. The Trade Descriptions Ordinance prohibits false trade descriptions, forged trademarks, and misstatements regarding goods and services supplied in the course of trade.

The HKG has accepted recommendations from a 2015 report by the Working Group on IP and set aside about USD 3 million in the coming three years to introduce new support measures. In June 2018, a bill expanding from five categories to eight the scope of tax deductions for capital expenditure incurred for the purchase of IP rights came into force.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Hungary

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Hungary maintains a reliable land registry, which provides public information for anyone on the ownership, mortgage, and usufruct rights of the real estate or land parcel.  Secured interests in property (mortgages), both moveable and real, are recognized and enforced but there is no title insurance in Hungary.

According to the Land Law of 2013 only private Hungarian citizens or EU citizens resident in Hungary with a minimum of three years of experience in agriculture, or holding a degree in an agricultural field, can purchase farmland.  The law allows the lease of farmland up to 1200 hectares for a maximum of 20 years. There is no restriction for purchase or lease of non-farmland properties.

Hungarian law allows acquisitive prescription for unoccupied real property if the user of the property occupies it continuously for at least 15 years.

Intellectual Property Rights

Hungary has an adequate legal structure for protecting intellectual property rights (IPR), although it lacks deterrent-level sentences for civil and criminal IPR infringement cases.  There has been no new major IPR legislation passed over the last year. According to some representatives of the pharmaceutical and software industries, enforcement could be improved if the Prosecution Office were to establish specialized units to combat IPR violations.  The most common IPR violations in Hungary include selling counterfeit goods, the sale of imported counterfeit pharmaceuticals, and Internet-based piracy. Most counterfeit goods sold in Hungary are of Chinese origin.

Hungary acceded to the European Patent Convention in 2003 and has accordingly amended the Hungarian Patent Act.  Hungary is a party to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement and most other major international IPR agreements, including the most recent World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty.  It is also a party to the EU Information Society Directive and implemented the EU Enforcement Directive in 2005.

The United States and Hungary signed a Comprehensive Bilateral Intellectual Property Rights Agreement in 1993 that addresses copyright, trademarks, and patent protection.

In July 2010, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Hungarian Intellectual Property Office (HIPO) launched a pilot program to facilitate patent recognition between the United States and Hungary.  Due to the pilot’s success, in April 2012 the USPTO and HIPO signed a Memorandum of Understanding to further streamline and expedite patent recognition. More details about this Patent Processing Highway (PPH) program can be found on USPTO’s website at www.hipo.gov.hu/English/szabadalom/pph/  .

Hungary is not listed in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Resources for Rights Holders

Embassy Point of Contact for IPR issues:

Donald Brown
Economic Officer
brownda8@state.gov

Hungary prosecutes IPR violations and authorities have the relevant statistical data.  In 2017 the total number of IPR related crime cases was 631, the total value of these crimes amounted to USD 5.7 million and authorities seized USD 2.5 million worth of counterfeit products.

Iceland

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Only Icelandic citizens and foreign citizens that have permanent residency in Iceland can acquire the right to own or use real property in Iceland, including fishing and hunting rights, water rights, or other real property rights, whether by free assignation or enforcement measures, marriage, inheritance, or deed of transfer. However, special rules apply for citizens of the EEA. The Minister of Justice may grant exemption from these conditions based on application showing the need of ownership for business activities. The Minister’s permission is not necessary if hiring real property for less than three years or when the party involved enjoys rights in Iceland under the rules of the EEA. For more information please look at the Act on the Right of Ownership and Use of Real Property (https://www.government.is/Publications/Legislation/Lex/?newsid=353f66b8-f153-11e7-9421-005056bc4d74  ).

Property rights are generally enforced in Iceland. There is good access to mortgages and other financing to purchase real property in Iceland from commercial banks, pension funds and private lenders.

Intellectual Property Rights

Iceland adheres to key international agreements on intellectual property rights (IPR) (e.g., Paris Union Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property). Trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets and industrial designs are all protected under Icelandic law. As with many other issues, Iceland follows the European lead in protection of IPR and adheres to the European Patent Convention of 1973. In 2005, Iceland signed the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).

As a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), Iceland accepts jurisdiction of the EEA Court. IPR is recognized and protected in the Constitution of Iceland. Secured interests in property are bound by law, and enforced as such, and there is a reliable system which records such security interests.

The Icelandic Patent Office, a government agency under supervision of the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, handles all patent disputes in Iceland. The legal framework concerning IPR in Iceland is in all respects equivalent to that of other industrialized countries in Europe. Iceland is a World Trade Organization (WTO) member, and Icelandic legislation complies with WTO Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) requirements. Iceland does not maintain a database on the number and types of seizures of counterfeit goods, but there is a website http://www.falsanir.is   where rights holders, customs officials, and other stakeholders can report suspected goods. It is illegal to resell counterfeit goods, but it is not illegal for individuals to buy and import them for their own consumption. There has, however, been a recent crackdown on counterfeit goods in public offices.

Illegal downloading and distribution of films and TV shows is common in Iceland, but few have been prosecuted so far. Popular streaming and infringing websites have servers located in Iceland according to the 2018 Notorious Markets List. It is becoming increasingly popular in Iceland to purchase counterfeit consumer goods on Chinese websites, such as AliExpress.com, but again, prosecutions are rare. Customs seize counterfeit products if found and contact the owner of the intellectual property who then decides whether to press charges against the importer or not. If the owner of the intellectual property does not want to take legal actions, Customs clear the items and send them to the importer.

As an EFTA state and member of the EEA, Iceland has implemented all relevant EU regulations and directives in the field of IPR. Iceland is also bound by bilateral EFTA free-trade agreements which include provisions on IPR.

Iceland is not listed in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) 2019 Special 301 Report.

Iceland is a member of the European Patent Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and a party to most WIPO-administered agreements. For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

Indonesia

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Basic Agrarian Law of 1960, the predominant body of law governing land rights, recognizes the right of private ownership and provides varying degrees of land rights for Indonesian citizens, foreign nationals, Indonesian corporations, foreign corporations, and other legal entities. Indonesia’s 1945 Constitution states that all natural resources are owned by the government for the benefit of the people. This principle was augmented by the passage of a land acquisition bill in 2011 that enshrined the concept of eminent domain and established mechanisms for fair market value compensation and appeals. The National Land Agency registers property under Regulation No. 24/1997, though the Ministry of Forestry administers all ‘forest land’. Registration is sometimes complicated by local government requirements and claims, as a result of decentralization. Registration is also not conclusive evidence of ownership, but rather strong evidence of such. Government Regulation No.103/2015 on house ownership by foreigners domiciled in Indonesia allows foreigners to have a property in Indonesia with the status of a “right to use” for a maximum of 30 years, with extensions available for up to 20 additional years.

Intellectual Property Rights

Indonesia is currently on the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 priority watch list for intellectual property rights (IPR) protection. According to U.S. stakeholders, Indonesia’s failure to effectively protect intellectual property and enforce IPR laws has resulted in high levels of physical and online piracy. Local industry associations have reported tens of millions of pirated films, music, and software in circulation in Indonesia in recent years, causing potentially billions of dollars in losses.  Indonesian physical markets, such as Pasar Mangga Dua, and online markets Tokopedia, Bukalapak, and IndoXXI.com were included in USTR’s Notorious Markets list in 2018.

Indonesian efforts to enhance IP protection policy were mixed this year. The 2016 Patent Law, continues to be a source of significant concern for IP stakeholders, especially expansive compulsory license provisions and a requirement under Article 20 to produce a patented product in Indonesia within 36 months of the grant of a patent. In July 2018, the Ministry of Law and Human Rights (MLHR) enacted Ministerial Regulation 15/2018, allowing patent holders to request a five-year, renewable exemption from the 36-month local production requirement under Article 20.  However, MLHR issued Ministerial Regulation 39/2018 on December 28, providing new procedures for obtaining compulsory licenses for a variety of patented products. Regulation 39/2018 would allow individuals, government institutions, and patent holders to apply for a compulsory license on three bases: 1) failure to produce a patented product in Indonesia within 36 months; 2) use of a patent in a manner detrimental to the public interest; and 3) where a patent cannot be implemented without utilizing another party’s patent. The new regulation also gives MLHR the discretion to grant compulsory licenses to produce, import, and export patented products needed to remedy human disease in Indonesia and third countries.

MLHR reports that the five-year exemption from local production requirements under Regulation 15/2018 will continue to be available despite the issuance of Regulation 39/2018. The 2016 Patent Law contains several other provisions that some have defined as “concerning”, including a  definition of “invention” that potentially imposes an additional “increased meaningful benefit” requirement for patents on new forms of existing compounds, an expansive national interest test for proposed patent licenses, and disclosure of genetic information and traditional knowledge to promote access and benefit sharing.  The Directorate General for Intellectual Property (DGIP) is currently drafting guidelines on pharmacy, computer, and biotechnology patents for examiners; DGIP plans to release the guidelines in 2019.

DGIP has become more active in its efforts to collect patent annuity fees. On August 16, 2018, DGIP issued a circular letter warning stakeholders that it may refuse to accept new patent applications from rights holders that have not paid patent annuity fee debts. The letter gave rights holders until February 16, 2019, to settle unpaid patent annuity payments. On February 17, 2019, DGIP issued another circular letter on its website to extend the period of time for a patent holder to settle any unpaid annuities for 6 months to August 17, 2019. The U.S. government continues to monitor implementation of this policy with DGIP and industry stakeholders.

Indonesia deposited its instrument of accession to the Madrid Protocol with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in October 2017 and issued implementing regulations in June 2018. Under the new rules, Madrid Protocol applicants are required to register their application with DGIP first, and must be Indonesian citizens, domiciled in Indonesia, or have clear industrial or commercial interests in Indonesia. Although the Trademark Law of 2016 expanded recognition of non-traditional marks, Indonesia still does not recognize certification marks. In response to stakeholder concerns over a lack of consistency in treatment of international well-known trademarks, the Supreme Court issued Circular Letter 1/2017, which advised Indonesian judges to recognize cancellation claims for well-known international trademarks with no time limit stipulation.

The Ministry of Finance’s Directorate General for Customs and Excise (DGCE) continued to implement ex officio authorities to investigate shipments of infringing goods in 2018. Under MOF Regulation 40/2018, DGCE launched an online trademark recordation system that enables customs officials to detain a shipment of potentially IP-infringing goods for up to two days in order to inform a registered rights holder of the suspect shipment. Once the rights holder confirms the shipment is suspect, it has four days to file a request to suspend the shipment with the Indonesian Commercial Court. Rights holders are required to provide a monetary guarantee of IDR 100 million (approximately USD 7,700) when they request suspension of a shipment. Despite  business stakeholder concerns, the GOI retained a requirement that only companies with offices domiciled in Indonesia may use the recordation system.

In 2015, DGIP and KOMINFO jointly released implementing regulations under the Copyright Law to provide for rights holders to report websites that offer IP-infringing products and sets forth procedures for blocking IP-infringing sites. Also in 2015, Indonesia’s Creative Economy Agency (BEKRAF) launched an anti-piracy task force with film and music industry stakeholders. BEKRAF reported that the taskforce remained focused on coordinating the review of complaints from industry about infringing websites in 2018. KOMINFO reported that it blocked 442 infringing websites in 2018.

DGIP reports that its directorate of investigation has increased staffing to 187 investigators, including 40 nationwide investigators and 147 staff certified to act as local investigators in 33 provinces when needed for a pending case, and saw the number of investigations double from 16 in 2017 to 36 in 2018. BPOM, Indonesia’s food and drug administration, reported the seizure of more than USD 6.3 billion in counterfeit drugs and cosmetics during the year. Trademark, Patent, and Copyright legislation requires a rights-holder complaint for investigations, and DGIP and BPOM investigators lack the authority to make arrests so must rely on police cooperation for any enforcement action.

Resources for Rights Holders

Additional information regarding treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, can be found at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) country profile website http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .For a list of local lawyers, see: http://jakarta.usembassy.gov/us-service/attorneys.html.

Iraq

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Since 2009, Iraqi law allows foreigners to own land.  The amended NIL allows foreign interests to own land for the express purpose of developing residential real estate projects.  It also allows foreign investors to own land for industrial projects if they have an Iraqi partner. Additionally, foreign investors are permitted to rent or lease land for up to 50 years, with an option to renew.  In December 2010, the GOI approved implementing regulations to the NIL, in the form of a Prime Ministerial decree (regulation seven). The regulations allow investors to obtain land for residential housing projects free of charge on the condition that land value is excluded from the sales price.  The decree requires the Department of Real Estate to revoke the land registration from domestic or foreign investors who do not carry out the obligations of their agreement.

For non-residential, commercial investment projects – including agriculture, services, tourism, commercial, and industrial projects – the decree allows for leasing and allocation of government land, but not sole ownership.  The terms and duration of these leases will vary, depending on the type of project and negotiations between the parties. Land for non-residential projects will be leased free of initial down payment, and compensation will be either a percentage of pre-tax revenue or a specified percentage of the “rent allowance” for the land.  These smaller percentages of the “rent allowance” rate, ranging from one to 25 percent, amount to significant rent reductions for leased land, as specified by type of investment project in the decree.

In the IKR, foreign land ownership is allowed under Law Number 4 of 2006.  The BOI initially awarded more than half of all investment licenses to housing projects, though the lack of a clear sector strategy and speculation in housing properties prompted the board to freeze all new investment licenses issued in the sector in mid-2012, however, licenses are still issued on a case-by-case basis.  Investment licenses that include land ownership are more likely to be issued in the BOI’s priority sector development areas of agriculture, industry, and tourism. However, issues regarding timely transfer of land title have sometimes slowed projects.

Mortgages and liens exist in Iraq, and there is a national record system.  However, mortgages are not common. Iraq ranks 113 out of 190 countries on the 2018 World Bank’s “registering property” index.

Intellectual Property Rights

Legal structures that protect intellectual property  rights (IPR) in Iraq are inadequate, and infringements are common.  There is a significant presence of counterfeit products in the Iraqi marketplace, including pharmaceutical drugs.  According to a 2016 study by the Business Software Alliance on self-reported piracy, 85 percent of Iraq’s software was unlicensed in 2015, consistent with the levels found in each survey since 2009.  During the past year, no new IP-related laws or regulations have been enacted. The GOI attempts to track seizures of counterfeit medicines. Reporting is inconsistent.

The GOI’s ability to enforce IP protections remains weak, and IP responsibilities are currently spread across several ministries.  The Ministry of Culture handles copyrights, and the Ministry of Industry and Minerals (MIM) houses the office that registers trademarks.  The Central Organization for Standardization and Quality Control (COSQC), an agency under the Ministry of Planning, handles the patent registry and the industrial design registry.  The Ministry of Planning’s patent registry office has occasionally included Arab League Israel Boycott questionnaires in the patent registry application. U.S. companies are not allowed under U.S. law to complete Arab League Boycott questionnaires.  IP infringement cases are primarily heard in commercial courts, although on a relatively infrequent basis, cases may be transferred to the criminal courts.

A draft IP law, which would comply with the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and consolidate all IP responsibilities into a single body, was redrafted during the past year and sent for parliamentary legislative review in October 2017.  The original draft was completed in mid-2007, but has not moved forward.

In 2018, the Council of Ministers Secretariat (COMSEC) reviewed IP forms and processes for simplification and preparation of implementing eForms.  The patent application, updated in January 2018, is now based on World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) standards. However, the application processes for all classes of IP protection favor domestic applicants through requirements for local Iraqi-national agents and optional, but advantageous, in-person review committee meetings.

The U.S. government is continuing efforts to bolster understanding of IPR and build GOI capacity to protect them.  In June 2012, the Federal Court of Cassation, the highest civil court in Iraq, upheld a finding by the Baghdad Commercial Court that ruled in favor of a U.S. firm in a trademark dispute, setting a positive precedent for IP protection in Iraq.  The Commercial Court has jurisdiction over commercial disputes that involve at least one foreign party and disputes over various commerce-related issues including trade, real estate, banking, trademarks and intellectual property, transportation, and other areas.  It was established in November 2010 under the Higher Judicial Council with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP), which provided technical assistance and training to Iraqi judges who serve on the court. The head of the patent section and his deputies received training with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) sponsored by the CLDP.

Iraq is a signatory to several international intellectual property conventions and to regional and bilateral arrangements, which include:  1) the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1967 Act), ratified by Law No. 212 of 1975; 2) the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Convention, ratified by Law No. 212 of 1975 (Iraq became a member of the WIPO in January 1976); 3) the Arab Agreement for the Protection of Copyrights, ratified by Law No. 41 of 1985; and 4) the Arab Intellectual Property Rights Treaty (Law No. 41 of 1985).

Iraq is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 report or notorious market report.

Iraq has more than one point of contact for IPR:

Ministry of Culture (Copyrights)
Director of the National Center for the Protection of Copyrights and Related Rights
Ms. Hind Al-Hadithi
Email:  henda84.com@gmail.com
Tel.:  (964) 770 335 0655
Official email:  copyrights.iq@gmail.com

Ministry of Planning (Patents)
Chief of Central Organization for Standardization and Quality Control (COSQC)
Registrar of Patents and Industrial Designs
Mr. Saad Abdul Wahab
Email:  cosqc@cosqc.gov.iq
Tel: (964)07901786768

Director of Industrial Property Division
Mr. Wisam Saeed A’asi
Tel.: (964) 770 974 7231
Email:  wisamsaeedipo@yahoo.com

Ministry of Industry and Minerals (Trademarks)
Industrial Organization and Development Directorate
Director General and Trademark Registrar
Mr. Alaa Mousa Ali

Director of Legal Section
Ms. Thanaa Mohan
Email:  thanaam2008@yahoo.com

A copy of a public list of local lawyers can be obtained by emailing BaghdadACS@state.gov.  The American Chamber of Commerce in Iraq can be reached at:  inquiries@amcham-iraq.org.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en  

Ireland

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Government recognizes and enforces secured interests in property, both chattel and real estate.  The Department of Justice and Equality administers a reliable system of recording such security interests through the Property Registration Authority (PRA) and Registry of Deeds.  The PRA registers a person’s interest in property on a public register. Since 2010, all property buyers must register their acquisition with the PRA. Ireland also operates a document registration system through the Registry of Deeds in which deeds (as distinct from titles) may be registered, priority obtained, and third parties placed on notice of the existence of documents of title.  An efficient, non-discriminatory legal system is accessible to foreign investors to protect and facilitate acquisition and disposition of all property rights.

Intellectual Property Rights

Ireland is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and a party to the International Convention for the Protection of Intellectual Property.  Legislation enacted in 2000 brought Irish intellectual property rights (IPR) law into compliance with Ireland’s obligations under the WTO Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.  The legislation gave Ireland one of the most comprehensive legal frameworks for IPR protection in Europe. It addressed several TRIPs inconsistencies in prior Irish IPR law that had concerned foreign investors, including the absence of a rental right for sound recordings, the lack of an anti-bootlegging provision, and low criminal penalties that failed to deter piracy.  The legislation provides for stronger penalties on both the civil and criminal sides. It does not include minimum mandatory sentencing for IPR violations.

As part of this comprehensive copyright legislation, revisions were also made to non-TRIPS conforming sections of Irish patent law.  Specifically, the IPR legislation addressed two concerns of many foreign investors in the previous legislation:

– The compulsory licensing provisions of the previous 1992 Patent Law were inconsistent with the “working” requirement prohibition of TRIPs Articles 27.1 and the general compulsory licensing provisions of Article 31; and,

– Applications processed after December 20, 1991, did not conform to the non-discrimination requirement of TRIPs Article 27.1.

The Government continues to crack down on the sale of illegal cigarettes smuggled into the country by international and local organized criminal groups.  Heavy cigarette taxes in Ireland make illegal trade in counterfeit and untaxed cigarettes highly lucrative. Ireland became the first European country and the fourth in the world to pass a plain packaging law for tobacco products, The Public Health (Standardized Packaging of Tobacco) Act in 2015.  In practice, tobacco packaging is devoid of branding, with health warnings covering nearly the entire box and only the producer/product name otherwise visible.  This legislation became active from September 30, 2017. Since September 2018, all tobacco products have to be in plain, standardized packaging.

The Irish government has enacted the EU Copyright and Related Rights Regulation 2012 into law.  This legislation makes it possible for copyright holders to seek court injunctions against firms, such as internet service providers (ISPs) or social networks, whose systems host copyright-infringing material.  Irish courts are to ensure any remedy provided will uphold the freedom of ISPs to conduct their business. The legislation ensures that the Government cannot mandate any ISP to carry out monitoring of information.  The legislation must also ensure that measures implemented are “fair and proportionate” and not “unnecessarily complicated or costly.” The law also states that the courts must respect the fundamental rights of ISP customers, including the customers’ right to protection of personal data and the freedom to receive or impart information.

The Government introduced a proposed Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Bill 2018 in March 2018.  The Bill will implement certain recommendations of the ‘Modernizing Copyright’ report published in 2013 by the Copyright Review Committee, make better provision for copyright and other IPR protection in the digital era, and enable right-holders to better enforce their IPR in the courts.  The bill is still undergoing review in the Irish Senate.

Ireland is not listed on the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report, nor is it on the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  

Israel

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Israel has a modern legal system based on British common law that provides effective means for enforcing property and contractual rights. Courts are independent. Israeli civil procedures provide that judgments of foreign courts may be accepted and enforced by local courts.  The Israeli judicial system recognizes and enforces secured interests in property. A reliable system of recording such secured interests exists. The Israeli Land Administration, which manages land in Israel on behalf of the government, registers property transactions. Registering or obtaining land rights is a cumbersome process and Israel currently ranks 89th in “Registering Property” according to the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business Report.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Israel Patent Office (ILPO) within the Ministry of Justice is the principal government authority overseeing the legal protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) in Israel.  IPR protection in Israel has undergone many changes in recent decades as the Israeli economy has rapidly transformed into a knowledge-based economy.

In recent years, Israel revised its IPR legal framework several times to comply with newly signed international treaties.  Israel took stronger, more comprehensive steps towards protecting IPR, and the government acknowledges that IPR theft costs rights holders millions of dollars per year, reducing tax revenues and slowing economic growth.

The United States removed Israel from the Special 301 Report in 2014 after Israel passed patent legislation that satisfied the remaining commitments Israel made in a Memorandum of Understanding with the United States in 2010 concerning several longstanding issues regarding Israel’s IPR regime for pharmaceutical products. Israel is not included in the Notorious Markets List.

Israel’s Knesset approved Amendment No. 5 to Israel’s Copyright Law of 2007 on January 1, 2019.  The amendment aims to establish measures to combat copyright infringement on the internet while preserving the balance among copyright owners, internet users, and the free flow of information and free speech.

In July 2017, the Israeli Knesset passed the New Designs Bill, replacing Israel’s existing but obsolete ordinance governing industrial design. The bill, which came into force in August 2018, brings Israel into compliance with The Hague System for International Registration of Industrial designs.

Nevertheless, the United States remains concerned with the limitations of Israel’s copyright legislation, particularly related to digital copyright matters and with Israel’s interpretation of its commitment to protect data derived from pharmaceutical testing conducted in anticipation of the future marketing of biological products, also known as biologics.

While Israel has instituted several legislative improvements in recent years, the United States continues to urge Israel to strengthen and improve its IPR enforcement regime.  Israel lacks specialized courts, common in other countries with advanced IPR regimes. General civil or administrative courts in Israel typically adjudicate IPR cases.

IPR theft in Israel is common and relatively sophisticated.  The EU ranks Israel as a “third tier” priority country concerning the level of IPR protection and enforcement.  The EU cites inadequate protection of innovative pharmaceutical products and end-user software piracy as the main issues with IPR enforcement in Israel.

Israel is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).  It is a signatory to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Universal Copyright Convention, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, and the Patent Cooperation Treaty.  Israel was obligated to implement the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) by January 1, 2000, but has failed to do so.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  

Italy

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

According to the World Bank, Italy ranks 23 worldwide out of 190 economies for the ease of registering property.  Real property registration takes an average of 16 days, requires four procedures, and costs an average of 4.4 percent of the value of the property.  Real property rights are enforced in Italian courts. Mortgages and judgment liens against property exist in Italy and the recording system is reliable.  Although Italy does not publish official statistics on property with titling issues, Post estimates that less than 10 percent of the land in Italy does not have clear title.  Italian law includes provisions whereby peaceful and uninterrupted possession of real property for a period of 20 years can, under certain circumstances, allow the occupying party to take title to a property.

Intellectual Property Rights

Italy was removed from the USTR’s Special 301 Watch List in 2014 after the Italian Communications Authority’s (AGCOM’s) issuance of a new regulation to combat digital copyright theft.  The regulation created a process by which rights holders can report online infringements to AGCOM, which can then block access to domestic and international sites hosting infringing content.  This negated the need for lengthy litigation, which had been required previously. The system was further strengthened in 2018, when authorities adopted new measures to prevent previously blocked websites from becoming accessible again under different domain names.

Authorities also continue to pursue trademark violations.  In 2017, the last year for which statistics are available, customs and the tax police jointly seized almost 32 million counterfeit items (excluding food and beverages, tobacco, and medical products), worth almost EUR 295 million.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Jamaica

5. Protection of Property Rights

Private entities, whether foreign or domestic, generally have the right to freely establish, own, acquire, and dispose of business enterprises and may engage in all forms of remunerative activity.

Real Property

Property rights are guaranteed by the Constitution.  Jamaica’s Registration of Titles Act recognizes and provides for the enforcement of secured interests in property by way of mortgage.  It also facilitates and protects the acquisition and disposition of all property rights, though working through Jamaica’s bureaucracy can result in significant delays.  In particular, it sometimes takes a long time for landowners to secure titles.

Approximately 55 percent of the land in Jamaica is registered, although a large percentage of those properties do not have current titles, as many families who pass land ownership from parent to child often do not go through the proper legal channels due to the cost and time involved.

Many businesses have reported that squatting is also a major challenge in Jamaica, with nearly 20 percent of the population living as squatters.  Three-quarters of squatters reside on government lands. Under the Registration of Titles Act, a squatter can claim a property by adverse possession (without compensating the owner for the land) if a person can demonstrate that he or she has lived on government land for more than 60 years, or on private property for more than 12 years undisturbed (including without any payment to the land owner).  There are no specific regulations regarding land lease or acquisition by foreign and/or non-resident investors.

The country’s World Bank Doing Business Report ranking for ease of “registering property” was 131 in 2019 due largely to the number of procedures and high costs involved.  Jamaica continues to outperform other Latin America and Caribbean countries in the time required to close a property transaction.

