Georgia

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

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.

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) 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.

The Criminal Code of Georgia regulates prosecution of IPR violations, in particular: Articles 189, 1891 and 196. More detailed information can be found at https://matsne.gov.ge/document/view/16426?publication=232 

Georgia is not listed in USTR’s 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/ .

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, creating 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 electronic land registry which is expected to increase the transparency of real estate management.  However, the land registry is behind schedule and is not expected to be completed until 2022, two years after its initial estimate of completion.  Greece ranks 156 out of 190 countries for Ease of Registering Property in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 Report, down from 153 last year. 

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 over  EUR 250,000 ( USD 285,000) 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 least  EUR 400,000.  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 

In April  2020, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) removed Greece from its Special 301 Watch List due to progress in addressing concerns regarding intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and enforcement.  The widespread use of unlicensed software in the public sector in Greece had been of long-standing concern to rights holders.  In December 2019, Greece took clear steps to address this matter by allocating over  EUR 39 million for the purchase of software licenses.  In December 2020, the agreement to purchase software licenses for government workers was finalized, and the rollout is proceeding well according to government and private sector contacts.  In addition, the Committee for Notification of Copyright and Related Rights Infringement on the Internet has been taking steps to address enforcement in the online environment, and Greece introduced a new law imposing fines for possessing counterfeit products.  In 2019, the Ministry of Culture developed legislation which would allow for dynamic blocking of domains, in order to improve even further the enforcement of IPR.  Parliament passed the bill in 2020. 

Greece tracks seizures of counterfeit goods; however, the Ministry of Finance, Coast Guard, and Customs Service all track their data separately.  In 2019, the Hellenic Coast Guard arrested 143 people during 110 cases, seizing over 9 million counterfeit cigarettes, 10 vehicles, and over 1,300 pounds of tobacco, all representing  EUR1.8 million in attempted tax evasion.  The Ministry of Finance’s Economic and Financial Crimes Unit (SDOE) conducts investigations and seizures of counterfeit goods and products.  In 2019, the SDOE seized almost 600,000 counterfeit and pirated products, down from 1.1 million in 2018.  The Hellenic Customs Service also conducts inspections at exit and entry points into the EU, with over 20 million counterfeit products seized in 2019, the majority of which were cigarettes.  Violators can be fined for their actions, and Law 3982/2022 provides police ex officio authority to confiscate and destroy counterfeit goods. 

Greece is not currently included in USTR’s Notorious Markets List 

Greece is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and party to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the European Patent Convention, the Washington Patent Cooperation Treaty, and the Berne Copyright Convention.  As a member of the EU, Greece has harmonized its IPR legislation with EU rules and regulations.  The WTO-TRIPS Agreement was incorporated into Greek legislation in February 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. 

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IPR 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. Sofias Avenue, Athens, Greece 10160 
Phone:  +30-210-721-2951 

Athens-ECON@state.gov

 A list of local attorneys is available at gr.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/ 

 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 

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 (DJE) 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. All property buyers must since 2010 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

Ireland ranks 26 (of 190) in the latest World Bank’s Doing Business Index for registering property.

Intellectual Property Rights

Ireland is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and party to many of its treaties, including the Berne Convention, the Paris Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the WIPO Copyright Treaty, and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.

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 also addressed several TRIPs inconsistencies in prior Irish copyright 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, but it does not include minimum mandatory sentencing for IPR violations. As part of this comprehensive legislation, revisions were also made to non-TRIPS conforming sections of Irish patent law.

Specifically, the IPR legislation addressed two outstanding 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 previously 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. High taxation on tobacco products makes illegal trade in counterfeit and untaxed cigarettes highly lucrative. Ireland became the first European country, and fourth globally, to enact legislation on plain packaging for tobacco products via The Public Health (Standardized Packaging of Tobacco) Act in 2015. In practice, all tobacco packaging is devoid of branding, and health warnings cover nearly the entire box with only the producer/product name otherwise visible. The legislation has been in force since September 2018.

