5. Protection of Property Rights
Georgia ranks high in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report in general, but especially in the category of “registering property.” Processes to register property are streamlined, transparent, and take one day to process 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 determined that agricultural land can only be owned by the state, self-governing entities, citizens of Georgia, or a group of Georgian citizens. The Constitution also states that exclusions may be specified in organic law, which requires votes from at least two-thirds of Parliament to pass.
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) and thus the 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 the protection of IPR holders that are listed in the Register of Intellectual Property Subject-Matters of the relevant service. 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 completed, the Revenue Service is liable to suspend counterfeit goods. According to the Law, the goods may be suspended for no longer than 10 working days, which may be extended by the Revenue Service for another 10 working days. The Law of Georgia on Border Measures Related to Intellectual Property provides for the possibility of destruction of counterfeit goods based on a court decision.
Sakpatenti is an active and engaged partner of the United States in educating the public on IPR issues. Sakpatenti coordinates the government’s approach to IPR enforcement under the Interagency Coordination Council (Council) for IPR Enforcement, which is an efficient platform for government institutions to exchange their views on such issues. Georgia is improving enforcement, but some problems persist, including the widespread use of unlicensed software and the availability of pirated video and audio recordings and other unlicensed content online. The U.S. government Commercial Law Development Program continues to provide assistance to Sakpatenti and other government entities to build capacity to deal with IPR-related issues effectively.
With the aim of further improving domestic legislation and its harmonization with international standards, Sakpatenti has engaged in adjusting laws or amendments to existing legislation regulating intellectual property. For example, in 2020, Sakpatenti prepared two draft laws – “On Amendments to the Law of Georgia on Appellations of Origin of Goods and Geographical Indications” and “On Amendments to the Patent Law of Georgia” to harmonize Georgian legislation with that of the EU. The amendments to the appellations of origins law introduce new certification and state control mechanisms and increases the role of producers’ associations and unions in this regard, while the patent law amendments pave the way to ratification of the European Patent Organization’s (EPO) Validation Agreement, signed in 2019.
In 2020, the Investigation Service of the Ministry of Finance of Georgia filed 10 cases on violation of Articles 196, 197 and 210 of the Criminal Code of Georgia (Unlawful use of trademark (service marks) or other commercial designations). As a result, 640,012 items of counterfeit goods were seized, with a total value of GEL 204.189 (around $63,000). In addition, the Customs Department issued 101 orders on suspension of goods. Out of these, in 38 cases the rights holder and the owner of the goods agreed on destruction of the goods. The total value of the destroyed counterfeit goods on the bases of agreement between the rights holder and the owner, or by the court decision, or based on the respective measures was GEL 79,882 (around USD 25,000). In 2020, the Tax Monitoring Department of LEPL Revenue Service revealed 8 cases of trademark infringement, seizing 12,591 items of counterfeit goods worth GEL 29,942 (around USD 9,200).
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.
Georgia is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.