Registration of Titles Act: http://moj.gov.jm/sites/default/files/laws/Registrationpercent 20ofpercent 20Titles.pdf 

Intellectual Property Rights

Jamaica has one of the stronger intellectual property (IP) protection regimes in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the International Property Rights Index, although legislative and enforcement gaps still exist.  Jamaica is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and is a signatory of the Berne Convention. Jamaica and the United States have an Intellectual Property Rights Agreement and a Bilateral Investment Treaty, which provide assurances to protect intellectual property.  It is relatively easy to register IP, and the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO) assists parties interested in registering IP and supports investors’ efforts to enforce their rights. Overall, protections across all types of IP are improving.

Law enforcement efforts to combat counterfeit and pirated goods are improving on the ground but border enforcement remains a challenge.  IP violations tend to be more in relation to physical goods, while electronic IP theft is less common.

The country’s trademark and copyright regimes satisfy the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), although the patent and design law is not TRIPS compliant.  A new Patent & Designs Bill, including new rules and fee structures, has been in drafting for a number of years but has not passed in Parliament. However, JIPO instituted administrative procedures to register U.S. patents for a nominal fee in order to protect U.S. rights holders.  The Geographical Indications Act (GI) of 2004 is now fully in force and TRIPS compliant, protecting products whose particular quality or reputation is attributable to its geographical origin. General law provides protection for trade secrets and protection against unfair competition is guaranteed under the Fair Competition Act.

In the area of copyright protection, amendments to the Copyright Act passed in June 2015 fulfilled Jamaica’s obligations under the WIPO Internet Treaties and extended copyright protection term from 50 to 95 years.  The Copyright Act complies with the TRIPS Agreement and adheres to the principles of the Berne Convention, and covers works ranging from books and music to computer programs. Amendments in June 1999 explicitly provide copyright protection on compilations of works such as databases and make it an offense for a person to manufacture or trade in decoders of encrypted transmissions.  It also gives persons in encrypted transmissions or in broadcasting or cable program services a right of action against persons who infringe upon their rights.

Jamaica, along with some other Caribbean countries, have been cited in the last several years’ Special 301 Report for the absence of compensation to performance rights organizations as well as due to concerns regarding unlicensed broadcasting of copyrighted television programming.

Enforcement

The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) reported seizures of over USD 11 million of counterfeit goods in 2018.  The most commonly counterfeited goods include shoes, alcohol, cigarettes, clothing, handbags, and pharmaceuticals.  Jamaica’s border enforcement efforts are hampered by customs officers not having ex officio authority to seize and destroy counterfeit goods. Rights holders must first be provided with visual samples of suspect merchandise to verify the item as counterfeit, submit a declaration indicating the differences between the fake and actual brands, and provide an authorization to seize the merchandise.  The JCF established a specialized intellectual property unit within its counter terrorism and organized crime branch (C-TOC) in 2015 to boost IP enforcement.

Rights holders are responsible for paying the costs associated with storage and destruction of counterfeit goods.  Presently the Commissioner of Customs may grant up to 10 days for a rights holder to produce the required evidence and commitments before releasing suspected counterfeit goods that are in transit.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Japan

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Secured interests in real property are recognized and enforced.  Mortgages are a standard lien on real property and must be recorded to be enforceable.  Japan has a reliable recording system. Property can be rented or leased but no sub-lease is legal without the owner’s consent.  In the World Bank’s 2018 “Doing Business” Report, Japan ranks 52 out of 190 economies in the category of Ease of Registering Property.  This is a result of the bureaucratic steps and fees associated with purchasing improved real property in Japan, even when it is already registered and has a clear title.  The required documentation for property purchases can be burdensome. Additionally, it is common practice in Japan for property appraisal values to be lower than the actual sale value, increasing the deposit required of the purchaser as the bank will provide financing only up to the appraisal value.

The Japanese Government is unsure of the titleholders to 4.1 million hectares of land in Japan, roughly 20 percent of all land and an area equivalent in size to the island of Kyushu, a government-sponsored study group noted in 2017.  According to a think tank expert on land use, 25 percent of all the land in Japan is registered to people who are no longer alive or otherwise unreachable. In 2015, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism (MLIT) found that, of 400 randomly selected tracts of land, 46 percent was registered more than 30 years ago and 20 percent was registered more than 50 years ago.  A similar survey by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) found that 20 percent of farmland had a deceased owner and had not been re-registered. The government appointed a group of experts to study the matter, and the Unknown Land Owners Problem Study Group announced the results in a midterm report on June 26, 2017 and in a final report on December 13, 2017 (http://www.kok.or.jp/project/fumei.html  ).  It estimated that by 2040 the amount of land without titleholders will increase to 7.2 million hectares.  The primary reasons that land in Japan lacks a titleholder are: Japan’s population is declining; Japanese are increasingly moving from rural areas to urban areas; heirs are difficult to locate and there may be multiple heirs, especially if the deceased did not have children; and heirs do not re-register the land under their own names due to the cost of the initial and continuing taxes and the time and difficulty to change the title.  On June 6, 2018, the Japanese Diet enacted a special law to promote the use of unclaimed land in the public interest, as more and more properties are expected to become available amid the decreasing population.  The act goes into effect on June 1, 2019, and will enable the heads of local governments to authorize use of the unattended land for up to 10 years for public purposes such as community halls, parks, and health clinics. If the landowner appears and reclaims the land, the property will be returned after the term of the land-use contract ends.  If no one reclaims the land, the land-use period can be extended.

Virtually all the large banks, as well as some other private companies, offer loans to purchase property in Japan.

Intellectual Property Rights

Japan maintains a robust legal framework for intellectual property (IP) and provides reasonably strong enforcement to rights holders.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce International IP Index ranked Japan’s intellectual property framework eighth worldwide in its 2019 report7.  While IP piracy remains a problem, its prevalence in Japan is similar to other developed markets.

Japan established a dedicated IP High Court in 2005 to speed decisions in intellectual property cases.  In 2017, cases before the court required an average of 7.3 months from commencement to disposition.  The number of cross-border IP-related litigations is increasing due to the globalization of business activities.  IP High Court judges have access to neutral technical advisors to aid in interpreting complex cases, but a constrained discovery system can limit the evidence that can be used at trial.  Typical awarded damages are considerably lower than those seen in the United States.

On December 8, 2017, Japan and the European Union (EU) finalized negotiations on an Economic Partnership Agreement, which includes provisions related to IP including geographic indications.  The agreement entered into force on February 1, 2019.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) which entered into force on December 30, 2018 harmonizes intellectual property rights among the 11 member nations (including Japan).  However, the CPTPP suspended a number of provisions considered U.S. priorities in the original Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) chapter on IP in areas such as patents and pharmaceuticals, copyright, Internet service provider (ISP) liability, and IP rights enforcement.

Japan’s Customs and Tariff Bureau publishes a yearly report on good seizures, available online in English (http://www.customs.go.jp/mizugiwa/chiteki/pages/g_001_e.htm  ).  Japan seized USD 13.5 billion yen (USD 121.5 million) of goods in 2018, mostly due to intellectual property infringement.  China is by far the largest source of seized goods in Japan, accounting for 94 percent of all seizure cases and 89 percent of all seized goods by value.

U.S. stakeholders have recently expressed concern that Japan’s pharmaceutical reimbursement system does not adequately reward innovation and provide incentives for companies to invest in the research and development of advanced medical devices and innovative pharmaceuticals. Specifically, there are concerns that recent policy changes to the Price Maintenance Premium put Japanese companies at an advantage over U.S. companies.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  

Jordan

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The legal system reliably facilitates and protects the acquisition and disposition of property rights.  Foreign ownership of land and assets is governed by The Leasing of Immovable Assets and Their Sale to Non-Jordanian and Judicial Persons Law No. 47/2006. Under Article 3 of the law, if the buyer’s country of residence has a reciprocal relationship with Jordan, foreign nationals are afforded the right of ownership of property within urban borders in Jordan for residential purposes. According to the law, foreign nationals may rent immovable assets for business or accommodation purposes, provided that the plot of land does not exceed 10 acres and the lease is for no more than three years in duration. Interest in real property is recognized and enforced once recorded in a legal registry.

A new Property law was passed by the lower house on March 5, 2019, and went to the Senate for final review and approval. The new law aims to consolidate 13 laws governing property ownership in one legislation, and addresses issues such as zoning, and the facilitation of ownership and leases for foreign investors.

All land plots in Jordan are titled and registered with the Jordanian Land and Survey Department; any land not titled as private property is considered government property.

According the Ease of Doing Business report of 2019, Jordan ranked 72 out of 190 countries in “Registering Property.”

Intellectual Property Rights

Jordan has passed several laws in compliance with international commitments to protect intellectual property rights (IPR). Laws consistent with Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) now protect trade secrets, plant varieties, and semiconductor chip designs. Copyrights are registered with The Ministry of Culture’s National Library Department, and patents are registered with the Registrar of Patents and Trademarks at the Ministry of Industry and Trade. Jordan is a signatory to the Patent Cooperation Treaty and the Madrid Protocol, and accordingly, amended its patent and trademark laws in 2007 to enable ratification of the agreements. Jordan is a signatory to World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties on both copyrights and on performances and phonograms, and it has been developing updated laws for copyrights, trademark standards, and customs regulations to meet international standards. Jordanian firms are able to seek joint ventures and licensing agreements with multinational partners.

In 2017, Jordan acceded to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT); the treaty entered into force October 2017. The Ministry of Industry and Trade introduced an e-filing service in 2018 through https://ippd-eservice.mit.gov.jo/  .

Jordan’s record on IPR enforcement has improved in recent years, but more effective enforcement mechanisms and legal procedures are still needed. In particular, a large portion of pirated videos and software remain in the marketplace. Enforcement action against audio/video and software piracy is more frequent and enforcement capability is improving.  Since 2000, 6,011 violations of Jordan’s current copyright law have been referred to the judiciary, including 218 cases in 2018 and 174 cases in 2017. Trademark violations have also been problematic.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has an Intellectual Property Attaché for the Middle East and North Africa region based in the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait City, Kuwait. Please see: https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/ip-policy/intellectual-property-rights-ipr-attach-program/ip-attach-kuwait   for contact information.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ 

Kenya

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Foreigners cannot own land in Kenya, though they can lease it in 99-year increments.  The cumbersome and opaque process required to acquire land raises concerns about security of title, particularly given past abuses relating to the distribution and redistribution of public land.  The Land (Extension and Renewal of Leases) Rules (2017) has stopped the automatic renewal of leases and now ties renewals to the economic output of the land that must be beneficial to the economy.  If property legally purchased remains unoccupied, the property ownership can revert to other occupiers, including squatters. Privately-owned land comprised six percent of the total land area in 1990; government land was about 20 percent of the total and included national parks, forest land and alienated and un-alienated land.  Trust land is the most extensive type of tenure, comprising 64 percent of the total land area in 1990.

Mortgages and liens exist in Kenya, but the recording system is not reliable – Kenya has only some 40,000 recorded mortgages in a country of 42 million people – and there are often complaints of property rights and interests not being enforced.  The legal infrastructure around land ownership and registration has changed in recent years, and land issues delayed several major infrastructure projects coming into 2019. Kenya’s 2010 Constitution required all land leases to convert from 999 years to 99 years, giving the state the power to review leasehold land at the expiry of the 99 years, deny lease renewal, and confiscate the land if it determines the land has not been used productively.  The constitution also converted foreign-owned freehold interests into 99-year leases at a nominal “peppercorn rate” sufficient to satisfy the requirements for the creation of a legal contract. The GOK has not yet effectively implemented this provision. Work continues on the National Land Information Management System, but fully digitized, border-to-border cadastral data is still many years in the future.

The 2010 Constitution and subsequent land legislation created the National Land Commission, an independent government body mandated to review historical land injustices and provide oversight of government land policy and management.  This had the unintended side effect of introducing coordination and jurisdictional confusion between the commission and the Ministry of Lands. In February 2015, President Kenyatta commissioned the new National Titling Center with a promise to increase the 5.6 million title deeds issued since independence to 9 million.  According to the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning, 8.6 million title deeds have now been processed. Land grabbing resulting from double registration of titles, however, remains prevalent. Property legally purchased and unoccupied can revert ownership to other parties.

Intellectual Property Rights

The major intellectual property enforcement issues in Kenya related to counterfeit products are corruption, lack of penalty enforcement, failure to impound imports of counterfeit goods at the ports of entry, and reluctance of brand owners to file a complaint with the Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA).  The prevalence of “gray market” products – genuine products that enter the country illegally without paying import duties – also presents a challenge, especially in the mobile phone and computer sectors. Copyright piracy and the use of unlicensed software are also emerging challenges.

In an attempt to combat the import of counterfeits, the Ministry of Industrialization and the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) decreed in 2009 that all locally-manufactured goods must have a KEBS standardization mark.  Several categories of imported goods, specifically food products, electronics, and medicines, must have an import standardization mark (ISM). Under this program, U.S. consumer-ready products may enter the Kenyan market without altering the U.S. label but must also carry an ISM.  Once the product qualifies for a Confirmation of Conformity, KEBS will issue the ISM free of charge.

Kenya is not included on the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see the World Intellectual Property Organization’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Korea, Republic of

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Property rights and interests are enforced under the Civil Act.  Mortgages and liens exist, and the ROK’s recording system is reliable. The Alien Land Acquisition Act (amended in 1998) grants non-resident foreigners and foreign corporations the same rights as Koreans in purchasing and using land.  The Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) Act supports indirect investments in real estate and restructuring of corporations. The REIT Act allows investors to invest funds through an asset management company and in real property such as office buildings, business parks, shopping malls, hotels, and serviced apartments.  Property interests are enforced, and there is a reliable system for registering mortgages and liens, managed by the courts.  Legally-purchased property cannot revert to other owners, but squatters may have very limited rights in special situations, such as a right to cultivation of unoccupied land.

Intellectual Property Rights

Four ROK ministries share primary responsibility for protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR): the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism (MCST); the Korea Copyright Protection Agency (KCOPA); the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO); and the Korea Customs Service (KCS).  Now a decade removed from exiting the Special 301 Watch List in 2009, the ROK has become a regional leader in terms of legal framework and enforcement for IPR. Enforcement efforts have been primarily focused on online activity in recent years, but some industry sources have reported a loss of momentum in preventing the sale of physical counterfeit goods.  No new IP-related laws or amendments were enacted in 2018, and no relevant reforms are expected in the near future.

Industry sources have expressed satisfaction with the ROK legal framework, saying Korea has become a “model Asian nation” for IPR protections.  KIPO Special Judicial Police seized 542,505 counterfeit items from 361 persons in 2018, down from 691,630 items seized from 362 persons in 2017.  KIPO also suspended 6,181 online transactions in 2018, up from 6,156 cases in 2017; and closed 225 illegal online shopping malls in 2018, up from 191 in 2017.  In addition, KIPO provides training to law enforcement officers, educates the public through television and other media, and rewards those who report counterfeit goods.  KCS seized USD 470 million of IP-infringing goods in 2018, an increase of 249 percent from 2017.  Trademark enforcement accounted for 88 percent of these cases, which were mostly for counterfeit watches, apparel, and other consumer goods.  KCS also promotes IPR protection by posting public service announcements on public transportation (trains and subways) and via social media.

Some industry sources have expressed concern about the prosecution of IPR violations in the ROK, stating that light sentences do not correspond to the lucrative nature of infringing activity and do not serve as an effective deterrent.  Though MCST Judicial Police recommended 670 IPR cases for legal action to the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) in 2018, a 24 percent increase on the previous year, the total number of people indicted by the SPO for Copyright Act violations dropped from 24,309 in 2017 to 18,392 in 2018.

Stakeholders have expressed concern, however, that Korea’s pharmaceutical reimbursement is not conducted in a fair, transparent, and nondiscriminatory manner that recognizes the value of innovation.  In March 2018, negotiations to improve and better implement the KORUS FTA concluded with a commitment from Korea to amend its Premium Pricing Policy for Global Innovative New Drugs to ensure non-discriminatory and fair treatment for pharmaceutical products and medical devices, including imported products and devices. Korea’s implementation of this commitment has resulted in amendments that appear to make it so that very few, if any, companies or products will qualify for premium pricing.

The ROK was not listed in the 2019 Special 301 report, nor was it included in the 2018 Notorious Markets List.  For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local intellectual property offices, please see World Intellectual Property Organization’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Kosovo

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Generally, Kosovo’s de jure property-related laws are well structured and provide for security and transferability of rights.  The country’s legal and regulatory framework is complex. Government ministries, municipal authorities, and independent agencies jurisdictions often overlap, and the court system is backlogged with property-related cases.  Property rights and interests are enforced, but weaknesses in the legal system and the difficult of establishing title to real estate can make enforcement difficult. Kosovo has mortgages and liens but the range of financial products for both is currently limited.  Mortgage agreements must be registered in cadastral records by the Kosovo Cadastral Agency, while pledge agreements must be registered with the pledge registry, which is a centralized registry office in the Business Registration Agency. The World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business Report ranked Kosovo 37 out of 190 economies for ease of registering property.  The report noted Kosovo made transferring property easier in 2014 by introducing a new notary system and combining procedures for drafting and legalizing sale and purchase agreements.

The Kosovo Property Comparison and Verification Agency (KPCVA)  is responsible for receiving, registering, and resolving property claims on private immovable property, including agricultural and commercial property.  Decisions of the Kosovo Property Claims Commission within the KPCVA are subject to a right of appeal to the Supreme Court. The KPCVA has received 42,749 total claims, the vast majority of which relate to agricultural property.  The KPCVA holds the mandate for implementing decisions of the Housing and Property Claims Commission (HPCC) that are pending enforcement.

Resolution of residential, agricultural, and commercial property claims remains a serious and contentious issue in Kosovo and limit the development of the formal property market needed for more stable economic growth.  Many property records were destroyed or removed to Serbia by the Serbian government during the 1998-1999 conflict, which can make determining rightful ownership difficult. The country is in the process of rebuilding the property registry and an EU-facilitated Kosovo-Serbia dialogue includes a component focused on restoring the cadastral records taken from Kosovo.

While Article 121.2 of the Constitution states foreign nationals and organizations may acquire ownership rights over real estate in accordance with conditions established by law or international agreement, Kosovo has no specific legislation establishing relevant conditions.  In early 2017, Kosovo launched the national strategy on land and property rights reform, which includes a provision to clarify and codify regulations regarding property ownership by foreign and/or non-resident investors. Per Article 40 in the Law on Property and Other Real Rights, a proprietary possessor acquires ownership of immovable property after ten years of uninterrupted and uncontested possession.

Intellectual Property Rights

Registration of intellectual property rights (IPR) conforms with regional and international practices.  A trademark registration process takes approximately nine months, while patent approval takes about 18 months.

Public awareness of the importance of brand protection and associated IPR is low.  A number of counterfeit consumer goods, notably CDs, DVDs, and clothing items, are available for sale and are openly traded.  Evidence suggests there is little domestic production of counterfeit goods in Kosovo, but the importation of counterfeit goods, especially apparel, is a concern.  The government tracks and reports on seizures of counterfeit goods.

IPR protections are improving slowly.  The Law on Patents, Law on Trademarks, Law on Industrial Design, and Law on Geographical Indices, together with the relevant Criminal Code and Customs provisions, provide for strong protection of IPR; authorize enforcement of trademark, copyright, and patent laws; and comply with related international conventions.  The IPR laws were amended in 2015 to strengthen legal remedies for right holders and to further align them with the EU standards. The Ministry of Trade and Investment established the Industrial Property Rights Office (IPO) in 2007, which is tasked with IPR protection. In 2018, the Assembly approved the Law on Customs Measures for Protection of Intellectual Property Rights in order to harmonize it with EU regulations.  These laws adhere to international treaties and conventions, including the Paris Convention, Madrid Protocol, Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, Budapest Treaty, and several European Council Directives on protection of IPR.

To enhance IPR enforcement and increase interagency coordination, the government has adopted an IPR strategy and established the National Intellectual Property Council and a Task Force Against Piracy.  The Council and the Task Force have similar structures and are comprised of the IPO, the Copyright Office, Customs, Kosovo Police Departments for Economic and Cyber Crimes, Market Inspectorate, and the Ministry of Justice.  The Council also includes the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council, courts, and other government and non-governmental institutions.

Kosovo is not listed in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.  Kosovo is not a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and there is no WIPO country profile for Kosovo.

Kuwait

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Non-GCC citizens may own properties only under special conditions that require Cabinet approval.  Kuwait ranked 69 out of 190 in Ease of Registering a Property in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 report.

Intellectual Property Rights

Kuwait acceded to the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in 1995 and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Patent Cooperation Treaty in 2016.  The government enacted the GCC Trademark Law in 2015 and the Copyright and Related Rights Law in 2016. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) included Kuwait on its 2019 Special 301 Report Priority Watch List, which identifies countries that are trading partners that do not adequately or effectively protect and enforce intellectual property rights (IPR).  Kuwait has been on the Priority Watch List for five consecutive years. USTR closed the Out-of-Cycle Review in 2019 for Kuwait without a change in status. Kuwait has not yet brought its copyright regime in line with its international commitments by making the necessary improvements to the regulations implementing its 2016 Copyright and Related Rights Law.

Right holders continue to raise systemic concerns regarding difficulty in having the Ministry of Commerce and Industry’s Consumer Protection Department remove illicit physical goods from the market, as well as the lack of transparency of administrative and criminal enforcement proceedings.  The government did not adequately take action to curb the relabeling, repackaging, and sale of counterfeit and pirated goods, including by targeting manufacturers and increasing fines and penalties to deterrent levels. The government did not prioritize the prosecution of criminal behavior in such cases nor reduce the undue delays in the judicial process.

The following descriptions characterize the protection of IPR in Kuwait:

  • Trademarks: strong; trademark applications can be filed at the Kuwaiti Trademark Office, organized under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.  Kuwait applies the GCC trademark law.
  • Patents: strong; the Kuwait Patent Office announced that it began accepting Patent Cooperation Treaty compliant national applications in March 2018.
  • Copyright: medium; can be protected by the Ministry of Information/National Library of Kuwait. There are efforts underway to amend the new copyright law and join WIPO’s Copyright and Internet Treaties.

The IPR enforcement regime has improved, most notably in the following areas:

  • The Ministry of Information (MOI) has conducted raids, seized pirated goods (such as DVDs), and referred cases for prosecution.  In addition, it continued blocking Internet domains that allow downloads of pirated copyrighted materials and websites that sell counterfeit goods.
  • The Criminal Investigations Department (CID) established a specialized IPR unit to combat counterfeit goods.  Brand owners are able to bring complaints directly to this unit for action in cooperation with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.  The CID conducted raids and criminal proceedings on a range of pirated and counterfeit physical goods.
  • Ministry of Commerce and Industry performed raids and seizures under the direction of the Assistant Undersecretary of Trade Control, but focused more on small retail shops than more important targets like sources and suppliers of counterfeit goods.
  • General Administration of Customs officials improved enforcement in part due to their close collaboration with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.  Kuwait Customs’ Intellectual Property Rights Unit reported approximately three hundred seizures of counterfeit or pirated goods last year, enhanced outreach and communication with brand owners and copyright owners, and no longer permitted the re-export of seized counterfeit goods.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at the following website: http://www.wipo.int/directory/en  

Resources for Rights Holders

Mr. Peter Mehravari
Intellectual Property Attaché for the Middle East & North Africa
U.S. Embassy Kuwait
Tel: +965 2259 1455
Email: Peter.Mehravari@trade.gov

Embassy list of local lawyers: http://2016.export.gov/kuwait/businessserviceproviders/index.asp  

Laos

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The government continues to consider changes to its existing land policy, although progress has been slow; and is complicated by sensitive issues including community-held land rights, traditional land rights, slash-and-burn or shifting cultivation, and a history of expropriation for infrastructure, mining, and power projects. A draft revision to the Law on Land Rights has been previewed at multiple National Assembly sessions, but continues to be delayed because of the numerous sensitivities.

Foreign investors are not currently permitted to own land.  However, Article 16 of the 2016 Law on Investment Promotion allows investors to obtain land for use through long-term leases or as concessions, and allows the ownership of leases and the right to transfer and improve leasehold interests.  Government approval is not required to transfer property interests, but the transfer must be registered and a registration fee paid.

Under existing law, a creditor may enforce security rights against a debtor and the concept of a mortgage does exist.  The Lao government is currently engaged in a land parceling and titling project, but it remains difficult to determine if a piece of property is encumbered in Laos.  Enforcement of mortgages is complicated by the legal protection given mortgagees against forfeiture of their sole place of residence.

Laos provides for secured interests in moveable and non-moveable property under the 2005 Law on Secured Transactions and a 2011 implementing decree from the Prime Minister.  In 2013, the State Assets Management Authority at the Ministry of Finance launched a new Secured Transaction Registry (STR), intended to expand access to credit for individuals and smaller firms.  The STR allows for registration of movable assets such as vehicles and equipment so that they may be easily verified by financial institutions and used as collateral for loans.

Outside of urban areas, land rights can be even more complex.  Titles and ownership are not clear, and some areas practice communal titling.

Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property protection in Laos is weak, but steadily improving.  The USAID-funded Lao PDR-U.S. International and ASEAN Integration (USAID LUNA II) project assisted the Lao government’s efforts to increase its capacity in the area of IPR and to progress on the IPR-related commitments undertaken as a part of Laos’ 2013 WTO accession package. USAID LUNA II worked with the Ministry of Science and Technology’s Department of Intellectual Property to establish an online portal that provides detailed information regarding the registration of copyrights and trademarks. Interested individuals can use the portal to complete the application forms online. The portal officially launched in February 2019. Additionally, USAID LUNA II provided technical support to the Lao government in amending the Law on Intellectual Property.

Government reorganization in 2011 created the Ministry of Science and Technology, which controls the issuance of patents, copyrights, and trademarks.  Laos is a member of the ASEAN Common Filing System on patents but lacks qualified patent examiners. The bilateral Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) agreement between Thailand and Laos dictates that a patent issued in Thailand also be recognized in Laos.

Laos is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Convention and the Paris Convention on the Protection of Industrial Property but has not yet joined the Berne Convention on Copyrights.

In 2011 the National Assembly passed a comprehensive revision of the Law on Intellectual Property which brings it into compliance with WIPO and Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property standards (TRIPS).  Amendments to the 2011 Law on Intellectual Property were made public in May 2018. The consolidation of responsibility for IPR under the Ministry of Science and Technology is a positive development, but the Ministry lacks enforcement capacity.