The Irish government has transcribed the 2012 EU Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 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 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 also ensures 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 enacted the Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Act in 2019. The legislation improves provision for copyright and other IPR protection in the digital era, and its enables rights holders to better enforce their IPR in the courts.

DETE is expected to issue draft legislation implementing the EU’s 2019 Copyright Directive in the near future, having held four consultations in 2019 and with June 2021 as the implementation deadline. Some parts of the Irish Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Act, enacted in 2019, already reflect aspects of the 2019 EU Copyright Directive, but it does not make specific reference to the Directive itself and further implementation is, therefore, required.

Ireland is the main European, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) headquarters for many global technology companies, and while the government says it is fully committed to the intentions of the 2019 EU Copyright Directive, it says it is also conscious of the need to strike the right balance in doing so.

Ireland is not included on the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR’s) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about Ireland’s legislation and IP points of contact, please see WIPO’s country profiles at https://www.wipo.int/directory/en/details.jsp?country_code=IE 

Netherlands

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Netherlands fully complies with international standards on protection of real property.  The World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business Index ranked the Netherlands 30 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

The Netherlands is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and party to many of its treaties, including the Berne Convention, the Paris Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT), and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT).  The Netherlands generally conforms to accepted international practice for intellectual property rights (IPR), including the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).  Despite participating 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 a signatory to the European Patent Convention and so is a contracting state of the European Patent Organization.  In the Netherlands, 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.  Because the Netherlands and the United States are both party to the PCT, U.S. inventors may file for rights in the Netherlands using the PCT application.  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.

With the implementation of EU Directive 2004/48 on the enforcement of IPR, rights holders have a number of instruments at their disposal to enforce their rights in civil court.  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 IPR.  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 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.  A 2014 ruling by the EU Court of Justice requires the government to change this policy and ban online infringement, but since this ruling 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.  No specific measures have since 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.

The Netherlands is not included in the USTR Special 301 Report but is mentioned as hosting infringing websites in the 2020 Notorious Markets List, which also notes that Dutch law enforcement has assisted in seizing some domain names, thereby shutting down those infringing sites.

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:
Alex Mayer – Economic Officer
John Adams Park 1
2244 BZ Wassenaar
Telephone:  +31 (0)70 310 2270
E-mail:   MayerA@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/?_ga=2.237170691.2093708730.1527074319-1722725267.1486978519

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 can secure property titles, if necessary. The Investment Code states that investors shall have the right to own private property, whether individually or collectively. According to the 2013 land law, foreign investors can acquire real estate, though there is a general limit on land ownership. Freehold is granted only to Rwandan citizens for at least five hectares (12.5 acres) and to foreigners for 1) properties located in designated Special Economic Zones, 2) on reciprocal basis or 3) on land co-owned with Rwandan citizens (if Rwandan citizens own at least 51 percent). However, according to the October 2020 draft law, freehold tenure will continue for Rwandan citizens on lands of at least two hectares (five acres) and, under a Presidential Order, freehold tenure for foreigners will be approved for exceptional circumstances (strategic national interest investments). The GOR will increase long-term leases (emphyteutic lease) in residential and commercial areas for both citizens and foreigners acquiring land through private means to 99 years compared to the current 20 and 30 years, respectively. While local investors can acquire land through leasehold agreements that extend to 99 years, the GOR has limited the lease period for foreigners to 49 years, in some 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. In 2020, RDB reported registering 16,624 mortgages in 2019.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Investment Code guarantees protection of investors’ intellectual property (IP) rights, and legitimate rights related to technology transfer. The GOR approved IP legislation covering patents, trademarks, and copyrights in 2009. A registration service agency, which is part of the RDB, was established in 2008 and has improved IP right protection by making the registering of all commercial entities and facilitating businesses identification and branding possible.

The RDB and the Rwanda Standards Board (RSB) are the main regulatory bodies for Rwanda’s intellectual property rights law. The RDB registers intellectual property rights, providing a certificate and ownership title. Every registered IP title is published in the Official Gazette. The fees payable for substance examination and registration of IP apply equally for domestic and foreign applicants. From 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).