Laos is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets report.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Latvia

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Latvia recognizes the full spectrum of property rights, including mortgages and liens.  According to the latest World Bank Doing Business Report, Latvia is ranked 25th out of 190 countries in terms of ease of registering property.  Latvia does not have significant problems with unclear legal titles. More information: http://www.globalpropertyguide.com/Europe/Latvia/Buying-Guide   and http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/latvia#registering-property  .

Intellectual Property Rights

In an effort to harmonize its legislation with EU and World Trade Organization (WTO) requirements, Latvia has established a legal framework for the protection of intellectual property, including legislation to protect copyrights, trademarks, and patents.  The Law on Copyrights strengthens the protection of software copyrights and neighboring rights. Foreign owners may seek redress for violation of their intellectual property rights (IPR) through the Appellation Council at the Latvian Patent Office, as well as through private litigation.  In copyright violation cases, aggrieved parties can request that the use of the pirated works be prohibited, that pirated copies be destroyed, and that violators compensate them for losses (including lost profits). The criminal law stipulates penalties for copyright violations.  

In July 1994, the United States signed a Trade and Intellectual Property Rights Agreement with Latvia.  Latvia has been a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) since January 1993, the Paris Convention since September 1993, the Berne Convention since August 1995, and the Geneva Convention for the Protection of Producers of Phonograms Against Unauthorized Duplication of their Phonograms since August 1997.  In addition, the Latvian government has amended all relevant laws and regulations to comply with the requirements of the WTO Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, to which Latvia acceded upon joining the WTO.  

The business community has raised concerns regarding the enforcement of IPR in Latvia.  As in many places in eastern and central Europe, piracy rates are relatively high. Latvian law enforcement authorities have the authority to investigate IPR infringement cases.

Every year, the European Commission publishes a report describing the customs detentions of articles suspected of infringing IPR, such as trademarks, copyrights and patents.  These statistics are available here: https://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/business/customs-controls/counterfeit-piracy-other-ipr-violations/ipr-infringements-facts-figures_en   .  

Latvia is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Resources for Rights Holders

Mike Ritchie
Economic Officer, U.S.  Embassy Riga, Latvia
+371 6710-7000
Email: RitchieMK@state.gov

List of Attorneys in Latvia, compiled by the Consular Section of the U.S.  Embassy in Riga: https://lv.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/.   

American Chamber of Commerce of Latvia: http://www.amcham.lv/en/home  

Contact at Copyright Offices

Ms. Linda Zommere
Director of Copyright Division, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia
+371 6733-0211
Email: Linda.Zommere@km.gov.lv

Contact at Industrial Property Offices

Mr.  Sandris Laganovskis
Director of the Patent Office of the Republic of Latvia
+371 670 99 608
Email: valde@lrpv.lv

Lebanon

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The right to private ownership is respected in Lebanon.  The concept of a mortgage exists and secured interests in property, both movable and real, are recognized and enforced.  Such security interests must be recorded in the Commercial Registry and the Real Estate Registry.  The Real Estate Law governs acquisition and disposition of all property rights by Lebanese nationals, while Law No. 296, dated April 3, 2001, governs real estate acquisition by non-Lebanese.  Over ten percent of land, mostly in rural and remote areas, does not have clear title.  The government is undertaking efforts to identify property owners and register land titles.

Intellectual Property Rights

While Lebanon is not a WTO member, its intellectual property rights (IPR) legislation is generally compliant with Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) standards.  IPR enforcement is weak.  The MoET’s Intellectual Property Protection Office (IPPO) has led efforts to improve the IPR regime, but suffers from limited financial resources, human capital and insufficient political support.  Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces (ISF) and Customs play roles in enforcement.  The understanding of IPR within the Lebanese judiciary has improved somewhat in recent years but gaps remain with regards to the negative economic impact that IPR violations have on the economy.  The MoET’s new draft laws and amendments to existing laws aimed at improving the IPR environment, notably for industrial design, trademark, geographical indications, as well as amendments to the copyright law, await parliamentary approval.

Existing IPR laws cover copyright, patent, trademarks, and geographical elements.  Lebanon’s 1999 Copyright Law largely complies with WTO regulations and needs only minor amendments to become fully compatible.  Copyright registration in Lebanon is not mandatory, and copyright protection is granted without the need for registration.  The MoET launched an online registration service in January 2013 for copyrights and trademarks on https://portal.economy.gov.lb/ .  This service simplified the registration process and now over 80 percent of registrations of trademarks and copyrights take place online.  Due to the complexity of copyrights and patents, registration is still accepted in person at the MoET, and payment must also take place in person.  The switch from a deposit system to an objection system for trademarks also remains stalled due to the need for parliamentary approval.  However, the MoET noted that it implements the objection system in practice.

Lebanon’s Parliament ratified the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) in February 2010.  Ratification documents have not yet been deposited with WIPO, since this would also require amendments to the Copyright Law.

A modern TRIPS-compatible Patent Law, approved in 2000, provides general protection for semiconductor chip layout designs and plant varieties.  Data protection and undisclosed information fall under Article 47 of the Patent Law, but current provisions for pharmaceutical registration are subject to interpretation.  Generic manufacturers in Lebanon are not prohibited from using original data (e.g., data published on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website) to register competing products that are identical to original products.  Decree No. 571 on the conditions of registering, importing, marketing, and classifying pharmaceuticals, which should have improved the process of drug registration and reduced the number of copycat drugs being registered, still leaves some room for interpretation.  There are no current plans to amend the Patent Law.  On patent registrations, the Lebanese legal regime does not require examination for novelty, utility, and innovation.  A simple patent deposit is required at the MoET, where the application is examined only for conformity with general laws and ethics.

The Internal Security Force (ISF) Cybercrime and IP Unit under ISF’s Judicial Police directorate focuses its efforts on online counterfeiting and copyright violations, whereas the Money Laundering and Financial Crimes Unit investigates trademark violations associated with counterfeit physical goods.  Lebanese Customs makes efforts to combat smuggling and plays a direct role in IPR enforcement by seizing counterfeits.  The U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 annual review of intellectual property protection worldwide has retained Lebanon on its watch list since 2008.

The IPPO acts upon the requests of rights holders in an ex officio capacity.  The ISF cannot act in an ex officio capacity and still requires a criminal complaint to be filed with the prosecutor’s office in order to take action.  The sale and distribution of pirated, counterfeit, and copycat products continued across Lebanon in commercial establishments and through street vendors.  This included leather goods, apparel and luxury items, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs), software, optical media, and pharmaceuticals.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ 

Lesotho

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The right to private property is protected under the law.  All foreign and domestic private entities may freely establish, acquire, and dispose of interests in business enterprises.  Under the Land Act of 2010, foreign nationals are permitted to buy and hold land provided they have a local partner with at least 20 percent ownership.  Lesotho has no competition or overall competition regulator. The Industrial Licensing Act 1969, which allowed businesses to apply for protection against competition for up to 10 years, was repealed in 2014.

Secured interests in property, both movable and real, are recognized and enforced under the Land Act 2010.  The concept of a mortgage exists; and mortgages are protected under the Deeds Registry Act of 1967. Secured interests, including mortgages, are recorded and filed by the Deeds Registry.  Through the support of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the government of Lesotho significantly improved the process of registering land titles; peaking at 88 under the “Registering Property” index of the World Bank’s Doing Business Report in 2014.

Commercial banks are the only financial mechanisms/sources available in Lesotho for securitization of properties for lending purposes.  In cases in which land is accepted as collateral, the banks work with the Land Administration of Authority (LAA) to develop secured lending capabilities for investors.  LAA is an autonomous government body established to modernize and improve land administration and to reduce land transactions costs and the time it takes to acquire or dispose of a leasehold title to land.

All allocated land in Lesotho is held under title (Form C’s).  However, the Land Administration Act (LAA) encourages titleholders to register their titles into leases so they are recorded in a formal registration system.  LAA undertook a Scheme of Regularization in 2011 to assist title holders acquire leases. This followed the establishment of the LAA, funded by the U.S. Government through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).  Presently, LAA is awaiting publication of a Regularization Gazette to continue with regularization of land parcels, mainly for commercial plots in four urban areas of Berea, Botha-Bothe, Mohale’s Hoek, and Quthing.

Land titles (leases) as well as secondary land transactions (transfers, mortgages, subleases, and mining leases) are registered in the Deeds Registry and can be enforced in the Land Courts, Magistrate Courts, and High Court.  Mortgages are registered in the Deeds Registry, which serves as a reliable recording system. For more information please visit www.laa.org.ls  .

Intellectual Property Rights

Legal structures to protect intellectual property rights (IPR) are relatively strong.  Investors complain that enforcement is somewhat weak, although infringements and theft are not common.  Lesotho respects international IPR laws and is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as well as the African Intellectual Property Organization.

Protection of IPR is regulated by the Industrial Property Order of 1989 and the Copyright Act of 1989, which conform to the standards set out in the Paris Convention and Berne Convention.  The laws protect patents, industrial designs, trademarks, and grant of copyright, but they do not protect trade secrets or semi-conductor chip lay-out design. The Law Office is responsible for enforcement of the Industrial Property Order, while the Ministry of Tourism, Sports and Culture is responsible for enforcement of copyright (reflecting the law’s focus on protection of artistic works).  The Deeds Registry carries out registration.

Two bills with IP related regulations are yet to be passed in Lesotho Parliament.  The Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology in liaison with the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) have finalized the drafting of the Computer Crime and Cyber Security bill and the Electronic Transactions and Commerce bill.  If enacted, the bills will improve the protection of IPR by addressing cyber-crime and protecting electronic transactions.

Lesotho is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Resources for Rights Holders

Contact at Mission:

Matt Jamrisko
Political and Economic Officer
+266 2231-2666
MaseruCommercial@state.gov

Local Lawyers List:

NALEDI CHAMBERS INCORPORATED
1st Floor, Metropolitan Building
Kingsway
Maseru, Lesotho
Tel.  : +266 22 314 986
Fax   : +266 22 310521
naledichambersinc@tlmail.co.ls

Liberia

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Property rights and interests are legally protected under Liberian law; however, enforcement mechanisms are weak.  The Liberia Bank for Development and Investment   is the only bank currently lending for “long-term” (up to ten years) ventures in housing, including mortgage finance.  Land ownership in Liberia is restricted to Liberian citizens. Chapter III, Article 22, of the Liberian Constitution states:  “Every person shall have the right to own property alone as well as in association with others, provided that only Liberian citizens shall have the right to own real property within the Republic.  Private property rights, however, shall not extend to any mineral resources on or beneath any land or to any lands under the seas and waterways of the Republic.” Acquisition of land by foreign and/or non-resident investors is only possible through rent or leasehold.  Leases ordinarily run for 25-50 years, but exceptions are permitted under the law. Land ownership, lease, and use are governed by both statutory and customary laws. Rights to land ownership and use of resources such as minerals and timber have become increasingly critical issues in recent years, fueled by increased foreign investor interest and clashes between traditional and statutory land uses. 

Although the Liberia Land Authority (LLA) encourages property owners to identify and register land titles, it does not have systemic enforcement programs as part of its land governance and land administration functions.  The LLA estimates that less than 20 percent of the country’s total land is formally registered, conflicting land ownership records are common, and it is difficult to determine who may own real property. The U.S. Embassy is aware of unresolved concessions-related land disputes.  As firms commence operations, local communities may fear that their lands are being encroached upon, which can lead to disputes, strikes, and sometimes violence. In the interest of minimizing lost productivity and in the absence of government adjudication, companies often make additional community-level payments or agreements to resolve competing land claims.  The future enforceability of such agreements is unclear. Prospective investors should not underestimate the potential for costly and complex land dispute issues to arise even after concluding agreements with the government.

In September 2018, the government passed into law the land reform bill, the Land Rights Act, which classified land into four categorizes, namely: Public Land (owned but not currently used by the government), Government Land (used by state agencies for office buildings, etc.), Customary Land ( owned and used by rural communities for their livelihoods), and Private Land (owned by a private citizen).  The act protects communities in many ways including formally recognizing that rural communities own their land under customary law; it gives them legal standing to consent to awarding new contracts, empowering them to make decisions about how their land should be used. For the first time in Liberian history, the law guarantees legal certainty for every category of land ownership and provides the legal basis for resolving historical land problems that have caused conflicts over the years.  In the law, a community’s claim of ownership to customary land will be established by evidence including oral testimonies of community members, maps, signed agreements between neighboring localities and any other confirming documents.

 [Reference]

Reference analysis from the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, including its country/economy’s ranking for ease of “registering property” (rankings available at: http://www.doingbusiness.org/rankings  ).

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)

Liberia’s IPR legal structure, regulatory environment, and protection and enforcement processes are weak.  IPR law enforcement is poor and rights infringements are common. The Liberia Intellectual Property Act covers such areas as domain names, traditional knowledge, transfer of technology, and patents/copyrights, etc.  The Liberia Intellectual Property Office (LIPO) operates as a semi-autonomous agency functioning under the administrative oversight of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI). It lacks the capacity to address IPR infringements.  During the past year the government has not put in place new IPR-related laws or regulations. It does not have a system in place to track and report on seizures of counterfeit goods, figures or statistics on counterfeit good seizures are not available, and the government does not prosecute IPR violations.  The majority of Liberians are unfamiliar with IPR, and IP and industrial property rights infringement is prevalent, including unauthorized duplication of movies, music, and books. Counterfeit drugs, apparel, cosmetics, mobile phones, computer software, and hardware are sold openly. Liberia is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 Report.  Neither is Liberia listed in the notorious market report (see 2016 listings at: https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/2016-Out-of-Cycle-Review-Notorious-Markets.pdf ).  For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IPR offices, see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/

Lithuania

5. Protection of Property Rights

Lithuanian law protects foreign investments and the rights of investors in several ways:

  • The Constitution and the Law on Foreign Capital Investment protect all forms of private property against nationalization or requisition.
  • International agreements, such as the 1958 New York Convention on the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards, offer protection.
  • Bilateral agreements with the United States and other western countries on the mutual protection and encouragement of investments reinforce these protections.  The U.S. and Lithuania BIT has been in effect since 2001.
  • The Law on Capital Investment in Lithuania and other acts regulate customs duties, taxes, and relationships with financial and inspection authorities.  This law also establishes dispute settlement procedures.
  • In the event of justified expropriation, applicable law entitles investors to compensation equivalent to the fair market value of the expropriated property.
  • Foreign investors may defend their rights under the Washington Convention of 1965 by applying to either Lithuanian courts or directly to the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes.  To date, Lithuania has not been involved in any major investment disputes with U.S. or other foreign investors.
  • State institutions and officials are obligated to keep commercial secrets confidential and must pay compensation for any loss or damage caused by illegal disclosure.  Lithuania legalized the possibility of hiring private bailiffs to enforce court judgments in 2003.

Lithuania’s commercial laws conform to EU requirements, and include the principles of the free establishment of companies, protection of shareholders’ and creditors’ rights, free access to information, and registration procedures.  Relevant laws include: the Company Law and Law on Partnerships (2004), the Law on Personal Enterprises (2004), the Law on Investments (1999), the Law on Bankruptcy of Enterprises (2001), and the Law on Restructuring of Enterprises (2001).  The Civil Code of 2000 governs commercial guarantees and security instruments. It provides for the following types of guarantee and security instruments to secure fulfillment of contractual obligations: forfeiture, surety, guarantee, earnest money, pledge, and mortgage.

Intellectual Property Rights

Lithuania has significantly improved intellectual property rights (IPR) protection in recent years; members of the innovation community report that IPR infringements and theft is infrequent.  Lithuania joined the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 2002 and the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001. Lithuania, as a member of the EU, has ratified WIPO’s Internet treaties (Copyright Treaty and the Performances and Phonograms Treaty) as listed below.  It is also a signatory to the following IPR-related treaties and conventions:

  1. The Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property in 1990 (effective May 22, 1994)
  2. The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works of 1886 (effective December 14, 1994)
  3. The Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations of 1961 (effective July 22, 1999)
  4. The Nice Agreement Concerning International Classification of Goods and Services of 1957 (effective February 22, 1997)
  5. The Madrid Protocol of 1989 (effective November 15, 1997)
  6. The Patent Cooperation Treaty of 1970 under the auspices of WIPO (effective July 5, 1994)
  7. The Conventions on the Grant of European Patents (December 1, 2004)
  8. The WIPO Copyright Treaty of 1996 (effective March 6, 2002)
  9. The WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty of 1996 (effective May 20, 2002)
  10. The Trademark Law Treaty of 1994 (effective April 27, 1998)
  11. The WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) (effective May 31, 2001)

Following EU accession, Lithuania extended protection to member states’ trademarks, designs, and applications.  Lithuania brought its national law protecting biological inventions into compliance with EU Directive 98/44 in June 2005. In 2008, Lithuania was removed from the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report, and it is not listed on the Notorious Markets List.  For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at: http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

The State Patent Bureau provides a list of patent attorneys at the following link:  https://vpb.lrv.lt/en/  

Luxembourg

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Secured interests in property in Luxembourg, both movable and real, are recognized and enforced through intellectual property and community laws.  The legal system that protects and facilitates acquisition and disposition of all property rights, such as land and buildings, is based on a land register called cadastre in French, where each parcel of property is documented in terms of ownership and duration.  There is adherence to key international agreements on intellectual property rights, as well as adequate protection for intellectual property, patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets.

Luxembourg ranks 92 out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business Report for ease of Registering Property.

Luxembourg law allows the securitization of many types of assets, risks, revenues and activities It makes securitization accessible to all types of investors (institutional or individual), which means that securitization can easily facilitate the financing of a company or the management of personal or family wealth.  An extremely wide range of assets can be securitized: securities, loans, subordinated or non-subordinated bonds), risks linked to debt (commercial and other), moveable and immovable property (whether tangible or not).

Under Luxembourg law, a securitization vehicle can be constituted either as a company or a fund. Securitization companies can benefit from EU directives and double tax treaties. Securitization organizations that continually issue transferable assets for the public must be approved and supervised by the financial sector supervisory authority, the Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier (CSSF).

Intellectual Property Rights

Trademarks, designs, patents, and copyrights are the principal forms of intellectual property (IP) protection available to companies and individuals.  Luxembourg has been proactive in developing its IP standards and participates in all the major IP treaties and conventions, including:

  • Bern Convention
  • Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)
  • Paris Convention
  • Patent Law Treaty (PLT)
  • Madrid Agreement and Protocol

The country is a signatory of the European Patent Convention, created by the European Patent Office (EPO), and is a member state of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Adequate steps have also been taken to implement and enforce the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.

In Luxembourg, the Litigation and Research Department (Division des Contentieux et Recherches) of the Directorate of Customs and Excise (Direction des Douanes et Accises) regulates and oversees applications to prohibit the release of counterfeit and pirated goods for free circulation, export, re-export or entry into the country.  Customs officers have every right to seize (but not necessarily destroy) goods. Most cases are related to customs declaration abuses by the owner (importing products above the maximum allowable amount for tax-free treatment within the EU) and not to counterfeit goods.

The merits of a counterfeit goods case are decided by judicial proceedings, thus the ordinary law courts are responsible for deciding whether there are grounds for a case.  A number of provisions within the TRIPS Agreement describe different intellectual property rights and allow for the possibility of confiscating, or even destroying, counterfeit goods and the tools or implements used in their production.

The Luxembourg customs authorities may impose measures, such as seizures or import bans, for a period of six months, which may be renewed at the request of the rights-holder.  The customs office tracks the seizures of counterfeit goods, notably at Luxembourg Airport, but this is a small part of customs work. There are no public statistics on such seizures.

The main rules of civil procedure are contained in the Luxembourg Code of Civil Procedure and in the Administration of Justice Act.  In the absence of specific rules concerning material and local jurisdiction for certain intellectual property rights, ordinary law applies.

In an effort to become the prime location for Europe’s knowledge-based and digital economies, Luxembourg implemented a new IP tax regime in 2008 that provides a very competitive tax rate (first 8 percent, then down to 3 percent) applicable to a broad range of IP income.

The level of IP protections and enforcement is excellent, and an update to the 2008 law was made in 2013.  However, due to pressure from the EU Commission in Brussels to disallow fiscal advantages to specific Member States, the IP fiscal regime in Luxembourg is no longer offered as of 2016, and assets are now subject to the standard VAT rate of 17 percent.

On March 22, 2018, the Luxembourg Government approved legislative measures to bring Luxembourg’s new IP regime into force with effect from January 1, 2018. The new regime is fully consistent with all recommendations made by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Forum on Harmful Tax Practices, including those set out in the OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project Action 5 Final Report published in October 2015.

Under the new regime, eligible net income from qualifying IP assets will benefit from an 80 percent exemption on income taxes. Consequently, a corporate taxpayer based in Luxembourg City with eligible net income will be taxed on such income at an overall (i.e. corporate income taxes plus municipal business tax) effective tax rate of 5.202 percent in the 2018 tax year.

IP assets qualifying for the new regime also benefit from a full exemption from Luxembourg’s net wealth tax. Luxembourg is not listed in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) 2019 Special 301 Report, nor is it listed on the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Macau

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Private ownership of property is enshrined in the Basic Law. There are no restrictions on foreign property ownership. Macau has a sound banking mortgage system, which is under the supervision of the Macau Monetary Authority (MMA). There are only a small number of freehold property interests in the older part of Macau.

According to the Cartography and Cadaster Bureau, 21 percent of land parcels in Macau do not have clear title, for unknown reasons. Industry observers commented that no one knows whether these land parcels will be privately or publicly owned in the future.

The Land Law (Decree 10/2013) stipulates that provisional land concessions cannot be renewed upon their expiration if their leaseholders fail to finish developing the respective plots of land within a maximum concession period of 25 years. The leaseholders will not only be prohibited from renewing the undeveloped concessions – regardless of who or what caused the non-development – but also have no right to be indemnified or compensated.

Intellectual Property Rights

Macau is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Macau is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 Report. Macau has acceded to the Bern Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. Patents and trademarks are registered under Decree 97/99/M. Macau’s copyright laws are compatible with the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, and government offices are required to use only licensed software. The GOM devotes considerable attention to intellectual property rights enforcement and coordinates with copyright holders. Source Identification Codes are stamped on all optical discs produced in Macau. The MES uses an expedited prosecution arrangement to speed up punishment of accused retailers of pirated products. The copyright protection law has been extended to cover online privacy. Copyright infringement for trade or business purposes is subject to a fine or maximum imprisonment of four years.

Macau Customs maintains an enforcement department to investigate incidents of intellectual property (IP) theft. Macau Customs works closely with Mainland Chinese authorities, foreign customs agencies, and the World Customs Organization to share best practices to address criminal organizations engaging in IP theft. In 2018, Macau Customs seized a total of 5,991 pieces of counterfeit goods, including 4,728 garments, 562 pairs of shoes, 167 leather products, and 534 electronic appliances.

The number of applications for trademark registrations grew by double digits over the past five years. In 2018, the MES filed a total of 16,474 applications for trademark registrations.

Madagascar

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Upon independence, Madagascar continued the land tenure policies of the French colonial administration with the presumption of state ownership of all land and the central government being the sole provider of legitimate land titles.  However, due to the length and cost of the procedures for registering land, together with the remoteness of the authorities, customary practices for recognition of property rights prevailed at the local level. Recognition of property rights at this local level entailed the use of non-uniform, handwritten titles.  The Land Title Office in Antananarivo is the only place to obtain an official title whenever a locally registered business wants to acquire a large parcel of government land. Registering a land title or transfer remains difficult, costly, and time-consuming for those outside the capital.

In 2005, with the support of a Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact, the government embarked on a land reform project to simplify the registration process and to reconcile the existing formal and informal land titles.  The reform reversed the presumption of state ownership of land and introduced private ownership, while at the same time decentralizing land registration and recognizing/formalizing the existing local customs for social recognition of property rights.

The 2009 political crisis disrupted this reform process, leaving the country with approximately 10 percent of its existing land plots with formal title.  The majority of land ownership disputes are resolved at the local level without recourse to judicial proceedings. The small percentage of disputes that rise to the court system remain bogged down due to the complexity of the cases and the lack of clear evidence of ownership, and even when determinations are made, they are often not adequately enforced.

The Investment Law n°2007-036 provides foreign investors with authorization to access a real estate property through lease with a maximum duration of 99 years, renewable, so long as the concerned property serves exclusively and continuously to carry out commercial activity.  The law specifically prohibits the acquisition of land by foreign investors for resale in its original state, or for sale after its development.

Banks and insurance companies use mortgages and liens on commercial property to guarantee loans.

Over the past years, the government has re-initiated land reform with the intent to complete the process that was on standby since 2009.  By the end of 2017, the parliament adopted a new national land policy and act to redefine the status of every land. The purpose of the act is to determine the management of titled properties, the registration procedures for immovable property, and the procedure for restoring land documents.

Intellectual Property Rights

Protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) is uneven in Madagascar.  Officially, authorities protect against infringement but, in reality, enforcement capacity is quite limited due to resource constraints, weakness of the judicial system, and a lack of awareness of IPR among consumers.  These constraints have led some international investors to experience difficulties enforcing their rights. For example, it is common to see pirated digital film or song sold in street markets.

The administration failed to enact IP-related laws or regulations over the past two years, although there is currently a reform bill working its way through Parliament.  The bill would incorporate The Hague (international registration of industrial designs) and Lisbon (protection of origin appellation and international registration) Agreements, as well as adopt international treaty classifications for patents, design and industrial models, and brands and figurative elements into the legislative framework.

Madagascar does not track or report seizures of counterfeit goods.  Counterfeit goods are widely seen in local markets. Media counterfeit and piracy is extremely common even though the lack of electricity and media playback devices limits the size of the market.

In 2017, Madagascar’s IP authority (“Office Malgache des Propriétés Industrielles” – OMAPI) signed an agreement with its Chinese counterpart for OMAPI to train Malagasy officers and to support each other in protecting brands and commercial names. The Chinese entity promised to donate a new office building and equipment to OMAPI.

Madagascar is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report, nor is it included in the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

Malawi

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Malawi has laws that govern the acquisition, disposition, recording, and protection of all property rights (land, buildings, etc.), as well as intellectual property rights (copyrights, patents, trademarks, etc.).  Currently, record keeping for registering land ownership is centralized and inefficient. Efforts are underway to computerize and decentralize recordkeeping.

Malawi has a limited housing finance sector.  As mortgage availability does not yet meet demand, most households still finance housing through savings or non-mortgage credit.  The lowest interest rate on a mortgage in Malawi as of January 2019 was 20 percent, with 10 percent down, the balance payable over 15-20 years.  The average mortgage size in Malawi is USD 17,632.

In 2016, Parliament passed a revised Land Act, which converted customary land tenure to leasehold title so that those currently using that land can have legal rights to it.  The new law prohibits freehold title going forward and all newly acquired land will be on a leasehold basis. Lease terms can be for up to 99 years, but the law generally restricts foreigners to 50-years.

The proportion of land without clear title in Malawi is considerable but the exact proportion is unclear.  According to the new Land Act 2016, Malawi has two categories of land, namely:

  •   Public land that comprises government land and unallocated customary land, and
  •   Private land that comprises freehold land, leasehold land, and customary estates.

The new Land Act prohibits granting of freehold to a person, but allows those that are already holding such land titles to continue. The Office of Commissioner of Lands administers and manages land issues such as making grants, leases and other dispositions.

The Land Act of 2016 gives provision to repossess private land under freehold title if the land sits idle for more than two years since registration.  However, the government has not repossessed land from a developer in any recentperiod.

Intellectual Property Rights

Malawi recognizes the importance of intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and enforcement but lacks the capacity to do so.  The Registrar General administers the Patent and Trademarks Act of 1948, which protects industrial IPR in Malawi. The Registrar General maintains a public registry of patents and patent licenses.  Patents must be registered. Trademarks are registered publicly following advertisement and a period of no objection.

Enforcement of IPR is inadequate.  However, general awareness of the importance of protecting IPR 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 Malawi Government approved Copyright (Levy on Storage Devices) Regulations in February 2018. Following the approval, COSOMA and the Malawi Revenue Authority began enforcement of a 5 percent levy on media storage devices to compensate rights holders.

While enforcement officials routinely seize counterfeit goods, Malawi does not have a systematic approach to track and report on such seizures so statistics are not available.

Malawi is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

Malaysia

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Land administration is shared among federal, state, and local government.  State governments have their own rules about land ownership, including foreign ownership.  Malaysian law affords strong protections to real property owners. Real property titles are recorded in public records and attorneys review transfer documentation to ensure efficacy of a title transfer.  There is no title insurance available in Malaysia. Malaysian courts protect property ownership rights. Foreign investors are allowed to borrow using real property as collateral. Foreign and domestic lenders are able to record mortgages with competent authorities and execute foreclosure in the event of loan default.  Malaysia ranks 29th (ranked 42nd in 2018) in ease of registering property according to the Doing Business 2019 report, right behind Finland and ahead of Hungary, thanks to changes it made to its registration procedures.

[Reference]

http://www.doingbusiness.org/rankings .

Intellectual Property Rights

In December 2011, the Malaysian Parliament passed amendments to the copyright law designed to, inter alia, bring the country into compliance with the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performance and Phonogram Treaty, define Internet Service Provider (ISP) liabilities, and prohibit unauthorized recording of motion pictures in theaters.  Malaysia subsequently acceded to the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performance and Phonogram Treaty in September 2012. In addition, the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives, and Consumerism (MDTCC) took steps to enhance Malaysia’s enforcement regime, including active cooperation with rights holders on matters pertaining to IPR enforcement, ongoing training of prosecutors for specialized IPR courts, and the 2013 reestablishment of a Special Anti-Piracy Taskforce.

In response to trends of rising internet piracy, the interagency Special Anti-Piracy Task Force established a Special Internet Forensics Unit (SIFU) within MDTCC.  The SIFU team’s responsibilities include monitoring for sites suspected of being, or known as, purveyors of infringing content. This organization follows MDTCC’s practice of launching investigations based on information and complaints from legitimate host sites and content providers.  Capacity building remains a priority for the SIFU. Coordination with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), which has responsibility for overall regulation of internet content, has been improving, according to many rights holders in Malaysia. Our contacts at MDTCC have told Post that the process of developing investigative leads that would support a case for the Attorney General’s Chambers (equivalent to the U.S. Department of Justice) is a work in progress.

Despite Malaysia’s success in improving IPR enforcement, key issues remain, including relatively widespread availability of pirated and counterfeit products in Malaysia, high rates of piracy over the Internet, and continued problems with book piracy.  USTR conducted an Out-of-Cycle Review of Malaysia in 2018 to consider the extent to which Malaysia is providing adequate and effective IP protection and enforcement, including with respect to patents.  During this review, the United States and Malaysia have held numerous consultations to resolve outstanding issues.  In 2019, USTR extended the Out-of-Cycle Review of Malaysia while asking Malaysia to complete actions to fully resolve these concerns in the near term.

The United States continues to encourage Malaysia to accede to the WIPO Budapest Treaty on the International Recognition of the Deposit of Microorganisms for the Purposes of Patent Procedure.  In addition, the United States continues to urge Malaysia to provide effective protection against unfair commercial use, as well as unauthorized disclosure, of undisclosed test or other data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical products, and to provide an effective system to address patent issues expeditiously in connection with applications to market pharmaceutical products.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Maldives

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Secured interests in property, movable and real, are recognized and enforced under the 2002 Land Act, and the councils on each island maintain registries.  Rights in real estate are governed by the Land Act, the Uninhabited Islands Act (20/98), the Tourism Act (2/99) and Chapter 15 of the constitution.  Foreign parties can acquire ownership of land through Chapter 15 of the constitution and can lease land for periods no longer than 99 years for business activity under the remaining regimes.

Intellectual Property Rights

The government has an intellectual property unit within the Ministry of Economic Development but has not yet signed any international agreements or conventions on intellectual property rights (IPR).

The Maldives is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is providing assistance to the government on the drafting of bills regarding trademarks and geographical indicators.  For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ 

Mali

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Property rights are protected by law in Mali.  Ownership of property is defined by the use, the profitability, and the ability of the owner to sell or donate the property.  According to data collected by the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business Report, registering property in Mali requires five steps, takes 29 days, and costs 11.1 percent of the property value.  Mali scored 8 against 8.8 for other Sub-Sahara African countries and 23 for OECD countries in the quality of land administration index, 0 being the worst score and 30 the best. The government established the Malian Center for the Promotion of Industrial Property and charged it with implementing the legal regime of property rights protection, including the WTO TRIPS agreements.  This agency is a member of the African Property Rights Organization (IAPO) and works with international agencies recognized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). Patents, copyrights, and trademarks are covered. These structures notwithstanding, property rights are not always adequately protected in practice.

According to the National Land Agency (Direction Nationale des Domaines et du Cadastre or DNDC), there are three types of land property classifications in Mali.  There is a land title (le titre foncier), which gives full property ownership to an individual. Secondly, there is a permit for occupancy that one receives after paying a fee (permis d’occuper), but not full ownership.  Lastly, there are farming rights given to rural agricultural communities. All non-registered lands belong to the state. Various government entities including prefets, mayors, governors, and Land Ministry officials are able to allocate land ownership statuses.

The current lack of a nationwide land registry causes competing claims for land.  As different government structures at the local, regional, and national level are involved in land administration, investors and communities often encounter multiple attributions of the same land.   As a result, frequent conflicts occur because of ambiguous land registration. In June 2015, the Minister of Land ordered the demolition of 50 houses built on land belonging to a real estate company in the locality of Souleymanebougou.  In 2018, the government ordered the demolition of houses built on lands allocated by the state for the construction of housing projects in N’Tabacoro.

Intellectual Property Rights

There are two primary agencies involved with the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR):  the Malian Office of the Rights of the Author (BUMDA) and the Malian Center for the Promotion of Intellectual Property (CEMAPI).  The CEMAPI is the primary agency for industrial property rights violation claims, while the BUMDA covers artistic and cultural works.

In 2014, the Government of Mali adopted a National Strategy for the Development of Intellectual Property Rights (SNDPI).  However, the strategy has been insufficiently funded and thus implementation has been minimal. Despite limited progress with a National Strategy, IPR has been weakened and is the object of fierce debate.  In February 2015, the Supreme Court canceled an Executive Order on Copyrights, which sought to update copyright laws to include modern technology. The National Council of Malian Employers (Conseil National du Patronat) considered this Executive Order to be too broad in that it created royalties, which the business community interpreted as taxes on cybercafés, phone companies, and internet downloading sites.  In March 2016, the Council of Ministers adopted a new draft law related to IPR with the support of well-known artists. In 2016, a number of international treaties referenced in the new intellectual property law were voted on by the National Assembly to align the national jurisdiction with international requirements. In 2017, the National Assembly voted on the new law on IPR, which resulted from a dialogue between the Government of Mali, the National Council of Employers, and artist associations.  The law builds upon consensus of international norms, including the Beijing Treaty of June 24, 2004 (rights on interpretations and executions of audiovisual works), the Marrakesh Treaty of June 27, 2013 relating to the access to printed texts for the visually impaired, and the fourth meeting of regional copyrights observatory of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) held in Banjul on May 2013. More broadly, the law determines the conditions of protecting and exploiting works of art, licensing fees, sanctions, and remunerations.

There is a significant number of reported IPR violations in the artistic sector as well as in the pharmaceutical sector.  According to the Malian National Pharmaceutical Association, nearly 50 percent of pharmaceuticals sold in Mali are counterfeit.  The BUMDA conducts weekly searches and seizures of markets for pirated artistic products and, on average, seizes three to four thousand CDs each week.  Movies and books are also reported to be pirated. Several companies have noted that children are often involved in selling counterfeit products such as clothes, CDs, and books.  In the past, counterfeit products were imported from foreign cities, including Guangzhou and Dubai. However, BUMDA has seen a shift in the type of counterfeit product to ones being produced in Mali and Nigeria.

A U.S. company had been mired in a three-year long legal battle with a Chinese company that was accused of infringing on the U.S. company’s trademark rights.  Despite a favorable ruling by the Supreme Court, the case was remanded to a lower court in 2010, and the U.S. company decided not to pursue the case further.

Mali is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

Malta

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Property and contractual rights are enforced by means of (a) legal warning; (b) warrants of seizure; (c) warrants of prohibitory injunction; (d) warrants of impediments of departures (if proceedings fall within the jurisdiction of the Criminal Court); and (e) sale of property by court auction.  The Code of Organization and Civil Procedures lays out procedures for registering and enforcing judgments of foreign courts. Rights and secured interests over immovable property must be publicly registered in order to be enforceable. The Government of Malta has occasionally been a party to international arbitrations and has abided by tribunal decisions.

The 2006 Maltese Securitization Act provides for a range of securitization transactions within its secure regulatory framework and offers various legal and international tax benefits.  Malta permits the creation of securitization cell structures, allowing for multiple cells with clear segregation of assets and liabilities between each cell. Foreign investors typically use securitization for passporting of funds, this allows a firm registered in the European Economic Area (EEA) to do business in any other EEA state without the need for further authorization from each country, and investment within the EU.  Investors typically use this system over the securitization of property.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Maltese legal system adequately protects and facilitates acquisition and disposition of intellectual property rights (IPR).  In 2000, Malta implemented the pertinent provisions of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects on Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).  Malta has fully incorporated EU and WTO rules into national law. Additional information on EU-wide provisions on copyright, patents, trademarks, and designs can be found at: https://ec.europa.eu/growth/industry/intellectual-property/industrial-design/protection_en  

In addition, Malta is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Bern Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, and the Universal Copyright Convention (UCC).

Malta is not listed in the USTR’s Special 301 Report or Notorious Market List.  The Association against Copyright Theft claims that Malta’s local laws do not include high enough minimum fines to deter vendors from selling pirated material.  For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Malta’s Commerce Department within the Ministry for the Economy, Investment, and Small Business is responsible for intellectual property-related issues.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Commerce Department

Commerce Department, Lascaris Bastion, Valletta, VLT 1933, Malta
Telephone: +356 2122 6688
Email: commerce@gov.mt
Website: http://commerce.gov.mt/en/Pages/Contact-Details.aspx  

Marshall Islands

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Land rights are a highly complex and frequently contentious issue in the Marshall Islands.  Land ownership is transmitted through family lineage and according to social class. Paramount Chiefs (Iroij) have title to entire islands or portions of islands within an atoll, clan elders (alaps) have title to several parcels of land under their Paramount Chiefs, and workers (dri-jerbal) have title to the parcel of land associated with their Paramount Chief on which they live.  Each parcel of land is thus owned by at least three separate individual landowners, one each from the classes described above. Non-Marshallese may not purchase land, and land purchases by Marshallese are also very rare. Paramount Chiefs may grant land rights to others, though they retain their share of ownership in all circumstances.

Available land for development is scarce, particularly in the two major urban areas of Majuro and Ebeye.  Non-citizen investors must negotiate lease agreements directly with customary groups of landowners. Land may be leased into perpetuity with many leases having a term of 50 years, and options for renewal.  The Kwajalein land lease to the U.S. government runs fifty years (to 2066) with an option to renew for another twenty years, for example. Mortgages against the title of land are not permitted, but commercial lease agreements and land lease payments may be used as collateral.  There is limited written documentation of titles to land in the Marshall Islands, although local citizens generally know who controls each parcel of land on their particular atoll.

In 2003, the Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands established a Land Registration Authority to create a voluntary register of customary land and establish a legal framework for recording documents related to ownership rights.  The Land Registration Authority has not achieved its objective of encouraging greater clarity and security of property rights in land. The continued lack of clear title creates uncertainty for investors and impedes lending. As a result, native-born Marshallese cannot draw upon their land rights as collateral toto finance business ventures.  The government is exploring the possibility of acting as an intermediary between investors and landowners focusing on resort development.

In the World Bank’s Doing Business 2017 report, the Marshall Islands rank 187th out of 190 countries for registering property.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Marshall Islands is not a member of the World Trade Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), or any other international agreement on intellectual property rights.  There is inadequate protection for intellectual property, patents, copyrights, and trademarks. The only intellectual property-related legislation relates to locally produced music recordings, and it has never been enforced.  The Marshall Islands are not listed on the USTR’s Special 301 Report, nor are they listed in the notorious market report. Pirated DVDs and CDs imported from off-island are readily available.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

Mauritania

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Property rights are protected under the Mauritanian Civil Code, which is modeled on the French code.  In practice, however, it can be difficult to gain redress for grievances through the courts. Mortgages exist and are extended by commercial banks.  There is a well-developed property registration system for land and real estate in most areas of the country, but land tenure issues in southern Mauritania, particularly the area along the Senegal River, are the subject of much controversy.  For example, in January 2014, rural communities around Boghe (300 kilometers southeast of Nouakchott) denounced as expropriation the signing of an agreement with the Saudi Arabian Al Rajhi Bank that granted permission for the Bank to cultivate 31,000 hectares in Brakna and Trarza provinces.  Investors should be fully aware of the history of the lands they are purchasing or renting, and should verify that the local partner has the proper authority to sell/rent large tracts of land—particularly in this region—before agreeing to any deals. In 2015, the Ministry of Economy and Finance established a computerized system to provide more transparent land allocation.  All information regarding the property titles is available at the Land Registry Agency housed at the Ministry of Habitat, including information related to mortgages and other tax related matters. The Land Registry Agency performs due diligence prior to making the final title transfer. To register a property, owners only need to have their notarized sale agreement along with the title certificate.

Intellectual Property Rights

The legal protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) is still a relatively new concept in Mauritania, and those seeking legal redress for IPR infringements will find very little historical record of cases or legal structures in place to support such claims.  There is no separate judicial circuit that specializes in IPR.

Mauritania is a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and the African Organization of Intellectual Property (OAPI).  In joining the latter, member states agree to honor IPR principles and to establish uniform procedures of implementation for the following international agreements: the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Hague Convention for the Registration of Designs and Industrial Models, the Lisbon Convention for the Protection and International Registration of Original Trade Names, the Washington Treaty on Patents, and the Vienna Treaty on the Registration of Trade Names.  Mauritania signed and ratified the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in 1994 but has yet to implement it. The government also signed and ratified the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Convention in 1976, but it has not signed or ratified the WIPO Internet treaties. The government is in the process of launching reforms related to property, product certification, and accreditation bodies to protect IPR. The Agency for Consumer Protection, housed at the Ministry of Commerce, is in charge of quality control and the prevention of sales of counterfeit goods in local markets, but its capabilities to track and enforce its regulations are very constrained.

Mauritania is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Notorious Markets List or the Special 301 Report.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/

Mauritius

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Real property rights are respected in Mauritius.  A non-citizen can hold, purchase, or acquire immovable property under the Non-Citizens (Property Restriction) Act, subject to the government’s approval.  Ownership of property is memorialized with the registration of the title deed with the Registrar-General and payment of the registration duty. The recording system of mortgages and liens is reliable.  Traditional use rights are not an issue in Mauritius as there were no indigenous peoples present at the time of European colonization. According to the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business Report, Mauritius ranks 35th out of 190 countries for the ease of registering property.

Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property rights (IPR) in Mauritius are protected by two pieces of legislation, namely the Patents, Industrial Designs and Trade Marks Act of 2002 and the Copyrights Act of 2014.  The government plans to adopt a new Industrial Property Bill expanding protections and covering all aspects of intellectual property. In addition to patents, trademarks, and industrial designs, the Bill is intended to protect plant breeders’ rights, geographical indications, and layout designs of integrated circuits and utility models, which are not covered by existing legislation.  In his 2016-17 Budget Speech, the Minister of Finance announced that the government would adhere to the Patent Cooperation Treaty, Hague Convention, and Madrid Protocol to facilitate the registration of patents, trademarks, and industrial designs. The new Bill includes provisions that would incorporate international standards such as those articulated in the Madrid Protocol into Mauritian law.

In 2017, the Copyright Act was amended to redefine and better safeguard the interests of copyright owners and to put in place a new regulatory framework for the Mauritius Society of Authors (MASA).  MASA is responsible for collection of copyright fees and for administering the economic rights of copyright owners. Amendments to the Copyright Act can be accessed on the Supreme Court website: https://supremecourt.govmu.org/_layouts/CLIS.DMS/Legislations/SearchLegislations.aspx  .

Mauritius is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and party to the Paris and Bern Conventions for the protection of intellectual property and the Universal Copyright Convention.  Trademark and patent laws comply with the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). A trademark is initially registered for 10 years and may be renewed for successive periods of 10 years.  A patent is granted for 20 years and cannot be renewed.

While IP legislation in Mauritius is consistent with international norms, enforcement is relatively weak.  According to a leading IP law firm, police will normally only take action against IPR infringements in cases where the IPR owner has an official representative in Mauritius because the courts require a representative to testify that the products seized are counterfeit.

The Customs Department of the Mauritius Revenue Authority is the primary agency responsible for safeguarding Mauritian borders against counterfeit goods and piracy.  The Customs Department requires owners or authorized users of patents, industrial designs, collective marks, marks or copyrights to apply in writing to the Director General to suspend clearance of goods suspected of infringing IPR.  Once an application is approved, it remains valid for two years. There are no administrative costs to pay for an application. An application can also be filed as a preventive measure. Further details on the documents required to apply can be obtained on this link:  http://www.mra.mu/index.php/import-export-others/ipr  .

Customs may act upon its own initiative to suspend clearance if there is evidence of IPR infringement.  Customs will then contact the owner or authorized user for follow-up actions. Owners of IPR are recommended to join the Interface Public Members (IPM:  http://www.wcoipm.org/  ), which allows Customs officers to access operational data input by right owners concerning their products, thus facilitating the identification of counterfeit goods.

The Customs Department keeps a record of counterfeit goods seized.  Customs has authority to seize and destroy counterfeit goods. In 2017, the Customs Department carried out seizures of a total of 64,667goods valued at USD 123,850.  The infringing party is responsible for paying for the storage and/or destruction of the counterfeit goods.

Mauritius is not included in the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Embassy Contact for IPR

Smita Bheenick
Economic/Commercial Section
U.S. Embassy Port Louis, Mauritius
Tel: +230 202 4430; Fax: +230 208 9534
Email: bheenicks@state.gov

Some IPR Law Firms in Mauritius*

Sanjeev Ghurburrun
Director, Geroudis
River Court, St Denis Street
Port Louis, Mauritius
Tel: +230 210 3838; Fax: + 230 210 3912
Email: sanjeev@geroudis.com
www.geroudis.com

Marc Hein
Chairman, Juristconsult Chambers
Level 12 Nexteracom Tower II, Ebene Cyber City
Ebene, Mauritius
Tel: +230 465 0020; Fax: +230 465 0021
Email: mhein@juristconsult.com
www.juristconsult.com

Michael Hough
CEO, Eversheds Sutherland
Suite 310, 3rd Floor Barkly Wharf, Le Caudan Waterfront
Port Louis, Mauritius
Tel: +230 5726 3941; Fax: +230 211 0780
Email: michaelhough@eversheds-sutherland.mu
www.eversheds-sutherland.com

*Law firms listed for convenience and should not be taken to imply U.S. Government endorsement.

Mexico

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Mexico ranked 103 out of 190 countries for ease of registering property in the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business report, falling four places from its 2018 report.  Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution guarantees the inviolable right to private property. Expropriation can only occur for public use and with due compensation.  Mexico has four categories of land tenure: private ownership, communal tenure (ejido), publicly owned, and ineligible for sale or transfer.

Mexico prohibits foreigners from acquiring title to residential real estate in so-called “restricted zones” within 50 kilometers (approximately 30 miles) of the nation’s coast and 100 kilometers (approximately 60 miles) of the borders.  “Restricted zones” cover roughly 40 percent of Mexico’s territory. Foreigners may acquire the effective use of residential property in “restricted zones” through the establishment of an extendable trust (fideicomiso) arranged through a Mexican financial institution.  Under this trust, the foreign investor obtains all property use rights, including the right to develop, sell, and transfer the property.  Real estate investors should be careful in performing due diligence to ensure that there are no other claimants to the property being purchased.  In some cases, fideicomiso arrangements have led to legal challenges.  U.S.-issued title insurance is available in Mexico and U.S. title insurers operate here.

Additionally, U.S. lending institutions have begun issuing mortgages to U.S. citizens purchasing real estate in Mexico.  The Public Register for Business and Property (Registro Publico de la Propiedad y de Comercio) maintains publicly available information online regarding land ownership, liens, mortgages, restrictions, etc.

Tenants and squatters are protected under Mexican law.  Property owners who encounter problems with tenants or squatters are advised to seek professional legal advice, as the legal process of eviction is complex.

Mexico has a nascent but growing financial securitization market for real estate and infrastructure investments, which investors can access via the purchase/sale of Fideocomisos de Infraestructura y Bienes Raíces (FIBRAs) and Certificates of Capital Development (CKDs) listed on Mexico’s BMV stock exchange.

Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual Property Rights in Mexico are covered by the Industrial Property Law (Ley de la Propiedad Industrial) and the Federal Copyright Law (Ley Federal del Derecho de Autor).  Responsibility for the protection of IPR is spread across several government authorities.  The Office of the Attorney General (PGR) oversees a specialized unit that prosecutes IPR crimes.  The Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI), the equivalent to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, administers patent and trademark registrations, and handles administrative enforcement cases of IPR infringement.  The National Institute of Copyright (INDAUTOR) handles copyright registrations and mediates certain types of copyright disputes, while the Federal Commission for the Prevention from Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS) regulates pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and processed foods.  The Mexican Customs Service’s mandate includes ensuring illegal goods do not cross Mexico’s borders.

The process for trademark registration in Mexico normally takes six to eight months.  The registration process begins by filing an application with IMPI, which is published in the Official Gazette.  IMPI first undertakes a formalities examination, followed by a substantive examination to determine if the application and supporting documentation fulfills the requirements established by law and regulation to grant the trademark registration.  Once the determination is made, IMPI then publishes the registration in the Official Gazette. A trademark registration in Mexico is valid for 10 years from the filing date, and is renewable for 10-year periods. Any party can challenge a trademark registration through the new opposition system, or post-grant through a cancellation proceeding.  IMPI employs the following administrative procedures: nullity, expiration, opposition, cancellation, trademark, patent and copyright (trade-based) infringement. Once IMPI issues a decision, the affected party may challenge it through an internal reconsideration process or go directly to the Specialized IP Court for a nullity trial. An aggrieved party can then file an appeal with a Federal Appeal Court based on the Specialized IP Court’s decision.  In cases with an identifiable constitutional challenge, the plaintiff may file an appeal before the Supreme Court of Justice.

The USPTO has a Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) agreement with IMPI.  Under the PPH, an applicant receiving a ruling from either IMPI or the USPTO that at least one claim in an application is patentable may request that the other office expedite examination of the corresponding application.  The PPH leverages fast-track patent examination procedures already available in both offices to allow applicants in both countries to obtain corresponding patents faster and more efficiently. The PPH permits USPTO and IMPI to benefit from work previously done by the other office, which reduces the examination workload and improves patent quality.

Mexico is plagued by widespread commercial-scale infringement that results in significant losses to Mexican, U.S., and other IPR owners.  There are many issues that have made it difficult to improve IPR enforcement in Mexico, including legislative loopholes; lack of coordination between federal, state, and municipal authorities; a cumbersome and lengthy judicial process; and widespread cultural acceptance of piracy and counterfeiting.  In addition, the involvement of transnational criminal organizations (TCOs), which control the piracy and counterfeiting markets in parts of Mexico, continue to impede federal government efforts to improve IPR enforcement. TCO involvement has further illustrated the link between IPR crimes and illicit trafficking of other contraband, including arms and drugs.

Mexico remained on the Watch List in the 2019 Special 301 report.  Obstacles to U.S. trade include the wide availability of pirated and counterfeit goods in both physical and virtual notorious markets.  The 2018 USTR Out-Of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets listed two Mexican markets: Tepito in Mexico City and San Juan de Dios in Guadalajara.

Mexico is a signatory to numerous international IP treaties, including the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Bern Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, and the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.

Resources for Rights Holders

  • Intellectual Property Rights Attaché for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean

U.S. Trade Center
Liverpool No. 31 Col. Juárez
C.P. 06600 Mexico City
Tel: (52) 55 5080 2189

  • National Institute of Copyright (INDAUTOR)

Puebla No. 143
Col. Roma, Del. Cuauhtémoc
06700 México, D.F.
Tel: (52) 55 3601 8270
Fax: (52) 55 3601 8214
Web: http://www.indautor.gob.mx/  

  • Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI)

Periférico Sur No. 3106
Piso 9, Col. Jardines del Pedregal
Mexico, D.F., C.P. 01900
Tel: (52 55) 56 24 04 01 / 04
(52 55) 53 34 07 00
Fax: (52 55) 56 24 04 06
Web: http://www.impi.gob.mx/  

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Micronesia, Federated States of

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The most important impediments to foreign direct investment (FDI) derived from land and contract issues.  Foreign ownership of land was prohibited; most land was owned and passed on within the clan structure, leading to conflicting title claims, the need to negotiate leases with multiple parties, and the possibility of changes when the original senior lessor dies.  Dual citizenship is illegal, so Micronesian citizens born in the U.S. were unable to inherit or own property. There is no system for land title insurance in any of the country’s four states. The combination of these factors ranked the FSM at 187th out of 190 countries globally in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report’s assessment of registering property.

Foreign nationals, including corporations, cannot own real land but in some cases can own buildings or other structures.

Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property rights (IPR) in the FSM are nominally protected, and the country is a member state of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).  The country was not listed in the USTR Special 301 Report, nor was it listed in the notorious market report. The Embassy did not receive complaints from U.S. firms regarding IPR issues, and the only U.S. corporations currently operating in FSM were United Airlines and Matson Shipping.  The only three U.S. chains present (Ace Hardware, True Value Hardware, and NAPA auto parts) are 100 percent locally-owned franchises.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see the country profiles on the WIPO website.

Moldova

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Moldova has laws that formally protect all property rights, and has a system for recording property titles and mortgages is in place.  There is a national cadastral office, which registers all ownership titles in the real estate registry. However, the mortgage market is still underdeveloped.  In addition, the judicial sector remains weak and does not always fully guarantee the rights of citizens and foreign investors.

In the World Bank’s Doing Business 2018 report Moldova ranked 22nd among 190 economies on the ease of registering property.

Intellectual Property Rights

Despite efforts to improve intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and set up relevant executive structures in the government, Moldova does not fully enforce its IPR laws due to conflicts of interest, lack of resources, and a low level of awareness and training among law enforcement agencies. The concept of IPR is largely unrecognized by the local population. The country has an agency for the protection of IPR, the State Agency on Intellectual Property (AGEPI), which continues working on improving the legal framework and adjusting it to EU norms, increasing public awareness, and building capacity in law enforcement.  Following Moldova’s adoption of the EU’s Association Agreements and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (AA/DCFTA) in June 2014, AGEPI participated in implementation of the IPR chapter of the agreement with the objective of ensuring a level of protection for IPR in Moldova similar to that in the EU, including effective enforcement.

Moldova is party to the majority of international treaties on IPR, including the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and 26 World Intellectual Property (WIPO) agreements, a list of which, including other international and regional agreements and IPR conventions, is available at www.agepi.gov.md/en/legislatie/international  .

Along with other public institutions, AGEPI works on fulfilling Moldova’s IPR obligations as provided by the 2017-2019 National Action Plan for the implementation of the Association Agreement.  In 2018, Moldova adopted the third Action Plan on the implementation of the National Strategy on Intellectual Property through 2020.  While some progress is being reported, there are still issues with Geographical Indications (GIs) that remain to be addressed.

For consolidating the institutional capacities of IPR systems, in 2018, AGEPI was reorganized from a public institution into central administrative authority subordinated to the government.   Efforts have been made to improve the access and quality of IPR services.  AGEPI made the IPR database publicly available online and free of charge on its webpage www.db.agepi.md   and launched an online filing application system, with over 40 percent of national IPR applications reported to be filed online.  In 2018, AGEPI rolled out an e-learning platform for IPR education, with the first basic IPR e-course held in March 2019.

The time required to obtain IPR protection in Moldova varies depending upon the type of protection sought. For a copyright it takes 15-30 days, patent for plants 1.5-3 years, short-term patent for invention 7-8 months, patent for invention 17-18 months, geographical indications, appellations of origin, or traditional specialties guaranteed 10-12 months, industrial design 10-12 months, and trademark 10-12 months.

Moldova has specific laws dealing with trade secrets, while the criminal code prohibits unauthorized disclosure of trade secrets.

Moldovan authorities, including Customs, Ministry of Interior and General Prosecutor’s Office, keep track of statistics related to IPR violations, but such reports are not readily available online and are updated only at the end of the year.  To better deal with IPR enforcement, the Moldovan authorities are working on developing an IPR Information System to deal with IPR data exchange between the protection and enforcement bodies, including AGEPI, Customs Service, Prosecution, Police, Agency for Consumer Protection and Market Surveillance and Agency for Court Administration.  The system is expected to become operational in 2019.

In 2018, Moldovan authorities reported an increase in the number of IPR complaints compared with 2017. Moldovan Customs received 105 complaints in 2018 (compared to only 70 in 2017), detained almost MDL 3 million (USD 180,000) worth of counterfeit products in 82 instances, and destroyed roughly MDL 100,000 (USD 5,800) worth of counterfeit products.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs received 44 IPR-related complaints (52 in 2017) and started 85 contraventional and five criminal proceedings mainly on trademarks and copyright.

The Agency for Consumer Protection and Market Surveillance received 86 complaints, applied two fines and sent 33 cases to court for further sanction.

The General Prosecutor’s Office started eight IPR-related proceedings (compared to seven in 2017), seven of which were for copyright infringements and one for violation of industrial IPR.

The Agency for Courts Administration reported 77 infringement proceedings (compared to 36 in 2017), 57 of which ended with fines totaling MDL 161,000 (USD 9,500).

The list of the most common counterfeit products consists of footwear and clothing, cosmetics, children’s toys, household appliances, phone and phone accessories, and bags, purses, belts, and accessories.

Moldova is not listed in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report, nor is it on the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at www.wipo.int/directory/en  .

Mongolia

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Mongolian constitution provides that “the State shall recognize any forms of public and private properties.”  The constitution limits real-estate ownership to adult citizens of Mongolia, though that limitation does not apply to “subsoil,” a term not expressly defined in the constitution.  Mongolian civil law allows private Mongolian citizens or government agencies to assume property ownership or use rights if the current owner or holder of use rights does not use the property or the rights.  In the case of use rights, revocation and assumption is almost always written into the formal agreements covering the rights. Squatters may also under certain circumstances claim effective property ownership of unused structures.

Although foreigners and non-resident investors may own permanent physical structures and obtain use rights to land and resources, only Mongolian citizens may own the surface land, and only in municipalities.  Such land ownership does not include ownership of or access to surface or subsurface resource rights, which remain with state. Outside municipalities, the state owns the land and resources. The state may lease access to those resources to public and private entities, according to the relevant statutes.

Ownership of a structure vests the owner with control over the use rights of the land upon which the structure sits.  Use rights are granted from periods of three to sixty years depending on the particular use right. However, foreign nationals or foreign companies can obtain a land use right for no more than 10 years:  a five-year lease term with a single five-year renewal. Although Mongolia has a well-established register for immovable property – structures and real estate – it lacks a central register for use rights; consequently, investors, particularly those seeking to invest in rural Mongolia, have no easy way to learn who might have conflicting rights.  Complicating matters, Mongolia’s civil law system has yet to develop a formal process for apportioning multiple use rights on adjacent lands or adjudicating disputes arising from conflicting use rights.

Mongolian law allows creditors to recover debts by seizing and disposing of property offered as collateral.  Mongolian law mandates that mortgages and other debt instruments backed by real estate, fixed structures, and other immovable collateral be registered with the Immovable Property Office of the State Registration Office (SRO:  www.burtgel.gov.mn  ).  Mongolian law began allowing movable property (cars, equipment, livestock, receivables, and other items of value) in March 2017 to be registered with SRO as collateral.  Investors report that the immovable property registration system is generally reliable, but the movable property system continues to experience capacity issues and suffers from non-transparent, arbitrary regulations that limit access.  At this point, the Mongolian government has no accurate figure for land with clear titles.

Intellectual Property Rights

Film, television, and digital content from the United States enjoy strong copyright protection in Mongolia, while the music and publishing industry is slowly making progress in reaching licensing agreements with organizations using its content.  Use of pirated software by Mongolian government ministries, as well as by home-use consumers and business, remains a major problem, however.  Patent protection for pharmaceutical and medical device importers is virtually non-existent, with trademark law their only recourse.  Law enforcement continues to prosecute intellectual property (IP) cases, highlighting a willingness by Mongolian prosecutors and police to attack the problem.

Film content from the United States is strongly protected in Mongolia, with unlicensed viewing of such content rare.  Mongolia’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) quickly block access to internet addresses of offending sites once they are listed by the Intellectual Property Office of Mongolia (IPOM).  The IPOM has worked with Mongolia’s Communication Regulatory Commission (CRC) to shut down more than 600 offending websites, including 28 in 2018.

Pharmaceuticals and medical devices effectively lack patent protection in Mongolia.  Approval of pharmaceuticals for import requires a certificate from the Ministry of Health (MOH), which Mongolia’s customs agency then verifies.  For pharmaceuticals from “Category A” countries (i.e., developed countries including the United States), the MOH accepts FDA or other regulatory health agency approval as equivalent in Mongolia; for other countries, the drug must be accepted and sold in at least three other countries.  The panel also reviews pricing and checks for a Good Manufacturing Practices certificate, but there is no patent linkage system in place.  Even if there were, there is no separate law in Mongolia regarding pharmaceutical patents, and the current backlog of patents is between 18 and 24 months.

While in the past law enforcement has seized trademark-infringing drugs, simply dropping the trademark infringement still allows the importer to bring the drug in despite it being on patent.  This contributes to a high rate of counterfeit drugs.  Medical devices encounter similar problems.

There are trademark infringing areas in Mongolia, including stores that distribute counterfeit apparel.  However, due to a lack of formal complaints by rights holders, law enforcement has not focused on these areas.  Mongolian law treats IPR violations below $19,000 (50 million MNT) as a misdemeanor subject to civil litigation.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles:  http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  

Montenegro

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

In 2002, Montenegro enacted the Law on Secured Transactions and established a collateral registry at the Commercial Court in 2003.  The registry’s operational guidelines have been drafted and approved by the Commercial Court. The main goal of the Law on Secured Transactions is to establish a clear and transparent framework for property transactions.  In 2004, Montenegro adopted a Law on Mortgages by which immovable property may be encumbered by security interest (mortgage) to secure a claim for the benefit of a creditor who is authorized, in the manner prescribed by the law, to demand satisfaction of the claim by foreclosing the mortgaged property with priority over creditors who do not have a mortgage created on that particular property, as well as over any subsequently registered mortgage, regardless of a change in the owner of the encumbered immovable property.  The Real Estate Administration has taken progressive steps over the last few years to improve the quality and service provided in the registry, though additional improvements are needed. The World Bank’s Doing Business Report ranked Montenegro 75th out of 190 on the ease of registering property.

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)

The acquisition and disposition of IPR are protected by the Law on the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights, which entered into force in 2006.  The law provides for fines for legal entities of up to EUR 30,000 (approximately USD 37,000) for selling pirated and/or counterfeited goods. It also provides ex-officio authority for market inspectors in the areas mentioned above.  Additional amendments to the existing Law on the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights were adopted over the last several years (beginning in 2006) in line with the EU regulations, and they are expected to bring more efficiency in implementation as well as a multifunctional approach to property-rights protection.  In 2005, the Montenegrin Parliament adopted the Regulation on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Border Measures, which provides powers to customs authorities to suspend customs procedures and seize pirated and counterfeit goods. Statistics on seizures of counterfeit goods are published by the Customs Administration and available on their webpage www.upravacarina.gov.me  .

Montenegro’s Penal Code penalizes IPR violations, allows ex-officio prosecution, and provides for stricter criminal penalties; however, copyright violation is a significant problem in the outerwear and apparel market, and unlicensed software can be easily found on the general market.  The Law on Optical Disks was adopted in 2006; it requires the registration of business activity when reproducing optical disks for commercial purposes and provides for surveillance of optical disk imports and exports, as well as imports and exports of polycarbonates.

The Montenegrin Intellectual Property Office is the competent authority within the state administration system for the activities related to industrial property rights, copyrights, and  related rights. The Intellectual Property Office was established under the Regulation on Organization and Manner of Work of the State Administration in 2007 and officially opened in 2008.

A regulation on the recognition of IPR was adopted in 2007.  Under this regulation, any rights registered with the Union Intellectual Property Office or with the Serbian Intellectual Property Office, and any pending applications filed with these offices before May 2008, are enforceable in Montenegro.  Any IPR application submitted after that date in Serbia needed to be re-submitted in Montenegro within six months to retain its acquired priority.

IPR market inspectors, police officers, customs officers, and employees of the Ministry of Economy regularly attend a number of training seminars on intellectual property protection and counterfeiting, including an IPR enforcement workshop hosted by the AmCham and its members.  At the end of 2007, the Customs Administration signed a Letter of Intent for acceptance of Standards to be Employed by Customs for Uniform Rights Enforcement (SECURE), adopted by the World Customs Organization (WCO), to promote the efficient protection of IPR by customs authorities.

Montenegro is not listed on the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report, nor is it on the Notorious Markets List.  However, the sale of pirated optical media (DVDs, CDs, software) as well as counterfeit trademarked goods, particularly sneakers and clothing, is widespread.  According to the 2017 joint survey of Business Software Alliance and the International Data Corporation (IDC), the software piracy rate in Montenegro is among the highest in Europe, constituting 74 percent of the market, two percentage points below the 2015 study.  Enforcement is slowly improving as customs, police, and judicial authorities obtain the necessary tools, but institutional capacity and public awareness is still limited.

To further improve intellectual property protection, AmCham Montenegro established an IPR Committee in April 2009, which currently operates under the Grey Economy Committee.  The main goal of the committee is to work closely with the Montenegrin institutions that deal with IPR, to increase public awareness of the importance of intellectual property protection, and to help the Government of Montenegro strengthen its administrative capacities in this field.  More information about the committee’s activities can be found on AmCham’s website http://www.amcham.me/  .

Montenegro became a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 2006, and more information is available on the WIPO website http://www.wipo.int/members/en/details.jsp?country_id=193  

Resources for Rights Holders

Contact at the U.S. Embassy in Montenegro:

Kyle Hatcher
Political and Economic Deputy Chief
+382 20 410 500
HatcherBK@State.gov

Morocco

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Morocco permits foreign individuals and foreign companies (i.e. companies whose share capital is owned in whole or in part by a foreign individual or company) to own land, but not agricultural land.  Foreigners may acquire agricultural land in order to carry out an investment or other economic project that is not agricultural in nature, subject to first obtaining a certificate of non-agricultural use from the authorities.  Morocco has a formal registration system maintained by the National Agency for Real Estate Conservation, Property Registries, and Cartography (ANCFCC), which issues titles of land ownership.   Approximately 30 percent of land is registered in the formal system, and almost all of that is in urban areas.   In addition to the formal registration system, there are customary documents called moulkiya issued by traditional notaries called adouls.  While not providing the same level of certainty as a title, a moulkiya can provide some level of security of ownership.  Morocco also recognizes prescriptive rights whereby an occupant of a land under the moulkiya system (not lands duly registered with ANCFCC) can establish ownership of that land upon fulfillment of all the legal requirements, including occupation of the land for a certain period of time (10 years if the occupant and the landlord are not related and 40 years if the occupant is a parent).  There are other specific legal regimes applicable to some types of lands, among which:

  • Collective lands: lands which are owned collectively by some tribes, whose members only benefit from rights of usufruct;
  • Public lands: lands which are owned by the Moroccan State;
  • Guich lands: lands which are owned by the Moroccan State, but whose usufruct rights are vested upon some tribes;
  • Habous lands: lands which are owned by a party (the State, a certain family, a religious or charity organization, etc.) subsequent to a donation, and the usufruct rights of which are vested upon such party (usually with the obligation to allocate the proceeds to a specific use or to use the property in a certain way).

Morocco’s rating for “Registering Property” improved over the past year, with a ranking of 68 out of 190 countries worldwide in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 report, 18 places higher than in 2018.  According to the same report, Morocco made registering property easier by increasing the transparency of the land registry/cadaster and by streamlining administrative procedures.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Ministry of Industry, Trade, Investment, and the Digital Economy oversees the Moroccan Office of Industrial and Commercial Property (OMPIC), which serves as a registry for patents and trademarks in the industrial and commercial sectors.  The Ministry of Communications oversees the Moroccan Copyright Office (BMDA), which registers copyrights for literary and artistic works (including software), enforces copyright protection, and coordinates with Moroccan and international partners to combat piracy.  The Ministry of Communication supported the enactment of new copyright decrees on May 20, 2014, which obligate the police to work on behalf of BMDA to investigate suspected cases of copyright infringement, including the illegal selling/production of unlicensed media and illegal media use on the radio or television.  Additionally, the Ministry of Communication and BMDA formed a national anti-piracy committee responsible for developing a plan for consistent action in combating copyright infringement and counterfeit goods.

In 2016, the Ministry of Communication and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) signed an MOU to expand cooperation to ensure the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) in Morocco.  The MOU committed both parties to improving the judicial and operational dimensions of Morocco’s copyright enforcement.  Following this MOU, in November 2016, BMDA launched WIPOCOS, a database developed by WIPO for collective management organizations or societies that aims to ensure a timely, transparent, and autonomous distribution of royalties.  Despite of these positive changes, BMDA’s current focus on redefining its legal mandate and relationship with other copyright offices worldwide has appeared to lessen its enforcement capacity.

Law No. 23-13 on Intellectual Property Rights increased penalties for violation of those rights and better defines civil and criminal jurisdiction and legal remedies.  It also set in motion an accreditation system for patent attorneys in order to better systematize and regulate the practice of patent law.  Law No. 34-05, amending and supplementing Law No. 2-00 on Copyright and Related Rights, includes 15 items (Articles 61 to 65) devoted to punitive measures against piracy and other copyright offenses.  These range from civil and criminal penalties to the seizure and destruction of seized copies.  Judges’ authority in sentencing and criminal procedures is proscribed, with little power to issue harsher sentences that would serve as stronger deterrents.

OMPIC enacted a Strategic Plan for 2016-2020 to strengthen the institution’s capacity to carry out its core mandate of granting industrial and commercial property titles and enforcing IPR.  This new strategic plan focuses on promoting quality, transparency, and a service-oriented organizational culture, while underscoring the important role that IPR protection has in promoting innovation under Morocco’s 2014-2020 Industrial Acceleration Plan.

Moroccan authorities appear committed to cracking down on counterfeiting but, due to resource constraints, have chosen to focus enforcement efforts on the most problematic areas, specifically areas with public safety and/or significant economic impact.  In 2017, BMDA brought approximately a dozen court cases against copyright infringers and collected USD 6.1 million in copyright collections.  In 2018, Morocco’s customs authorities seized USD 62.7 million worth of counterfeit items. In 2018, Morocco also created a National Customs Brigade charged with countering the illicit trafficking of counterfeit goods and narcotics.

In 2015, Morocco and the European Union concluded an agreement on the protection of Geographic Indications (GIs), which is currently pending ratification by both the Moroccan and European parliaments.  Should it enter into force, the agreement would grant Moroccan GIs sui generis. The U.S. government continues to urge Morocco to undergo a transparent and substantive assessment process for the EU GIs in a manner consistent with Morocco’s existing obligations, including those under the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement.

Morocco is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about IPR treaty obligations and points of contact at government offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at https://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

For assistance, please refer to the U.S. Embassy local lawyers’ list ( at https://ma.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/local-resources-of-u-s-citizens/attorneys/), as well as to the regional U.S. IP Attaché at https://ma.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/local-resources-of-u-s-citizens/attorneys/.

Mozambique

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The legal system recognizes and protects property rights to buildings and movable property. Private ownership of land, however, is not allowed in Mozambique.  Land is owned by the State. The government grants land-use concessions called DUATs (Direitos de Uso e Aproveitamento de Terra, or a land-use title) for periods of up to 50 years, with options to renew for an additional 50 years.  Essentially, land-use concessions serve as proxies for land titles.  There is no robust market in land user rights and land use titles are not easily transferable.  The process to award land concessions is not transparent and the government at times has granted overlapping land concessions.  It takes an average of 90 days to issue a land title for most of the concessions.  The Mozambican banking community uses property other than land – cars, private houses, and infrastructure – as collateral, as it is not possible to securitize property for lending purposes.

Investors should be aware of the requirement to obtain endorsement of their projects in terms of land use and allocation at a local level from the affected communities.  APIEX assists investors in finding land for development and obtaining appropriate documentation, including agricultural land.  The government advises companies on relocating individuals currently occupying land designated for development; however, companies are ultimately responsible for planning and executing resettlement programs.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Parliament passed a copyright and related rights bill in 2000, which, when combined with the 1999 Industrial Property Act, brought Mozambique into compliance with the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).  The law provides for the security and legal protection of industrial property rights, copyrights, and other related rights.  In addition, Mozambique is a signatory to the Bern Convention, as well as the New York and Paris Conventions.

Despite enforceable laws and regulations protecting intellectual property rights (IPR) and providing recourse to criminal or administrative courts for IPR violations, it remains difficult for investors to enforce their IPR.  The registration process is relatively simple and private sector organizations have been working with various government entities on an IPR taskforce to combat IPR infringement and related public safety issues.

IPR enforcement in Mozambique remains sporadic and inconsistent.  Mozambique’s National Inspectorate of Economic Activities (INAE) has increased seizures of counterfeit goods since 2017, confiscating Hewlett-Packard (HP) toner cartridges, Nike, Adidas, and Ralph Lauren and other falsely branded merchandise in several large busts, but raids and prosecutions are limited. Pirated copies of audio, videotapes, DVDs, and other counterfeit goods are commonly sold in Mozambique.

Mozambique is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at https://www.wipo.int/directory/en/details.jsp?country_code=MZ 

Namibia

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Namibian Constitution guarantees all persons the right to acquire, own and dispose of all forms of property throughout Namibia, but also allows Parliament to make laws concerning expropriation of property (see Expropriation and Compensation Section) and to regulate the right of foreign nationals to own or buy property in Namibia.  There are no restrictions on the establishment of private businesses, size of investment, sources of funds, marketing of products, source of technology, or training in Namibia. All deeds of sales are registered with the Deeds Office. Property is usually purchased through real estate agents and most banks provide credit through mortgages.  The Namibian Constitution prohibits expropriation without just compensation.

Intellectual Property Rights

Namibia is a party to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Convention, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, and the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.  Namibia is also a party to the Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks and the Patent Cooperation Treaty. Namibia is a signatory to the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.

The responsibility for intellectual property rights (IPR) protection is divided among three government ministries.  The Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade, and SME Development (MITSMED) oversees industrial property and is responsible for the registration of companies, private corporations, patents, trademarks and designs through its Business and Intellectual Property Authority (BIPA).  The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) manages copyright protection, while the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) protects indigenous plant varieties and any associated traditional knowledge of these plants.

Two copyright organizations, the Namibian Society of Composers and Authors of Music (NASCAM) and the Namibian Reproduction Rights Organization (NAMRRO), are the driving forces behind the government’s anti-piracy campaigns.  NASCAM administers IPR for authors, composers and publishers of music. NAMRRO protects all other IPR including literary, artistic, broadcasting, satellite, traditional knowledge, and folklore.

Namibia is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en  

Netherlands

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Netherlands fully complies with international standards on protection of real property.  The World Bank’s 2019 Ease of Doing Business Index ranked the Netherlands 31 out of 190 countries in terms of property registration. The number of procedures involved is at the OECD average, while the processing time of 2.5 days is nearly ten times faster than the OECD average.

The Netherlands’ Cadaster, Land Registry, and Mapping Agency (Cadaster) was established in 1832 to collect and register administrative and spatial data on real property. The Cadaster is publicly available and can be accessed online (https://www.kadaster.com/  ).

Intellectual Property Rights

With the implementation of EU Directive 2004/48 on the enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR), IPR holders have a number of instruments at their disposal to enforce their rights in civil court.

The Netherlands is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a signatory to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, and generally conforms to accepted international practice for the protection of technology and trademarks. This includes the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Despite its participation in negotiations on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) treaty, the Netherlands, like other EU member states, has stated it will not sign the treaty in its current form.  The EU has requested the European Court of Justice to advise on the compatibility of ACTA with existing European treaties, in particular with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

The Netherlands is not listed in United States Trade Representative’s (USTR’s) Special 301 Report, but it is listed as hosting online streaming and infringing websites in USTR’s Notorious Markets List:  https://ustr.gov/about-us/policy-offices/press-office/reports-and-publications/2018/2018-notorious-markets-list  .  USTR also notes that Dutch law enforcement has assisted in seizing infringing domain names, thereby bringing down some infringing sites.

Copyright

The Netherlands implemented European Directive 98/44/EC in 2006, bringing domestic legislation in line with the WIPO 1996 Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performance and Phonogram Treaty (WPPT).  Policymakers agree on the need to raise public awareness of IPR rules and regulations and to strengthen enforcement.

The Dutch government has recognized the need to protect IPR, and law enforcement personnel have worked with industry associations to find and seize pirated software.  Current Dutch IPR legislation explicitly includes computer software as intellectual property (IP) under copyright statutes.

The Netherlands has resisted criminalizing online copyright infringement for personal use, instead placing a surcharge on the sales of blank media such as CDs, DVDs, and USB storage devices to remunerate rights holders for the downloading of material from legal and illegal sources alike.  However, a 2014 ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union requires the government to change this policy and ban online infringement.

Since the ruling of the EU court, the Dutch Supreme Court has determined that the original Dutch law can stand albeit that the surcharge does not cover downloading from illegal sources. Thus, the Dutch law remains in place without alteration and is considered by the Government to conform to the EU Court ruling.  Since the EU ruling, no specific measures have been taken by the Government to actively pursue persons in violation of the law because the government considers enforcement of this law to be largely a matter for the civil courts. Dutch associations for rights holders such as Stichting Brein focus their efforts on reducing the supply of illegal downloads rather than pursuing consumers who acquire illegal downloads.

Patents

The Netherlands is a signatory to the European Patent Convention, which provides for a centralized Europe-wide patent protection system.  The Netherlands has been a staunch supporter of the forthcoming single harmonized European patent procedure that will allow for easier application, in three languages.

Patents for foreign investors are granted retroactively to the date of the original filing in the home country, provided the application is made through a Dutch patent lawyer within one year of the original filing date.  Dutch patents are valid for 20 years, in line with EU regulations. Legal procedures exist for compulsory licensing if the patent is inadequately used after a period of three years, but these procedures have rarely been invoked.

Because the Netherlands and the United States are both parties to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) of 1970, patent rights in the Netherlands may be obtained if a PCT application is filed.  In addition to possible civil remedies, all IPR laws contain penal bylaws and reference to the Criminal Code. In 2012, the Dutch Parliament passed legislation that strengthened oversight and coordination of seven different collective institutions that oversee control, administration, and remuneration for commercial use of IP.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at https://www.wipo.int/directory/en/details.jsp?country_code=NL  

Resources for Rights Holders

Contact at American Embassy The Hague:

David Swalley
Economic Officer
John Adams Park 1
2244 BZ Wassenaar
Telephone:  +31 (0)70 310 2270
E-mail:  SwalleyDA@state.gov

Country-Specific Resource:

BREIN Foundation
https://stichtingbrein.nl/  
P.O. Box 133
2130 AC Hoofddorp
The Netherlands
Telephone:  +31 (0)85 011 0150

American Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands:

P.O. Box 15783
1001 NG Amsterdam
Telephone:  +31 (0)20 795 1840
Email:  office@amcham.nl
Local lawyers list:  https://nl.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/

New Zealand

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

New Zealand recognizes and enforces secured interest in property, both movable and real.  Most privately owned land in New Zealand is regulated by the Land Transfer Act 2017. These provisions set forth the issuance of land titles, the registration of interest in land against land titles, and guarantee of title by the State.  The Registrar-General of Land develops standards and sets an assurance program for the land rights registration system. New Zealand’s legal system protects and facilitates acquisition and disposition of all property rights.

The Land Transfer Act – which was enacted in November 2018 and repealed the Land Transfer Act 1952 – maintains the Torrens system of land title in which land ownership is transferred through registration of title instead of deeds, a system which has been in operation in New Zealand since the nineteenth century.  The new Act aims to improve the certainty of property rights, modernize, simplify and consolidate land transfer legislation. It empowers courts with limited discretion to restore a landowner’s registered title in rare cases, in the event of fraud or other illegality, where it is warranted to avoid a manifestly unjust result.  The Act includes new provisions to prevent mortgage fraud, to protect Maori freehold land, and to extend the Registrar-General’s powers to withhold personal information to protect personal safety.

As mentioned in Section 2, overseas persons wanting to purchase certain types of land must apply to the OIO for approval.

Land leasing by foreign or non-resident investors is governed by the OIO Act.  About eight percent of New Zealand land is owned by the Crown. The Land Act 1948 created pastoral leases which run for 33 years and can be continually renewed.  Rent is reviewed every 11 years, basing the rent on how much stock the land can carry for pastoral farming. The Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998 and its amendments contain provisions governing pastoral leases that apply to foreign and domestic lease holders.  Holders of pastoral leases have exclusive possession of the land, and the right to graze the land, but require permission to carry out other activities on their lease. 

Lessees can gain freehold title over part of the land under a voluntary process known as tenure review.  Under this process, areas of the lease can be restored to full Crown ownership, usually as conservation land managed by the Department of Conservation.  In February 2019 the government announced an end to tenure review because it has resulted in more intensive farming and subdivision on the 353,000 hectares of land which has been freeholded, affecting the landscape and biodiversity of the land.  With tenure review ending, the remaining Crown pastoral lease properties, currently 171 covering 1.2 million hectares of Crown pastoral land, will continue to be managed under the regulatory system for Crown pastoral lands. In April 2019 there had been 2,500 submissions for feedback to the government on the future management of the South Island high country. 

The types of land ownership in New Zealand are: Freehold title, Leasehold title, Unit title, Strata title, and cross-lease.  The majority of land in New Zealand is freehold. LINZ holds property title records that show a property’s proprietors, legal description and the rights and restrictions registered against the property title, such as a mortgage, easement or covenant.  A title plan is the plan deposited by LINZ when the title was created. Property titles do not contain information about the value of the property.

No land tax is payable, but the local government authorities are empowered to levy taxes, termed as “rates,” on all properties within their territorial boundaries.  Rates are assessed on either assessed annual rental value, land value or capital value. There is no stamp duty in New Zealand. 

In general, New Zealand requires GST be returned on all land sales and claimed on all land purchases unless the property is used solely for making “exempt supplies” (such as residential accommodation), or the GST is charged at 0 percent or “zero-rated.”  When land is transferred between GST-registered parties, the transaction must be zero-rated for GST, provided that the purchaser intends to use the land to make taxable supplies and the land is not intended to be used as a principal place of residence by the purchaser.  Where the transaction is zero-rated, no GST would be added to the sale price, no GST should be returned by the vendor, and no GST should be claimed by the purchaser. The purchaser may be required to account for GST if the property will be partly used for making exempt supplies. 

When commercial property is sold, GST may need to be added to the purchase price.  A purchaser who pays the tax may be entitled to a refund. A mortgagee sale is subject to GST if the mortgagor would be liable to pay GST on the sale.

While there is no comprehensive capital gains tax in New Zealand, profits made on the sale of any asset (including land) is assessable as income, where the IRD determines the asset is purchased as part of a dealing or investment business, or for the purpose of resale, or where there was an undertaking or scheme entered into for the purpose of making a profit.  Profits from the sale of land are taxable, where construction, development or subdivision is involved, and if a consent or zoning change has or will benefit the land, and if the land is sold within ten years. For residential land the requirement is five years.

Mortgages and liens are available in New Zealand.  There is no permanent government policy as such that discriminates lending to foreigners.  However the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) introduced a macro-prudential tool as a means to curb rising house prices.  In October 2013, the RBNZ introduced a series of temporary loan-to-valuation ratio restrictions on banks’ lending to (domestic and foreign) investors and owner-occupiers wanting to purchase residential housing. 

During 2018, the RBNZ started a process of easing these restrictions due to the new Government’s housing market policies.  From January 1, 2019, banks are limited to lending residential investors who have less than a 30 percent deposit, to be no more than 5 percent of their total new lending in that category; and no more than 20 percent of banks’ new lending to owner-occupiers who have a deposit of less than 20 percent. 

A registered memorandum of mortgage is the usual form used to create a lien on real estate to secure an indebtedness.  There is no mortgage recording or mortgage tax in New Zealand. However from October 22, 2018 all non-resident purchasers must complete a Residential Land Statement declaring they are eligible to buy residential property in New Zealand, before signing any sale and purchase agreement:  https://www.linz.govt.nz/overseas-investment/information-for-buying-or-building-one-home-live#statement. Failure to do so could incur significant penalties under the Overseas Investment Act. 

When a lien secured by real property is foreclosed, there is a statutory process that must be followed which overrides the mortgage form itself as well as legal costs relating to foreclosing a lien on real property.  There are no restrictions on foreign lenders securing their advances over real estate in New Zealand. Nevertheless, on any mortgagee sale, lenders need to comply with the requirements concerning foreign ownership of land if the buyer or the land falls within certain criteria.

There are some statutory controls imposed on the amount of interest which may be charged on a loan secured by real property (and private and government agencies that monitor and report on interest charges) that ensure that interest rates and costs are not excessive or illegal.  There are no laws that that restrict the ability to make a borrower or guarantor personally liable for indebtedness secured by real property.

Property legally purchased but unoccupied can generally not revert to other owners.  The Land Transfer Act 2017 repealed the Land Transfer Amendment Act 1963 which previously outlined the process for cases of “adverse possession” or “squatters’ rights.”  Section 155 of the Land Transfer Act 2017 allows a person to apply to the Registrar-General of Land for a record of title in that person’s name as owner of the freehold estate in land if: a record of title has already been created for the estate; the person has been in adverse possession of the land for a continuous period of at least 20 years and continues in adverse possession of the land; and the possession would have entitled the person to apply for a title to the freehold estate in the land if the land were not subject to the Act.  The section applies to diverse instances, such as the case where an entire section is being occupied by someone unconnected to the registered owner, or in the case of a “boundary adjustment” between two properties. Section 159 of the Act lists instances when applications may not be made, such as land owned by the Crown, Māori land, or land occupied by the applicant – where the applicant owns an adjoining property – because of a mistaken marking of a boundary.

Intellectual Property Rights

New Zealand has a generally strong record on intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and is an active participant in international efforts to strengthen IPR enforcement globally.  It is a party to nine World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties and participates in the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Council. 

In March 2019, New Zealand entered into force the WIPO Copyright Treaty, the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, the Budapest Treaty and the Berne Convention.  It implemented the Madrid Treaty in December 2012, allowing New Zealand companies to file international trademarks through the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ).  Since 2013, an online portal hosted on the IPONZ and IP Australia websites has allowed applicants to apply for patent protection simultaneously in Australia and New Zealand with a single examiner assessing both applications according to the respective countries’ laws.

New Zealand is a party to the multilateral ACTA, which is aimed at establishing a comprehensive international framework that will assist parties to the agreement in their efforts to effectively combat the infringement of intellectual property rights, in particular the proliferation of counterfeiting and piracy.

Changes to copyright regulations bestow copyright protection in New Zealand for nationals of countries which have recently joined the WTO, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, and the Universal Copyright Treaty from January 2017.  The change is reciprocal protecting New Zealand copyright owners in those countries.

There are about ten statutes that provide civil and criminal enforcement procedures for IPR owners in New Zealand.  The Copyright Act 1994 and the Trade Marks Act 2002 impose civil liability for activities that constitute copyright and trademark infringement.  Both Acts also contain criminal offences for the infringement of copyright works in the course of business and the counterfeiting of registered trademarks for trade purposes.  The Fair Trading Act 1986 imposes criminal liability for the forging of a trademark, falsely using a trademark or sign in a way that is likely to mislead or deceive, and trading in products bearing misleading and deceptive trade descriptions.

The government is reviewing the Copyright Act 1994 in light of significant technological changes since the last review in 2004.   . New Zealand had agreed to tougher IPR and copyright protections under the TPP agreement, but the CPTPP suspended some of the original TPP copyright obligations, such as increasing rights protection from 50 years to 70 years.  In November 2018, MBIE, which administers the Act, released a 135-page Issues Paper which summarizes the operation of the New Zealand copyright regime, its shortcomings, and the wide range of issues that need to be addressed. 

New Zealand has amended some legislation to comply with obligations under CPTPP.  Customs New Zealand has had its powers to act on its own initiative to temporarily detain imported or exported goods that it suspects infringe copyright or trademarks.  Previous policy to cover the infringing label or sticker, or simply removing the infringing part such as a logo will no longer be sufficient. Customs New Zealand now has authority to inspect and detain any goods in its control suspected of being pirated.  The New Zealand High Court has been empowered to award additional damages for trade mark infringement, and unless exceptional circumstances exist, the courts must order the destruction of counterfeit goods. This will be in addition to the existing availability of compensatory damages under the Trade Marks Act 2002. 

New Zealand will retain its existing copyright term for creative works – and minimum required under the Berne Convention – of the life of the author plus 50 years after their death for films, sound recordings, books, screenplays, music, lyrics and artistic works.  New Zealand will not be required to provide stronger protection for technological protection measures (TPMs) which act as “digital locks” to protect copyright work, nor provide stronger protection for rights management information; nor alter its internet service provider liability provisions for copyright infringement. 

The Copyright Tribunal hears disputes about copyright licensing agreements under the Act and applications about illegal uploading and downloading of copyrighted work.  The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011 put in place a three notice regime, issuing alleged infringers up to three warnings within a nine month period, before ruling that infringement has occurred.  The legislation enables copyright owners to seek the suspension of the internet account for up to six months through the District Court.

The CPTPP will require New Zealand to provide a 12-month grace period for patent applicants.  Under this requirement, inventors will not be deprived of their ability to be granted a patent in New Zealand if an inventor makes their invention public, provided the inventor files the patent application within 12 months of disclosure.  This is important for many New Zealand businesses who will now not lose the right to patent their invention through accidental disclosure. In addition, pharmaceutical patent holders (who have provided their details to Medsafe) will have to be informed of someone seeking to use their drug’s clinical trial data before marketing approval is granted. 

The Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Standardized Packaging) Amendment Act passed in September 2016, and from June 2018, all tobacco packets will be the same standard dark brown/green background color as Australia.  New pictures and health warnings will be enlarged to cover at least 75 percent of the front of tobacco packs, and all tobacco company marketing imagery will be removed. The Smoke-free Environments Regulations 2017 standardize the appearance of tobacco manufacturers’ brand names. 

In November 2018, the Government announced plans to regulate vaping and smokeless tobacco products in New Zealand.  An amendment to the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 is expected to be passed this year limit the areas people can use such products, and change the way they are displayed in retail stores, similar to other tobacco products.  The government has indicated a public consultation process will occur before an amendment is passed.

New Zealand meets the minimum requirements of the TRIPS Agreement, providing patent protection for 20 years from the date of filing.  The Patents Act 2013 brought New Zealand patent law into substantial conformity with Australian law. Consistent with Australian patent law, an ‘absolute novelty’ standard is introduced as well as a requirement that all applications be examined for “obviousness” and utility.  The Patents Act stops short of precluding from patentability all computer software and has a provision for patenting “embedded software.”

New Zealand currently provides data exclusivity of five years from the date of marketing approval for a new pharmaceutical under Section 23B of the Medicines Act 1981.  Data protection on pharmaceuticals applies from the date of marketing approval, regardless of whether it is granted before or after the expiration of the 20-year patent.  Under section 74 of the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act 1997 data protection for non-innovative agricultural and veterinary products (products including reformulations and new uses), and from November 2016 data protection is available for ten years for innovative trade name products. 

From July 2017 New Zealand wine and spirit makers can register the geographical origins of their products under the Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act 2006 .  The Act and its amendments are administered by IPONZ and aims to protect wine and spirit markers’ products, to allow the registration of New Zealand geographical indications overseas, and to enforce action for falsely claiming a product comes from a certain region.

.  The most commonly intercepted item by Customs New Zealand is fake toys, according to an Official Information Act request  .   Electronics were the second most commonly intercepted item, followed by clothing and accessories.  Most items originate from China, the United Kingdom, Vietnam, and Hong Kong.

New Zealand is not on the USTR’s Special 301 report list.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/details.jsp?country_code=NZ  

Nicaragua

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Many investors in Nicaragua experience difficulties defending their property rights. The government regularly failed to enforce court decisions with respect to seizure, restitution, or compensation of private property. Enforcement of court orders was frequently subject to non-judicial considerations.  Members of the judiciary, including those at senior levels, were widely believed to be corrupt or subject to political pressure. The government failed to evict those who illegally took possession of private property.  Within the context of social upheaval starting on April 19, members of the FSLN illegally took over privately owned lands, with implicit and explicit support by municipal and national government officials. Some land seizures were politically targeted and directed against specific individuals, such as businessmen traditionally considered independent or against the ruling party.  As of August 24, the private sector contended that approximately 15,000 acres remained seized.

Previously during the 1980s, the expropriation of 28,000 properties in Nicaragua from both Nicaraguans and foreign investors resulted in a large number of claims and counter claims involving real estate.  Property registries suffer from years of poor recordkeeping, making it difficult to establish a title history, although some improvements have ensued from World Bank-financed projects to modernize the land administration systems in certain regions.

The Embassy recommends extensive due diligence and extreme caution before investing in property.  Unscrupulous individuals have engaged in protracted confrontations with U.S. investors to wrest control of beachfront properties along the Pacific coast in the departments of Carazo, Rivas, and Chinandega, as well as prime real estate in the cities of Managua, Granada, and Leon.  Judges and municipal authorities have been known to collude with such individuals, and a cottage industry supplies false titles and other documents to those who scheme to steal land.

Additional constraints can occur with property in the Autonomous Caribbean Region in which communal land cannot be legally purchased.  However, unscrupulous individuals sell communal land and lawyers and notaries will knowingly extend the apparent correct paperwork, only to have property buyers be stripped from their property by communal authorities.

Those interested in purchasing property in Nicaragua should seek experienced legal counsel very early in the process.

The Capital Markets Law (2006/587) provides a legal framework for securitization of movable and real property.  The banking system is expanding its loan programs for housing purchases and car purchases, but there is currently only a limited secondary market for mortgages.

Intellectual Property Rights

Nicaragua established standards for the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) through CAFTA-DR implementing legislation consistent with U.S. and international intellectual property standards.  While the legal regime for protection of IPR in Nicaragua is adequate, enforcement has been limited. Piracy of optical media and trademark violations are common.  The United States also has concerns about the implementation of Nicaragua’s patent obligations under CAFTA-DR, including the mechanism through which patent owners receive notice of submissions from third parties, how the public can access lists of protected patents, and the treatment of undisclosed test data.  The country does not publicly report on seizures of counterfeit goods.  Nicaragua is not listed in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 Report or the Notorious Market report.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ 

Niger

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Interests in property are enforced when the landholder is known, but property disputes are common, particularly involving community-owned land or land in rural areas where customary land titles are still common. Mortgages are relatively new instruments; Bank Atlantique introduced the first mortgages in 2014. The bank retains the title to the property until the loan is repaid.

Foreign ownership of land is permitted but requires authorization from the Ministry of Planning. The 2018 Finance Law changed tax policies on foreign ownership, but was not yet in force at year’s end.

Traditional use rights are at the core of land disputes between Nigerien farmers and traditional nomadic herders. According to data collected by the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business survey conducted in 2018, registering property in Niger requires four procedures, takes 13 days and costs 7.6 percent of the property value. Globally, Niger stands at 111 in the ranking of 190 economies on the ease of registering property. In 2014, Niger made transferring property easier by reducing registration fees.

Intellectual Property Rights

As a signatory to the 1983 Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, Niger provides national protection under Nigerien patent and trademark laws to foreign businesses. Niger is also a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and a signatory to the Universal Copyright Convention.

No new IP laws or regulations have been enacted in the past year

Niger does not regularly track and report on seizures of counterfeit goods. There is no specific information about working conditions in the production or sale of counterfeit goods. While there have been some cases of seizure, government statistics are not available.

Niger is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR)  Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

Nigeria

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Nigerian government recognizes secured interests in property, such as mortgages.  The recording of security instruments and their enforcement remain subject to the same inefficiencies as those in the judicial system.  In the World Bank Doing Business 2019 Report, Nigeria ranked 184 out of the 190 countries surveyed for registering property, a decline of five points over its 2018 ranking.  In Lagos, property registration required an average of 12 procedures over 105 days at a cost of 11.1 percent of the property value while in Kano registering property averages 11 procedures over 47 days at a cost of 11.8 percent of the property value.

Fee simple property rights remain rare.  Owners transfer most property through long-term leases, with certificates of occupancy acting as title deeds.  Property transfers are complex and must usually go through state governors’ offices, as state governments have jurisdiction over land ownership.  Authorities have often compelled owners to demolish buildings, including government buildings, commercial buildings, residences, and churches, even in the face of court injunctions. Therefore, acquiring and maintaining rights to real property can be problematic.

Clarity of title and registration of land ownership remain significant challenges throughout rural Nigeria, where many smallholder farmers have only ancestral or traditional use claims to their land.  Nigeria’s land reforms have attempted to address this barrier to development but with limited success.

Intellectual Property Rights

Nigeria’s legal and institutional infrastructure for protecting intellectual property rights (IPR) is in need of further development and funding.  Even though there are laws for enforcing most IPR, the legislation is deficient with respect to online piracy, geographical indications, and plant and animal breeders’ rights.  A bill to establish the Industrial Property Commission to oversee the registration of trade marks, patents, designs, plant varieties, animal breeders and farmers’ rights, as well as supervise the new registries created under the Industrial Property Act, has been in the works since 2016.  No new IPR legislation has been enacted.

Copyright protection in Nigeria is governed by the Copyright Act of 1988, as amended in 1992 and 1999, which provides an adequate basis for enforcing copyright and combating piracy.  The Act is administered by the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), a division of the Ministry of Justice. The International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC) has long noted that the Copyright Act should be amended to provide stiffer penalties for violators.  Nigeria is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and in 2017 passed legislation to ratify the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, both of which it signed in 1997. These treaties have becoming increasingly relevant since they address important digital communication and broadcast issues.  The 2016 Draft Copyright Bill was revised to bring it into compliance with these two treaties and was sent to the National Assembly in December 2017.

Local content guidelines issued by the Ministry of Communication Technology (MCT) in 2013 and titled the Guidelines for Nigerian Content Development in Information and Communications Technology have raised IPR concerns about the future ability of the Nigerian government to protect data and trade secrets since the localization processes require the disclosure of source code and other sensitive design elements as a condition of doing business.  The IT industry in Nigeria has pushed back strongly against several of the measures in those guidelines, which remain in effect but have not been fully enforced. While the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) does not currently require in-country product manufacturing due to the difficult business environment in Nigeria, it has noted that it would continue to press for local information and communications technology (ICT) capacity building programs.

Violations of Nigerian IPR laws continue to be widespread due in large part to a culture of inadequate enforcement.  That culture stems from several factors, including insufficient resources among enforcement agencies, lack of political will and focus on IPR, porous borders, entrenched trafficking systems that make enforcement difficult (and sometimes dangerous), and corruption.  The NCC, which has primary responsibility for copyright enforcement, is widely viewed as understaffed and underfunded relative to the magnitude of the IPR challenge in Nigeria. Nevertheless, the NCC continues to carry out enforcement actions on a regular basis. According to its report for 2018, the NCC conducted five anti-piracy operations and seized 288 copyrighted works, including DVDs, books, MP3s, and software.  Anti-piracy operations in 2018 led to seven arrests.

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has general authority to seize and destroy contraband.  Under current law, copyrighted works require a notice issued by the rights owner to Customs to treat such works as infringing, but implementing procedures have not been developed and this procedure is handled on a case-by-case basis between the NCS and the NCC.  Once seizures are made, the NCS invites the NCC to inspect and subsequently take control of the fake goods for further investigation since the NCC has the statutory responsibility to investigate and prosecute copyright violations. The NCC is responsible for the cost of moving and storing infringing goods.  If, after investigations, any persons are identified as associated with the infringing materials, a decision may be taken to prosecute. When no person is identified, the NCC may obtain an order of court to destroy such works. The NCC works in cooperation with rights owners’ associations and stakeholders in the copyright industries on such matters.

Many U.S. government agencies, including the Department of Justice, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the U.S. Copyright Office, the Department of Homeland Security, the Internal Revenue Service, and others have recently led or participated in IPR capacity building efforts that have included participants from Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Nigerian Customs Service, the Nigerian Police, the Nigerian Copyright Commission, the Nigerian Trademarks, Patents, and Designs Registry, the Standards Organization of Nigeria, and the National Agency For Food and Drug Administration and Control.

Nigeria was not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) 2019 Special 301 Report or the 2018 Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

North Macedonia

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Laws protect ownership of both movable and real property, but implementation of the laws is inconsistent.  Mortgages and liens exist and are regularly used, and the recording system is reliable. Highly centralized control of government owned “construction land,” the lack of coordinated local and regional zoning plans, and the lack of an efficient construction permitting system continues to impede business and investments.  Over the past few years, however, the government has improved the cadaster system, which has increased the security and speed of real estate transactions. Over 97 percent of real estate records are digitized. The World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business Report ranked North Macedonia 46th out of 190 for the ease of registering property, two places up from 2018, and 13th for the ease of dealing with construction permits.

Land leased or acquired by foreign and/or non-resident investors is regulated by the Law on Ownership and Other Real Rights.  EU and OECD residents have the same rights as local residents in lease or acquisition of construction land or property, whereas non-EU and non-OECD residents’ property ownership is regulated under terms of reciprocity.  Foreign residents cannot acquire agricultural land in North Macedonia. Foreign investors may acquire property rights for buildings used in their business activities, as well as full ownership rights over construction land through a locally registered company.  If the foreign company registers a local company, it can acquire land with full ownership rights similar to a domestic company.

Purchased land belongs to the owner and even if it remains unoccupied, cannot revert to other owners such as squatters.  The exception to this is agricultural land granted by government as concessions. If the consignee does not use the land per the agreement, then the government can cancel the concession and take back possession of the land.

Intellectual Property Rights

As an EU candidate country, North Macedonia must harmonize its intellectual property rights (IPR) laws and regulations with EU standards and demonstrate adequate enforcement of those laws.  The European Commission’s 2018 report on North Macedonia confirmed the country’s legislative framework has a sufficient level of alignment with the EU acquis, but its collective management systems needs further improvement.  The report recommended North Macedonia step up efforts to investigate and prosecute infringements of IPR, improve coordination among the law enforcement institutions through establishing an information platform for exchange of data, and raise public awareness on the importance of protecting IPR according to international best practices.

Responsibility for IPR is distributed among numerous institutions.  The State Office of Industrial Property governs patents, trademarks, service marks, designs, models, and samples.  A very small unit within the Ministry of Culture administers the protection of authors’ rights and other related rights (e.g., music, film, television).  The State Market Inspectorate is responsible for monitoring markets and preventing the sale of counterfeit or pirated goods. The Ministry of Interior is responsible for IPR-related crimes committed on the Internet.  The Customs Administration has the right to seize suspect goods to prevent their distribution pending confirmation from the rights holder of the authenticity of the goods. The National Coordination Body for Intellectual Property periodically organizes interagency raids to seize counterfeit products, but it usually focuses on small sellers in open-air markets. Measures taken by the coordination body are rare and mostly target infringement of trademarks.

While North Macedonia has most necessary IPR laws in place, infringements of IPR are frequent, and protection of IPR by the court system should be improved.  Prosecutors and judges in both civil and criminal cases are aware of IPR but lack adequate experience due to the small number of IPR cases and so do not have specialized courts to handle IPR cases.  Many rights holders do not pursue legal action, as IPR infringers usually lack the financial resources to pay damages anyway.  Courts reportedly are reluctant to find accused infringers of IPR guilty due to the criminalization of counterfeiting and stiff mandatory minimum sentences for small distributors of counterfeit goods.  The penalties for IPR infringement range from 30 to 60 days closure of businesses, monetary fines of up to EUR 5,000, (USD5,624), or a prison sentence of up to five years. North Macedonia does not track and report cumulative statistics on IPR infringement or seizures of counterfeit goods, and therefore lacks a credible enforcement record. North Macedonia is not listed in the U.S. Trade Representative Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List. However, the government currently uses, and has used for the past ten years, unlicensed Microsoft software.  In early 2018, the government initiated talks to resolve the issue.

North Macedonia joined the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 1993 and in 1994 became a member of WIPO’s Permanent Committee of Industrial Property Protection Information.  For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  

Norway

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Norway recognizes secured interests in property, both movable and real. The system for recording interests in property is recognized and reliable.  Norway maintains an open and effective legal and judicial system that protects and facilitates acquisition and disposition of rights in property, including land, buildings, and mortgages.

Intellectual Property Rights

Norway adheres to key international agreements for the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) (e.g., the Paris Union Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Berne Copyright Convention, the Universal Copyright Convention of 1952, and the Rome Convention).  It has notified its main IPR laws to the World Trade Organization. Norway’s IPR statutes cover the major areas referred to in the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.

The chief domestic statutes governing IPR include:  the Patents Act of December 15, 1967, as amended; the Designs Act of March 14, 2003; the Copyrights Act of May 12, 1961, as amended; the Layout-design Act of June 15, 1990, as amended; the Marketing Act of January 9, 2009; and the Trademarks Act of March 26, 2010.  The above legislation also protects trade secrets and industrial designs, including semiconductor chip layout design. As a European Economic Area(EEA) member, Norway adopted legislation intended to implement the 2001 EU Copyright Directive, though subsequent court cases exposed shortcomings in the legislation (see below).

Patents

The patent office (Patenstyret) grants patents for a period of 20 years (Acts of June 8, 1979 and May 4, 1985).  U.S. industry has expressed concern that Norway’s regulatory framework for process patents filed prior to 1992 denies adequate patent protection for a number of pharmaceutical products.  Although Norway introduced product patents for pharmaceuticals in 1992, the old system has left a difficult legacy for pharmaceutical companies, as competitors claiming to use non-patented processes entered the market.  Several U.S. pharmaceutical companies filed successful patent infringement lawsuits in Norwegian courts to fend off these new entrants, but others lost their court cases and were later forced to restructure their Norwegian operations with loss of employment.  Norway was placed on the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Watch List in 2008 due to concerns about pharmaceutical patent protection, but has not been listed since 2013. Norway is not on the Notorious Markets List.

Copyright

Internet piracy in Norway is facilitated by high broadband internet penetration, which makes peer-to-peer downloads of music and video easy and common.  Groups that release early copies of new motion pictures on the internet are active in the Norwegian market, and Norway has experienced some “camcording incidents,” where motion pictures are illegally recorded in cinemas.  Private organizations like the Motion Picture Association are attempting to raise public awareness of internet and video piracy, for example by running anti-pirating advertisements in movie theaters.

In June 2005 Norway enacted legislation based on the EU’s 2001 Copyright Directive to combat internet piracy, but subsequent court cases showed that the law did not give sufficient grounds for enforcement.  The GON started a process of revision in 2011, and the amended Copyright Act entered into force in July 2013. The amended Act brings Norwegian copyright protection up to date by clarifying the process for gaining access to infringers’ identities and introducing a site-blocking mechanism.  Positive developments on the enforcement side are complemented by the growing popularity of legal streaming alternatives like Netflix and HBO.

Counterfeit and Pirated Goods

Norway does not expressly ban imports or exports of counterfeit or pirated goods for private use or consumption.  However, import or export for resale or other commercial purpose is controlled by Norwegian Customs and rights-holders are notified.  Customs may seize and hold suspected counterfeit goods for up to five working days, during which time rights-holders may decide whether to proceed with an injunction or other settlement.  If the rights-holder does not pursue the case or respond to the notice, the goods are released to the importer (unless considered harmful). By comparison, customs officials in the EU have wider powers to seize, hold, and destroy counterfeit shipments.  In 2010, Norwegian Customs established an IPR office to coordinate training and increase awareness. In 2015, the GON launched a new website and an awareness campaign titled “Choose the Real Deal” (velgekte.no).

Enforcement

The Norwegian government does not consider itself obligated, under the EEA Agreement, to implement the European Union Enforcement Directive.  Rights-holders report that law enforcement authorities have begun to investigate major copyright infringement cases, with the result that several internet sites facilitating infringement were closed down.  However, rights holders contend that the authorities still do not give adequate priority to copyright and internet piracy cases.

Resources for Rights-Holders

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Norwegian Industrial Property Office: http://www.patentstyret.no/en/  

A list of local lawyers is available at http://norway.usembassy.gov/lawyers.html

Oman

5. Protection of Property Rights

Securitized interests in property, both moveable and real, are recognized and enforced in Oman, with mortgages and liens also existing in the country.  Foreign nationals are generally not able to own real estate in Oman, other than residential property located in a few designated Integrated Tourism Complexes.  Individuals record their interest in property with the Land Registry at the Ministry of Housing. The legal system, in general, facilitates the acquisition and disposition of property rights.

There are lands reserved for tribal use and ownership, but there are no clear definitions or regulations.  These tribes legally own the land, as opposed to the government owning the land, and therefore control access and any commercial activities.

According to the World Bank, it takes on average 16 days to register property, and the cost of the registration process as a percentage of the property value (five percent) is lower in Oman than elsewhere the region.  In 2018, the World Bank ranked Oman 52nd in the world for registering property, and Oman ranked higher than many other countries in the region.

Intellectual Property Rights

Oman has a relatively robust legal and regulatory framework for Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) protection.  Oman was not listed in the U.S. Trade Representative’s latest Special 301 Report, nor was it designated as a notorious market.

U.S. stakeholders have experienced difficulty getting appropriate agencies, including the Public Authority for Consumer Protection, the Public Prosecution, MOCI, and the ROP, to take enforcement action.  Adding to the lack of efficiency in IPR enforcement is the continued confusion as to which government agencies are responsible for investigating different types of IPR violations.

Public Authority for Consumer Protection officials have confirmed that they do not accept responsibility for complaints arising from brand-owners; they only take action on consumers’ complaints.  MOLA also confirmed that the Law of Copyrights and Neighboring Rights (Royal Decree No. 65/2008) stipulates that the MOCI shall be responsible for IPR enforcement at the retail level, including inspections and seizures.

Oman revised its intellectual property and copyright laws to comply with its obligations under the 2009 U.S.-Oman FTA.  As a result, Oman offers increased IPR protection for copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, geographical indications, and patents.  FTA-related revisions to IPR protection in Oman built upon the existing IPR regime, already strengthened by the passage of WTO-consistent intellectual property laws on copyrights, trademarks, industrial secrets, geographical indications and integrated circuits.  The FTA’s chapter on IPR can be found at: https://om.usembassy.gov/business/u-s-oman-free-trade-agreement/texts-free-trade-agreement/.

Oman is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and is registered as a signatory to the Madrid, Paris, and Berne Conventions on trademarks and intellectual property protection.  Oman has also signed the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty. Oman is also a signatory to the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants.

Trademark laws in Oman are Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) compliant.  Trademarks must be registered and noted in the Official Gazette through the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.  Local law firms can assist companies with the registration of trademarks. Oman’s copyright protection law extends protection to foreign copyrighted literary, technical, or scientific works; works of the graphic and plastic arts; and sound and video recordings.  In order to receive protection, a foreign-copyrighted work must be registered with the Omani government by depositing a copy of the work with the government and paying a fee. Trademarks are valid for 10 years while patents are generally protected for 20 years.  As literary works, software and audiovisual content are protected for 50 years.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at:

https://www.wipo.int/directory/en/details.jsp?country_code=OM  .

Resources for Rights Holders:

Ministry of Commerce and Industry – Department of IPR Enforcement
Director of Intellectual Property
Ahmed Al-Saidi
Tel: +968- 9942-1551
Fax: +968-2481-7412
E-mail:  saidy3916@yahoo.com
Web: http://www.moci.gov.om/  

Oman Chamber of Commerce & Industry

Director General
Abdul Adheem Al-Bahrani
Tel: +968-2479- 9146
Fax: +96-2479-1713
E-mail: adheem@chamberoman.om
Web: www.chamberoman.om  

U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
Regional IP Attaché
Pete C. Mehravari Intellectual Property Attaché for the Middle East & North Africa
U.S. Embassy Kuwait City, Kuwait
U.S. Department of Commerce Foreign Commercial Service, U.S. Patent & Trademark Office Tel: +965 2259 1455
E-mail: Peter.mehravari@trade.gov
Web: https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/ip-policy/intellectual-property-rights-ipr-attach-program/intellectual 

United States Trade Representative
IPR Director for the GCC
Sung Chang
Tel: +1 (202) 395-9564
E-mail: Sung.E.Chang@ustr.eop.gov
Web: http://www.ustr.gov  

U.S. Department of Commerce – International Trade Administration
IPR Lawyer
Kevin Reichelt
Tel: +1-202-482-0879
E-Mail: Kevin.reichelt@trade.gov
Web: http://www.trade.gov/cs/‎  

Pakistan

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Though Pakistan’s legal system supports the enforcement of property rights and both local and foreign owner interests, it offers incomplete protection for the acquisition and disposition of property rights.  With the exception of the agricultural sector, where foreign ownership is limited to 60 percent, no specific regulations regarding land lease or acquisition by foreign or non-resident investors exists.  Corporate farming by foreign-controlled companies is permitted if the subsidiaries are incorporated in Pakistan.  There are no limits on the size of corporate farmland holdings, and foreign companies can lease farmland for up to 50 years, with renewal options.

The 1979 Industrial Property Order safeguards industrial property in Pakistan against government use of eminent domain with insufficient compensation for both foreign and domestic investors.  The 1976 Foreign Private Investment Promotion and Protection Act guarantees the remittance of profits earned through the sale or appreciation in value of property.

Though protection for legal purchasers of land are provided, even if unoccupied, clarity of land titles remains a challenge.  Improvements to land titling have been made by the Punjab, Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial governments dedicating significant resources to digitizing land records.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Government of Pakistan has identified intellectual property rights (IPR) protection as a key economic reform and has taken concrete steps over the past 15 years to strengthen its IPR regime.  In 2005, Pakistan created the Intellectual Property Organization (IPO) to consolidate government control over trademarks, patents, and copyrights.  Three ministries handled these areas previously: the Ministry of Education for copyright, Ministry of Commerce for trademarks, and the Ministry of Industries for patents.  The IPO’s mission also includes coordinating and monitoring the enforcement and protection of IPR through law enforcement agencies.  Enforcement agencies include local police, the Federal Investigation Agency, customs officials at the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), the Securities & Exchange Commission (SECP), the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP), the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP), and the Print and Electronic Media Regulatory Authority.

Although the creation of the IPO consolidated policy-making institutions, confusion surrounding enforcement agencies’ roles still constrains IPO performance on IPR enforcement, leaving IPR holders struggling to identify the right forum in which to address IPR infringement.  The IPO constituted seven new enforcement coordination committees for better IPR enforcement and signed an MOU with the FBR to share information.  The IPO is in initial stages to sign MOUs with the CCP and SECP.  However, the IPO labors to coordinate disparate bodies under current laws.  Weak penalties and agencies’ redundancies allow counterfeiters to evade punishment, while companies struggle to identify the correct forum to file complaints.  Pakistan is the fourth largest source of counterfeit and pirated goods seized by U.S. customs and border protection.

In 2016, Pakistan established three specialized IP tribunals – in Karachi covering Sindh and Balochistan, in Lahore covering Punjab, and in Islamabad covering Islamabad and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.  There are plans to create tribunals for Peshawar and Quetta as well.  The Lahore and Islamabad IP tribunals became fully operational in 2016, and the Karachi tribunal came online in April 2017.  The IP tribunals have already ruled on 800 cases, many of which have resulted in injunction orders.  Numerous U.S. companies have successfully defended their IPR in the new tribunals, but a lack of capacity and consistency of the presiding officers remains a concern.  In under three years, the Islamabad and Lahore tribunals have each seated three different presiding officers while Karachi had two, and high court justices without expertise in IP law often overrule tribunals’ decisions.  While these three tribunals are fully operational and have improved IPR enforcement, they have not made any major rulings, and it remains too early to assess their long-term influence on Pakistan’s IPR environment.

In 2018, the CCP investigated and imposed a fine of USD 47,000 on a local coffee house on charges of unauthorized use of the Starbucks trademark.

Pakistan has sought to encourage investment in the seed industry through enhanced regulatory structure.  Over the past three years officials have revised the 1976 Seed Act, cautiously resumed  the biotechnology approval process, and received parliamentary approval of the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act (approved December 2016), which, once implementing rules are written, is expected to provide Pakistan’s first-ever intellectual property protection for seeds.  While current and potential investors have expressed concern over enforcement capacity and would like to accelerate the approval process for new technologies, the Government of Pakistan is taking steps to solidify federal (rather than provincial) oversight of the sector and respond to industry input.  Access to modern seed technology is vital to the development of Pakistan’s agricultural sector.

Pakistan is a party to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).  In July 2004, Pakistan acceded to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.  Pakistan has not yet ratified the WIPO Copyright Treaty or the WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty.

In 2016, Pakistan was upgraded from Priority Watch List to Watch List with an Out-of-Cycle Review on the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 Report.  Pakistan currently remains on the Watch List for the 2019 Special 301 Report, which acknowledged certain achievements by the government but highlighted the lack of enforcement on violations, particularly with respect to copyrights, pharmaceutical data, and media piracy.  Pakistan is not included on the Notorious Markets List.

Pakistan does not track and report on seizure of counterfeit goods.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ 

Panama

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The majority of land in Panama, and almost all land outside of Panama City, is not titled; a system of rights of possession exists, but there are multiple instances where such rights have been successfully challenged.  The World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 report (http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/panama  ) notes that Panama has risen to 81 out of 190 countries on the Registering Property indicator, though it still ranks 147th in Enforcing Contracts.  Panama enacted Law 80 (2009) to address the lack of titled land in certain parts of the country; however, it does not cure deficiencies in government administration or the judicial system.  In 2010, the National Assembly approved the creation of the National Authority of Land Management (ANATI) to administer land titling; however, investors have complained about ANATI’s capabilities and lengthy adjudication timelines.

The judicial system’s capacity to resolve contractual and property disputes is generally considered weak and open to corruption, as illustrated by the most recent World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018 (https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-competitiveness-report-2017-2018  ), which rates Panama’s judicial independence as 120 out of 137 countries.  Americans should exercise greater due diligence in purchasing Panamanian real estate than they would in purchasing real estate in the United States.  Engaging a reputable attorney and licensed real estate broker is strongly recommended.

Intellectual Property Rights

Panama has an adequate and effective domestic legal framework to protect and enforce intellectual property rights (IPR).  The U.S.-Panama TPA improved standards for the protection and enforcement of a broad range of IPR, including for patents; trademarks; undisclosed tests and data required to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical and agricultural chemical products; and digital copyright products such as software, music, books, and videos.  In order to implement the requirements of the TPA, Panama passed Law 62 of 2012 (industrial property) and Law 64 of 2012 (copyrights). Law 64 also extended copyright protection to the life of the author plus 70 years, mandates the use of legal software in government agencies, and protects against the theft of encrypted satellite signals and the manufacturing or sale of tools to steal signals.  

Panama is a member of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.  Panama’s Industrial Property Law (Law 35 of 1996) provides a term of 20 years of patent protection from the date of filing, or 15 years for pharmaceutical patents.  Panama has expressed interest in participating in the Patent Protection Highway with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Law 35, amended by Law 61 of 2012, also provides trademark protection, simplifies the registration of trademarks, and allows for renewals for 10-year periods.  The law grants ex-officio authority to government agencies to conduct investigations and seize suspected counterfeited materials. Decree 123 of 1996 and Decree 79 of 1997 specify the procedures that National Customs Authority (ANA) and Colon Free Zone officials must follow to investigate and confiscate merchandise.  In 1997, ANA created a special office for IPR enforcement; in 1998, the Colon Free Zone followed suit.

The Government of Panama is making efforts to strengthen the enforcement of IPR.  A Committee for Intellectual Property (CIPI), comprising representatives from five government agencies (the Colon Free Zone, the Offices of Industrial Property and Copyright under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MICI), ANA, and the Attorney General), under the leadership of the MICI, is responsible for the development of intellectual property policy.  Since 1997, two district courts and one superior tribunal have exclusively adjudicated antitrust, patent, trademark, and copyright cases. Since January 2003, a specific prosecutor with national authority over IPR cases has consolidated and simplified the prosecution of such cases. Law 1 of 2004 added crimes against IP as a predicate offense for money laundering, and Law 14 establishes a 5 to 12-year prison term, plus possible fines.  

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Resources for Rights Holders

Embassy point of contact:

Colombia Primola
Economic Specialist
PrimolaCE@state.gov

Local lawyers list

Papua New Guinea

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Property rights exist and are enforced.  Mortgages and liens do exist. For non-customary land, the system is reliable.

PNG’s legal system does not allow direct foreign ownership of land. To get around this limitation, long-term government leases are used. The legal system protects and facilitates acquisition and disposition of all property rights, but there are substantial delays particularly within the Department of Lands.

The majority of land (over 80 percent) is “customarily owned” meaning that there is little legal documentation.  The lack of documentation makes acquisition difficult as even after a transaction settles, it can be challenged by an individual that also claims customary ownership.  The government has been working to standardize and document customary ownership, but the problem persists.

Intellectual Property Rights

The IPA through the Intellectual Property Office of PNG (IPOPNG) administers the Trade Marks Act, Chapter 385, Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act (2000) and the Patents and Industrial Design Act (2000).

Protections for intellectual property rights relating to the reproduction and sale of counterfeit and pirated products, particularly music and movies, are insufficient. Such counterfeit products are openly sold on the streets and in shops. Sales persist despite sporadic law enforcement action. Other counterfeit products that infringe on copyrights, patents, and/or trademarks are often imported from Asian countries and sold in Papua New Guinea. Customs periodically seizes such shipments, but there are significant gaps in their enforcement regime. Adequate protection for trade secrets and semiconductor chip layout design exist in law, and minimal infringements appear to occur. For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ 

Paraguay

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The 1992 constitution guarantees the right of private property ownership.  While it is common to use real property as security for loans, the lack of consistent property surveys and registries often makes it impossible to foreclose.  According to government figures, there is 35 percent more titled land in Paraguay than physically exists. In some cases, acquiring title documents for land can take two years or more.  The World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business report ranks Paraguay 74 of 190 for ease of “registering property,” noting the process requires six procedures, averages 46 days, and costs 1.8 percent of the property value.

Paraguay has a “squatter’s rights” law by which ownership of property can be gained by possession of it beyond the lapse of 20 years.

Intellectual Property Rights

The United States and Paraguay signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on intellectual property rights (IPR) in June 2015, under which Paraguay committed to take specific steps to improve its IPR protection and enforcement environment.  Additionally, the MOU solidifies bilateral cooperation by which the United States supports Paraguay’s efforts to strengthen the legal protection and enforcement of IPR. This led to Paraguay being removed from the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) 2015 Special 301 Report Watch List pursuant to an Out-of-Cycle Review.  Due in part to Paraguay’s unfulfilled commitments under the MOU, Paraguay returned to the Special 301 Report Watch List in 2019.

The market Ciudad del Este has been named in either the USTR Notorious Market List or the Special 301 Report for over 17 years.  The border crossing at Ciudad del Este, and the city itself, reportedly serves as a hub for the distribution of counterfeit and pirated products in the Brazil-Argentina-Paraguay tri-border region and beyond.  Informality and border porosity in the area remains a challenge.

Concerns remain about inadequate protection against unfair commercial use of proprietary test or other data generated to obtain marketing approval for agrochemical or pharmaceutical products and the shortcomings in Paraguay’s patent regime.  Law 3283 from 2007 and Law 3519 from 2008, (1) require pharmaceutical products and agrochemical products to be registered first in Paraguay to be eligible for data protection; (2) allow regulatory agencies to use test data in support of similar agricultural chemical product applications filed by third parties; and (3) limit data protection to five years.  Additionally, Law 2593/05 that modifies Paraguay’s patent law has no regulatory enforcement. Because of this, foreign pharmaceutical companies have seen their patented products openly replicated and marketed under other names by Paraguayan pharmaceutical companies.

Although law enforcement authorities track seizures of counterfeit goods independently, there is no consolidated report available online, and the statistics vary between government offices.  DINAPI reported 197 seizures of counterfeit goods in 2018 with an estimated retail price of USD 12 million. 

Paraguay has ratified all of the Uruguay Round accords, including the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), and has ratified two World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) copyright treaties.  The Paraguayan Congress ratified the TRIPS Agreement in July 2018.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Regional IP Attaché
U.S. Consulate General – Rio de Janeiro
Telephone: +55 (21) 3823-2499

Deputy Political and Economic Counselor
U.S. Embassy Asuncion
Telephone: +595 (21) 213-715

National Intellectual Property Directorate: https://www.dinapi.gov.py/  

Paraguayan-American Chamber of Commerce: http://www.amcham.com.py/  

Local Lawyers: http://photos.state.gov/libraries/paraguay/5/Consular/Attorneys percent20at percent20Law_001.pdf 

Peru

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

World Bank’s 2018 Doing Business Report ranked Peru 45th  of 190 for ease of “registering property.”  Property rights and interests are enforced in the country.  Mortgages and liens exist, and the recording system is reliable, and is performed by SUNARP, the National Superintendency of Public Records. Foreigners and/or non-resident investors cannot own land within 50 km of a border.

Intellectual Property Rights

Peru is listed on the Watch List under the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) 2019 Special 301 Report.

Peru’s legal framework provides for easy registration of trademarks and inventors have been able to patent their inventions since 1994.  Peru’s 1996 Industrial Property Rights Law provides an effective term of protection for patents and prohibits devices that decode encrypted satellite signals, along with other improvements.  Peruvian law does not provide pipeline protection for patents or protection from parallel imports. Peru’s Copyright Law is generally consistent with the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS).

The National Institute of the Defense of Free Competition and the Protection of Intellectual Property (INDECOPI) continues to be the most engaged GOP agency and is a reliable partner for the USG, the private sector, and civil society, having made good faith efforts to decrease the trademark and patent registration backlog and filling time.  The average filing time is two months for trademarks and is 43 months for patents.

Peruvian law provides the same protections for U.S. companies as Peruvian companies in all intellectual property rights (IPR) categories under the U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement (PTPA) and other international commitments such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the TRIPS Agreement.  Peru joined the Global Patent Prosecution Highway Agreement (GPPH) with Japan effective in 2019. Peru is reinforcing its Patent Support System with the adoption of the WIPO – Technology and Innovation Support Center (TISC) Program.

INDECOPI, established in 1992, is the GOP agency charged with promoting and defending intellectual property rights.  However, IPR enforcement also involves other GOP agencies and offices: the Public Ministry (Fiscalia), the Peruvian National Police (PNP), the Tax and Customs Authority (SUNAT), the Ministry of Production (PRODUCE), the Judiciary, and the Ministry of Health’s (MINSA) Directorate General for Medicines (DIGEMID).

Peru took a number of positive steps relating to IPR protection and enforcement over the last three years.  Peru successfully seized and shuttered several Spanish-language websites known to host large volumes of pirated content, and has blocked infringing sites on the major ISPs. Peru has significantly improved inter-agency coordination and has specialized IP prosecutors in Lima Norte, Callao, Tumbes, Puno, and Ventanilla, although there are still many areas of the country where this expertise is unavailable.

The GOP continues to improve its enforcement of IPR.  The Commission for Fighting Customs Crimes and Piracy (CLCDAP) is made up of the Ministry of Production, Public Ministry, the Judiciary, the National Police, the Ministry of the Interior, SUNAT, the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MTC), the telecommunications agency (OSPITEL), The IP Agency (INDECOPI), and the private sector.  The CLCDAP was designed to provide solutions to IPR issues through operational actions, institutional strengthening, improvement of the legal framework, and public awareness activities. The CLCDAP has set up a number of working groups, including on software piracy, editorial piracy, online and pay TV piracy, and audiovisual piracy. Importantly, the participation of the private sector in these working groups has led to increased private sector coordination with numerous agencies.

Indecopi’s 2018 Section 301 comments filed show an increase in precautionary measure seizures ordered by the Copyright, Trademarks and Patent Directorates from 371 in 2017 to 467 in 2018. The number of infringedment cases increased from 694 in 2017 to 903 in 2019.  Indecopi held 739 raids during 2018, almost double the 416 raids in 2017.

However, there are specific concerns that must be addressed.  This includes Peru’s limited progress in developing ISP limited liability regulations and a system of pre-established damages, and issues such as enforcement against camcording.  Another area of concern relates to the standards of patent eligibility for inventions involving new methods of using a previously approved pharmaceutical product. In addition, stakeholders are concerned that penalties are not sufficient to be deterrent.

There is insufficient political commitment to intellectual property rights protection and widespread counterfeiting and piracy exist with insufficient judicial, prosecutorial, and law enforcement processes in Peru. 

The World Economic Forum’s 2018 Global Competitiveness Index ranked Peru as 63rd out of 140 economies.  Peru’s competitiveness is improving (it was ranked 69th in 2016 and 72nd last year), it is still behind fellow South American countries Colombia (60), Chile (33), and Mexico (46). http://www3.weforum.org/docs/GCR2018/05FullReport/TheGlobalCompetitivenessReport2018.pdf 

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at https://www.wipo.int/directory/en/details.jsp?country_code=PE  .

Philippines

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Philippines recognizes and protects property rights, but the enforcement of laws is weak and fragmented.  The Land Registration Authority and the Register of Deeds (http://www.lra.gov.ph/), which facilitate the registration and transfer of property titles, are responsible for land administration, with more information available on their website  s.  Property registration processes are tedious and costly.  Multiple agencies are involved in property administration, which results in overlapping procedures for land valuation and titling processes.  Record management is weak due to a lack of funds and trained personnel. Corruption is also prevalent among land administration personnel and the court system is slow to resolve land disputes.  The Philippines ranked 114th out of 190 economies in terms of ease of property registration in the World Bank’s 2018 Ease of Doing Business report.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Philippines is not listed on the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report.  The country has a robust intellectual property rights (IPR) regime in place, although enforcement is irregular and inconsistent.  The total estimated value of counterfeit goods reported seized in 2018 was USD 453 million, nearly a 180 percent increase from USD 162 million in 2017.  The sale of imported counterfeit goods in local markets has visibly decreased, though stakeholders report the amount of counterfeit goods sold online is gradually increasing.

The Intellectual Property (IP) Code provides legal framework for IPR protection, particularly in key areas of patents, trademarks, and copyrights.  The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) is the implementing agency of the IP Code, with more information available on its website  .  The Philippines generally has strong patent and trademark laws.  IPOPHL’s IP Enforcement Office (IEO) reviews IPR-related complaints and visits establishments reportedly engaged in IPR-related violations.  However, weak border protection, corruption, limited enforcement capacity by the government, and lack of clear procedures continue to weaken enforcement.  In addition, IP owners still must assume most enforcement costs when counterfeit goods are seized.

Enforcement actions are often not followed by successful prosecutions.  The slow and capricious judicial system keeps most IP owners from pursuing cases in court.  IP infringement is not considered a major crime in the Philippines and takes a lower priority in court proceedings, especially as the courts become more crowded out with criminal cases, which receive higher priority.  Many IP owners opt for out-of-court settlements (such as ADR) rather than filing a lawsuit that may take years to resolve in the unpredictable Philippine courts. The IPOPHL has jurisdiction to resolve certain disputes concerning alleged infringement and licensing through its Arbitration and Mediation Center.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at the local IP offices, see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Resources for Rights Holders

Contact at Mission:

Douglas Fowler, Economic Officer
Economic Section, U.S. Embassy Manila
Telephone: (+632) 301.2000
Email: ManilaEcon@state.gov

A list of local lawyers can be found on the U.S. Embassy’s website: https://ph.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/

Poland

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Poland recognizes and enforces secured interests in property, movable and real.  The concept of a mortgage exists in Poland, and there is a recognized system of recording such secured interests. There are two types of publicly available land registers in Poland: the land and mortgage register (ksiegi wieczyste), the purpose of which is to register titles to land and encumbrances thereon, and the land and buildings register (ewidencja gruntow i budynkow), whose function is more technical as it contains information concerning physical features of the land, class of land and its use.  Generally, real estate in Poland is registered and legal title can be identified on the basis of entries in the land and mortgage registers which are maintained by relevant district courts.  Each register is accessible to the public and excerpts are available on application, subject to a nominal fee. The registers are available online.

Poland has a non-discriminatory legal system accessible to foreign investors that protects and facilitates acquisition and disposition of all property rights, including land, buildings, and mortgages.  However, foreigners (both individuals and entities) must obtain a permit to acquire property (See Section 1 Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment). Many investors, foreign and domestic, complain the judicial system is slow in adjudicating property rights cases.  Under the Polish Civil Code, a contract to buy real property must be made in the form of a notary deed. Foreign companies and individuals may lease real property in Poland without having to obtain a permit.

Widespread nationalization of property during and after World War II has complicated the ability to establish clear title to land in Poland, especially in major municipalities.  While the Polish government has an administrative system for reviewing claims for the restitution of communal property, former individual property owners must file and pursue claims in the Polish court system in order to receive restitution.  There is no general statute of limitations regarding the filing or litigation of private property restitution claims, but there are exceptions for specific cases. For example, in cases involving the communist-era nationalization of Warsaw under the Bierut Decree, there were claims deadlines that have now passed, and under current law, those who did not meet the deadlines would no longer be able to make a claim for either restitution or compensation.  During 2017, Warsaw city authorities began implementing a 2015 law that critics stated might extinguish potential claims by private individuals of public properties seized during the Second World War or the communist era if no one comes forward to pursue a restitution claim within six months after publication of the affected property. Any potential claimants who come forward will have an additional three months to establish their claim after the initial six-month period.  The city began publishing lists in February 2017, and is expected to continue to publish similar property cases going forward.  The city’s website contains further information on these cases and the process to pursue a claim: http://bip.warszawa.pl/Menu_podmiotowe/biura_urzedu/SD/ogloszenia/default.htm?page=1  

It is sometimes difficult to establish clear title to properties.  There are no comprehensive estimates of land without clear title in Poland.

On October 11, 2017, the Ministry of Justice announced comprehensive private property restitution draft legislation that would block any physical return of former properties, provide compensation of 20-25 percent of the property’s value at the time of taking in cash or government bonds, and set a one-year claims filing period.  The legislation drew intense media coverage and public scrutiny, and critics argued the legislation would exclude potential foreign claimants, many of whom are Holocaust survivors or their heirs.  As of March 2019, the Justice Ministry had not submitted the draft legislation to the Council of Ministers (cabinet) for review and approval. 

The agricultural land law bans sale of Agricultural Property Agency (APA) (state-owned) farmland for five years.  The impact of the five-year ban is not significant, as at present more than 90 percent of all agricultural land is already privately owned.  State-owned farm land will be available only under long-term lease for farmers who want to enlarge their farms, to a maximum of 300 hectares (new and old land combined size).  Foreigners can (and do) lease agricultural land. The agricultural land law also imposed restrictions on the sale of privately owned farm land, and gives the APA preemptive right to purchase in case of land sales by a private owner.  Official statistics on the impact of the new law on prices and turnover of land is not available. Recently, the government announced plans to loosen these regulations. The Law on Forest Land similarly prevents Polish and foreign investors from purchasing privately-held forests and gives state-owned forestry agency (Lasy Panstwowe) preemptive right to buy privately-held forests, though the government may be considering relaxing some restrictions.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Polish intellectual property rights (IPR) law is stricter than European Commission directives require.  Enforcement is good and improving across all IP types.  Physical piracy (e.g., optical discs) is not a problem in Poland.  However, online piracy continues to be widespread, despite progress in enforcement, and a popular cyberlocker platform in Poland is listed on the 2018 Notorious Markets List.  Poland does not appear in the USTR’s Special 301 Report.

Polish law requires a rights holder to start the prosecution process.  In Poland, authors’ and creators’ organizations and associations track violations and present motions to prosecutors.  Rights holders express concern that penalties for digital IPR infringement are not high enough to deter violators.  In an effort to address these concerns, the Polish government established a national IPR strategy for 2015-17. 

A new act passed on June 15, 2018, which implements EU Directive 2014/26/EU on the collective management of copyright and related rights and the granting of multi-territorial licenses regarding rights to music for online use on the internal market.  The purpose of the bill is comprehensive regulation of the activities of collective management organizations in Poland. It will replace the existing provisions in this area, ex. chapters 12 and 12 (1) of the Copyright and Related Rights Act. Additional harmonization with existing regulations, such as the Act on the Protection of Databases and the Act on Copyright and Related Rights, is to be carried out in 2019.  On March 11, 2019, the Polish President signed amendments to the Act on Industrial Property Law (“IPL”). Many adjustments resulted from the implementation of EU Trademark Directive 2015/2436. The amendments entered into force on March 12, 2019. IPL introduced, inter alia, the abandonment of the graphical representation requirement, introduction of a new mechanism for trademark protection renewals, extended licensee’s rights, as well as remedies against counterfeit goods in transit and against infringing preparatory acts.  The changes provide new tools to fight against infringements of trademark protection rights.

New tax incentives for intellectual property known collectively as “IP Box” or “Innovation Box” were included in the November 2018 tax amendment.  See Section 4 Investment Incentives.  

Polish customs tracks seizures of counterfeit goods but failed to provide this information for the reporting period.  

General information on copyright in Poland: http://www.copyright.gov.pl/pages/main-page/copyright-in-poland/general-information.php  

Polish Patent Office: http://www.uprp.pl/o-urzedzie/Lead03,14,56,1,index,pl,text/  

Ministry of Digitalization: https://www.gov.pl/cyfryzacja/co-robimy  

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/details.jsp?country_code=PL  

Portugal

5. Protection of Property Rights

Portugal reliably enforces property rights and interests.  The Portuguese Constitution provides for the right to private property and grants Parliament the power to establish rules on the renting of property, the determination of property in the public domain, and the rules of land management and urban planning.  The Civil Code of 1967 provides for the right to absolute and full ownership, which can be restricted by mortgage, liens, or other security interests. Additional laws have established or modified rules on time-sharing, condominiums, and land registration.

Property registration can be done online at https://www.predialonline.pt/PredialOnline/  .   According to the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business Index, the number of days to process registration rose from one in 2015 to 10 in 2018, in part due to staffing cuts.  Portugal ranked 36 out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s 2019 ease of registering property ranking. The cost to register a property remains slightly higher than average, at 7.3 percent of the property value.

Foreign investors can directly own/purchase property freehold or leasehold, to build industrial and commercial premises or can purchase through a real estate company.

As of 2013, between 10 and 20 percent of land in Portugal had no clear title.  In 2018, Portugal launched an initiative to improve land ownership registration.

If legally purchased property is unoccupied, Portuguese law allows ownership to revert to other owners (including squatters), through an adverse domain process set out in Chapter VI of the Portuguese Civil Code (CCP), Article 1287.  For details, see:  www.stj.pt/ficheiros/fpstjptlp/portugal_codigocivil.pdf .

Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property rights (IPR) infringement and theft are not common in Portugal.  It is fairly easy for investors to register copyrights, industrial property, patents, and designs with Portugal’s Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) and the Inspectorate-General of Cultural Activities (IGAC).  Intellectual property can be registered online for a small fee. For more details, consult:  https://inpi.justica.gov.pt/Servicos   and https://www.igac.gov.pt/  .

The Portuguese government adopted the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 2003.  Portuguese legislation for the protection of IPR has been consistent with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules and EU directives since 2004. The Arbitration Centre for Industrial Property, Domain Names, and Company Names (ARBITRARE) was established in 2009 to facilitate voluntary arbitration of IPR disputes in English or Portuguese, and in 2012, the government created an intellectual property court with two judges.  No new IPR related laws or regulations were enacted in 2018. See more at: http://www.wipo.int/wipolex/en/profile.jsp?code=pt  .

Portugal is a participant in the eMAGE and eMARKS projects, which provide multilingual access to databases of trademarks and industrial designs.  Portugal’s Food and Economic Security Authority (ASAE), in partnership with other national law enforcement agencies, provides statistics on seizures of counterfeit goods at: http://anti-contrafaccao.com/en/statistics/  .

Portugal is not listed in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report, nor is it on the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Qatar

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

A set of laws, ministerial decrees, and resolutions make up the country’s jurisprudence on property rights and ownership.

Law 16/2018 designates 10 zones in which foreign investors, companies, and real estate developers are permitted full property ownership.  The law also allows foreign investors usufructuary right of real estate of up to 99 years in 16 other zones. Additionally, foreigners may own villas within residential complexes, as well as retail outlets in certain commercial complexes.  In December 2018, a committee was formed under the Ministry of Justice to regulate foreign real estate ownership and use. According to subsequent regulations announced in March 2019, non-Qatari real estate owners will be granted residency in Qatar for as long as they own their property.

Law 6/2014 regulates real estate development and promulgates that non-Qatari companies should have at least 10 years of experience and headquarters in Qatar to carry out real estate development activities within selected locations. 

Property leasehold rights are enforced.  Qatar’s Rent Law 4/2008 protects the lessee and regulates the lessor.  There are a number of enforceable rights granted to the lessee including protection from rent hikes during the lease period and enforcement of the terms of the lease contract should the lessor transfer ownership.  The lessor is also protected from tenants who violate their lease agreements. Qatar’s Leasing Dispute Settlement Committee enforces these regulations. The committee hears and issues binding decisions and all lessors are required by law to register their lease agreements with this committee.

The Ministry of Municipality and Environment oversees the preparation of all records related to the selling, leasing, waiver, and bequeathing of real estate.  A reliable electronic database exists to check for encumbrances, including liens, mortgages, and restrictions. In addition, all titles and deed records are kept in digital format.

Qatar was ranked 20th globally for ease of registering property by the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business Report:  http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/qatar#registering-property  

Intellectual Property Rights

Qatar’s intellectual property (IP) legal regime, albeit still developing in capacity, is robust and wide-ranging in terms of the number of laws protecting different types of intellectual property rights (IPR).  Qatar has signed many international intellectual property treaties, which are implemented through Qatari laws and regulations. Qatar’s IP legislation includes the Trademark and Copyright Law (enacted in 2002), the Protection of Trade Secrets and Protection of Layout Design law (2005), and the Patent Law (2006).  These laws grant foreign applicants the same rights as Qataris, provided they are nationals of a state that grants Qatar reciprocal treatment.

Intellectual property owners can apply for IP rights at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, which is mandated (by Law 20/2014) to enforce IP laws and regulations.  Within the ministry, an IP Protection Department has been set up with offices focusing on trademarks, copyrights, neighboring rights, patents, industrial designs, and innovations.  The following are the periods of validity for the different types of registered intellectual property:

Patents:  Valid for 20 years from filing.

  • With regard to pharmaceutical products, the Ministry of Public Health requires registration of all products imported into the country and will not register unauthorized copies of products patented in other countries.  Qatar also recognizes GCC patents on pharmaceutical products. To obtain patent protection in the GCC, pharmaceutical companies must apply for a GCC patent at the GCC Patent Office. Once granted, protection should extend to all the GCC countries. 

Copyrights:  Protected for 50 years after the author’s death.

  • Per Qatari law, failure to register at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry will not affect protection of the copyright.  While the law does not protect unpublished works and does not criminalize end-user piracy, Qatar is party to the Berne and Paris Conventions and abides by their mandates concerning unpublished works.  The IP Protection Department works with law enforcement authorities to prosecute resellers of unlicensed video and software.

Trademarks:  Valid for 10 years but can be renewed indefinitely, while trademarks unused for five consecutive years are subject to cancellation. 

  • As part of the GCC Customs Union, inaugurated in 2015, the GCC approved a common trademark law and Qatar is taking steps to enact it. 

The law on Intellectual Property Border Protection (Law 17/2011) forbids the import of any products that infringe any IPR protected in Qatar and obliges the General Authority of Customs to take measures to prevent the entrance of infringing products.  The law also permits IP rights holders to block the release of imported products that infringe on their rights, given sufficient evidence. In February 2017, the General Authority of Customs launched an electronic system to detect counterfeit goods coming into the country.  The system is accredited by the World Customs Organization and has been introduced to limit the imports of counterfeit goods. The General Authority of Customs, the Consumer Protection and IP Protection Departments at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and the Ministry of Interior conduct surveys, search shops, and seize and destroy counterfeit products. 

In March 2017, the Cabinet approved a draft law on the protection of industrial designs in an attempt to modernize existing Law 9/2002 on trademarks, trade indications, trade names, geographical indications, and industrial designs and templates, but the new law has not come into force yet.

The existing Penal Code stipulates hefty fines on those dealing in counterfeit products and imprisonment for offenders convicted of counterfeiting, imitating, fraudulently affixing, or selling products, or offering services of a registered trademark, or other intellectual property violations.  However, the level of awareness about IPR and enforcement is low among the public. The IP Protection Department in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has taken the lead in promoting awareness through workshops and seminars.

The United States Trade Representative Office (USTR) does not consider Qatar a market that engages in, turns a blind eye to, or benefits from piracy and counterfeit products, nor is Qatar listed in USTR’s Special 301 Report.

Qatar is a member of the World Trade Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and is a signatory of several WIPO treaties.  For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/wipolex/en/profile.jsp?code=QA  .

Resources for Rights Holders:

U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
Regional IP Attaché
Peter C. Mehravari, Intellectual Property Attaché for the Middle East & North Africa
U.S. Department of Commerce Foreign Commercial Service, U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
U.S. Embassy Kuwait City, Kuwait
+965 2259 1455
Email: Peter.mehravari@trade.gov
Web:  https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/ip-policy/intellectual-property-rights-ipr-attach-program/intellectual  

United States Trade Representative
IPR Director for the GCC
Sung Chang
+1 (202) 395-9564
Email: 
Sung.E.Chang@ustr.eop.gov
Web: http://www.ustr.gov  

A list of local attorneys that may be able to provide assistance in pursuing IP protections and enforcement claims in Qatar can be found at the U.S. Embassy Doha website:  https://qa.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/local-resources-of-u-s-citizens/attorneys/

Romania

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Romanian Constitution, adopted in December 1991 and revised in 2003, guarantees the right to ownership of private property.  Mineral and airspace rights, and similar rights, are excluded from private ownership. Under the revised Constitution, foreign citizens can gain land ownership through inheritance.  With EU accession, citizens of EU member states can own land in Romania, subject to reciprocity in their home country.

Companies owning foreign capital may acquire land or property needed to fulfill or develop company goals.  If the company is dissolved or liquidated, the land must be sold within one year of closure, and may only be sold to a buyer(s) with the legal right to purchase such assets.  Investors can purchase shares in agricultural companies that lease land in the public domain from the State Land Agency.

The 2006 legislation that regulates the establishment of specialized mortgage banks also makes possible a secondary mortgage market, by regulating mortgage bond issuance mechanisms.  Mortgage loans are offered by commercial banks, specialized mortgage banks, and non-bank mortgage credit institutions. Romania’s mortgage market is now almost entirely private. The state-owned National Savings Bank, CEC Bank, also offers mortgage loans.  Since 2000, Romania has had in place the Electronic Archives of Security Interests in Movable Property (AEGRM) that represents the national recording system for the priority of mortgages structured by entities and assets, ensuring the filing of transactions regarding mortgages, assimilated operations, or other collateral provided by the law, as well as their advertising.  Most urban land has clear title, and the National Cadaster Agency (NCA) is slowly working to identify property owners and register land titles. According to the National Cadaster Plan, 2023 is the deadline for full registration of lands and buildings in the registry. According to NCA data, 12.5 million (31 percent) of the estimated real estate assets (land and buildings) were registered in the cadaster registry as of March 2019.

Romania has made marginal improvement in implementing digital records of real estate assets, including land.  The 2019 World Bank Doing Business report ranks Romania 44 for the ease of registering property. The cadaster property registry is far from complete, and the lack of accurate and complete information for land ownership continues to be a challenge for private investors ‎and SOEs alike.

Intellectual Property Rights

Romania remains on the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Watch List in 2019.  It also hosts illicit infringing websites that are included in the 2018 Notorious Markets List.  As elsewhere in the EU, Internet piracy – both Torrent site peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing and business-to-consumer piracy – remains the top intellectual property rights (IPR) concern.  Despite the low priority placed on IPR enforcement at the policy level, cooperation between law enforcement authorities, including prosecutors and police officers, and intellectual property-based private industry continues at the working level.  This has led to innovative approaches to prosecuting IPR crimes within this constrained legal and fiscal environment: in order to increase the odds of IPR cases advancing in court, law enforcement authorities, when appropriate, are bundling related charges of fraud, tax evasion, embezzlement, and organized crime activity alongside IPR violations.  Not only has this increased the odds of IPR cases going to court, it also strengthens the evidence of “social harm” stemming from IPR violations, as a lack of social harm was often previously cited as a reason for dismissing IPR cases.

Romania’s Customs Authority reported the seizure of approximately 703,221 pieces of counterfeited goods in 2018 compared to 1.4 million pieces of counterfeit goods in 2017 and 1.52 million pieces in 2016.  The declining trend continues at an accelerated pace, in line with growing purchasing power and demand for genuine physical goods. Sweets, cigarettes, clothing, and footwear accounted for the majority of those seizures.  The amount of seized pharmaceuticals had fallen from 370 pieces in 2016 to zero in 2017 and 2018. According to both the National Customs Authority and the national police, the vast majority of counterfeit goods seized in Romania originate in China.

Romania is a signatory to international conventions concerning IPR, including the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), and has enacted legislation to protect patents, trademarks, and copyrights.  Romania has signed the Internet Convention to protect online authorship. While Romania’s IPR legal framework is generally good, enforcement remains weak and ineffective, especially in the area of internet piracy. The once-flagrant trade of retail pirated goods has largely been eliminated, but unlicensed use of software and personal use of pirated audio-video products remains high.  While Romania has passed broad IPR protection enforcement provisions, as required by the WTO, judicial enforcement remains lax.

Romania is on the Special 301 Watch List primarily due to weak enforcement efforts against online copyright piracy.  Customs officers have ex-officio powers and so can seize counterfeit goods and, after the rights holder inspects the goods and drafts a declaration, destroy them.  The government is responsible for paying for the storage and destruction of the counterfeit goods. Counterfeit goods are not prevalent in the local market.

Patents

Romania is a party to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property and subscribes to all of its amendments.  Romanian patent legislation generally meets international standards, with foreign investors accorded equal treatment with Romanian citizens under the law.  Patents are valid for 20 years. Romania has been a party to the European Patent Protection Convention since 2002. Patent registration can be filed online.  Since 2014, Romania has also enforced a distinct law regulating employee inventions. The right to file a patent belongs to the employer for up to two years following the departure of the employee.

Trademarks

In 1998, Romania passed a trademark and geographic indications law, which was amended in 2010 to make it fully consistent with equivalent EU legislation.  Romania is a signatory to the Madrid Agreement relating to the international registration of trademarks and the Geneva Treaty on Trademarks. Trademark registrations are valid for ten years from the date of application and renewable.  Since 2014, trademark registrations can be filed online. In 2007, Romania ratified the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks.

Copyrights

Romania is a member of the Bern Convention on Copyrights.  The Romanian Parliament has ratified the latest versions of the Bern and Rome Conventions.  The Romanian Copyright Office (ORDA) was established in 1996 and promotes and monitors copyright legislation.  The General Prosecutor’s Office (GPO) provides national coordination of IPR enforcement, but copyright law enforcement remains a low priority for Romanian prosecutors and judges.  Many magistrates still tend to view copyright piracy as a “victimless crime” and this attitude has resulted in weak enforcement of copyright law. Due to the popularity of downloading pirated content, copyright infringement of music and film is widespread throughout Romania.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

Russia

5. Protection of Property Rights

Russia placed 12th overall in the 2019 World Bank Doing Business Report for “registering a property,” which analyzes the “steps, time and cost involved in registering property, assuming a standardized case of an entrepreneur who wants to purchase land and a building that is already registered and free of title dispute,” as well as the “the quality of the land administration system.”

The Russian Constitution, along with a 1993 presidential decree, gives Russian citizens the right to own, inherit, lease, mortgage, and sell real property. The state owns the majority of Russian land, although the structures on the land are typically privately owned. Mortgage legislation enacted in 2004 facilitates the process for lenders to evict homeowners who do not stay current in their mortgage payments. To date, this law has been successfully implemented and is generally effective.

Intellectual Property Rights

Russia remained on the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Priority Watch List in 2019 and had several illicit streaming websites and online markets reported in the 2018 Notorious Markets List as a result of continued and significant challenges to intellectual property right (IPR) protection and enforcement.  Particular areas of concern include copyright infringement, trademark counterfeiting/hard goods piracy, and non-transparent royalty collection procedures. Stakeholders reported in 2018 that IPR enforcement continued to decline overall from 2017, following similar declines in the prior several years and a reduction in resources for enforcement personnel. There were also reports that IPR protection and enforcement were not priorities for government officials.

Online piracy continues to pose a significant problem in Russia. Russia has not met a series of commitments to protect IPR in the domestic market, including commitments made to the United States as part of its World Trade Organization (WTO) accession. Although the Russian government has made strides in copyright protection, most notably with antipiracy laws and blocking internet sites hosting pirated material, film studios and other copyright-intensive industries have made no progress with copyright-violating search engine Yandex or social networks vKontakte, OK.ru, and  Telegram. Amendments to the anti-piracy law aimed to block “mirror” websites came into force in October 2017 and oblige search engines, such as Google or Yandex, to withhold information about the domain name of an infringing website and any references to mirror sites of permanently blocked websites upon receiving a request from Roskomnadzor, the federal body responsible for regulating media content. Expediting the legal process remains important since these “mirrors” can appear within hours or days of a site being blocked. Industry sources estimate that obtaining a final writ of execution from a court to block permanently a “mirror” site will take around two weeks.  As a result of increased scrutiny, internet companies Yandex, Mail.Ru Group, Rambler, and Rutube signed an anti-piracy memorandum with several domestic right holders on November 1, 2018. The anti-piracy memorandum will be valid until September 1, 2019, if the relevant law is not adopted by this deadline. Industry sources believe compliance is unlikely if updated legislation is not enacted.

Modest progress has been made in the area of customs IPR protection since the Federal Customs Service (FTS) can now confiscate imported goods that violate IPR.  Between January and September 2018, the FTS seized 14.4 million counterfeit goods, compared with 10.1 million in 2017. The FTS prevented infringement and damages to copyright holders amounting to RUB 5.8 billion (USD 94.4 million) between January and September 2018, compared with RUB 4.5 billion (USD 77.1 million) in all of 2017.  For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .

Rwanda

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The law protects and facilitates acquisition and disposition of all property rights.  Investors involved in commercial agriculture have leasehold titles and are able to secure property titles, if necessary.  The 2015 Investment Code states that investors shall have the right to own private property, whether individually or in association with others.  Foreign investors can acquire real estate, though there is a general limit on land ownership. While local investors can acquire land through leasehold agreements that extend to 99 years, the lease period for foreigners cannot exceed 49 years, in most cases.  Such leases are theoretically renewable, but the law is new enough that foreigners generally have not yet attempted to renew a lease. Mortgages are a nascent but growing financial product in Rwanda, increasing from 770 properties in 2008 to 13,394 in 2017, according to the RDB. 

Intellectual Property Rights

The 2015 Investment Code guarantees protection of investors’ intellectual property rights (IPR) related to technology transfer.  As a member of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Rwanda is automatically a member of African Regional Intellectual Property Organization.  Rwanda is also a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and is working toward harmonizing its legislation with the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).  Rwanda has yet to ratify the WIPO internet treaties.

The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and the Rwanda Standards Board (RSB) are the main regulatory bodies for Rwanda’s IPR laws.  The RDB registers IPR and provides a certificate of ownership title. Every registered IPR title is published in the Official Gazette. The fees payable for substance examination and registration of IPR apply equally for domestic and foreign applicants.  Since 2016, any power of attorney granted by a non-resident to a Rwandan-based industrial property agent must be notarized (previously, a signature would have been sufficient). The RSB inspects imported products to ensure compliance with standards. Registration of patents and trademarks is on a first-in-time, first-in-right basis, so companies should consider applying for trademark and patent protection in a timely manner.  It is the responsibility of the copyright holders to register, protect, and enforce their rights where relevant, including retaining their own counsel and advisors.  Through the RSB and the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA), Rwanda has worked to increase protection of IPR, but many goods that violate patents, especially pharmaceutical products, still make it to market.  As many products available in Rwanda are re-exports from other EAC countries, it may be difficult to identify counterfeit goods without regional cooperation.

Several investors reported difficulties in registering patents and enforcing their IPR against infringement in a timely manner.  A few companies have expressed concern over inappropriate use of their IP.  While the government has offered rhetorical support, enforcement has been mixed.  In some cases infringement has stopped but, in other cases, companies have been frustrated with the slow pace of receiving judgment or in receiving compensation after successful legal cases.

IPR legislation covering patents, trademarks, and copyrights was approved in 2009.  The Registration Service Agency, which is part of the RDB, was established in 2008 and has improved IPR protection by registering all commercial entities and facilitating business identification and branding.  Rwanda conducts anti-counterfeit goods campaigns on a regular basis, but statistics on IP enforcement are not publicly available.

Rwanda is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.  

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  

Saint Kitts and Nevis

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Civil law protects physical property and mortgage claims.  Foreign investors are required to obtain an Alien Landholders License to purchase property for residential or commercial purposes. The cost of these licenses is USD 371.  The Alien Landholders License Tax is 10 percent of the value of the land. Cabinet grants these licenses. Foreign investors are not required to pay the Alien Landholders License Tax in certain parts of the island, such as Frigate Bay or certain parts of the South East Peninsula.  Please contact SKIPA for further details. St. Kitts and Nevis ranks 185th of 190 countries in registering property in the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business Report.

Intellectual Property Rights

St. Kitts and Nevis has a legislative framework supporting its commitment to the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR).  While the legal structures governing IPR are adequate, enforcement could be strengthened. The administration of IPR laws in St. Kitts and Nevis is under the respo