Registration of patents and trademarks is on a first time, first 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 by retaining their own counsel and advisors. Through the RSB and the RRA, Rwanda has worked to increase protection of IP rights, but many goods that violate patents, especially pharmaceutical products, make it to market nonetheless. As many products available in Rwanda are re-exports from other EAC countries, it may be difficult to prevent counterfeit goods without regional cooperation. Also, investors reported difficulties in registering patents and having rules against infringement of their property rights enforced in a timely manner. The GOR is proposing a new IP law that will organize a patent and trade office for Rwanda.

As a COMESA member, Rwanda is automatically a member of the 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 WTO trade-related aspects of IP. Rwanda has yet to ratify WIPO internet treaties, though the government has taken steps to implement and enforce the WTO TRIPS agreements. Rwanda is not listed in USTR’s 2019 Special 301 report or the 2019 Notorious Markets List. In July 2020, Rwanda acceded to the Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled. 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/ .

Rwanda conducts anti-counterfeit goods campaigns on a regular basis, but statistics on IP enforcement are not publicly available. 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.

Singapore

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Property rights and interests are enforced in Singapore. Residents have access to mortgages and liens, with reliable recording of properties. In the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report, Singapore ranks first in the world in enforcing contracts and number 21st in registering property.

Foreigners are not allowed to purchase public housing in Singapore, and prior approval from the Singapore Land Authority is required to purchase landed residential property and residential land for development. Foreigners can purchase non-landed, private sector housing (e.g., condominiums or any unit within a building) without the need to obtain prior approval. However, they are not allowed to acquire all the apartments or units in a development without prior approval. These restrictions also apply to foreign companies.

There are no restrictions on foreign ownership of industrial and commercial real estate. Since July 2018, foreigners who purchase homes in Singapore are required to pay an additional effective 20 percent tax on top of standard buyer’s taxes. However, U.S. citizens are accorded national treatment under the FTA, meaning only second and subsequent purchases of residential property will be subject to 12 and 15 percent additional duties, equivalent to Singaporean citizens.

The availability of covered bond legislation under MAS Notice 648 has provided an incentive for Singapore financial institutions to issue covered bonds. Under Notice 648, only a bank incorporated in Singapore may issue covered bonds. The three main Singapore banks: DBS, OCBC, and UOB, all have in place covered bond programs, with the issues offered to private investors. The banking industry has made suggestions to allow the use of covered bonds in repossession transactions with the central bank and to increase the encumbrance limit, currently at four percent. ( http://www.mas.gov.sg/regulations/notices/notice-648 )

Intellectual Property Rights

Singapore maintains one of the strongest intellectual property rights regimes in Asia. The chief executive of Singapore’s Intellectual Property Office was elected director general of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in April 2020. However, some concerns remain in certain areas such as business software piracy, online piracy, and enforcement.

Effective January 1, 2020, all patent applications must be fully examined by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) to ensure that any foreign-granted patents fully satisfy Singapore’s patentability criteria. The Registered Designs (Amendment) Act broadens the scope of registered designs to include virtual designs and color as a design feature and will stipulate the default owner of designs to be the designer of a commissioned design, rather than the commissioning party.

The USSFTA ensures that government agencies will not grant regulatory approvals to patent- infringing products, but Singapore does allow parallel imports. Under the Patents Act, with regards to pharmaceutical products, the patent owner has the right to bring an action to stop an importer of “grey market goods” from importing the patent owner’s patented product, provided that the product has not previously been sold or distributed in Singapore, the importation results in a breach of contract between the proprietor of the patent and any person licensed by the proprietor of the patent to distribute the product outside Singapore and the importer has knowledge of such.

The USSFTA ensures protection of test data and trade secrets submitted to the government for regulatory approval purposes. Disclosure of such information is prohibited. Such data may not be used for approval of the same or similar products without the consent of the party who submitted the data for a period of five years from the date of approval of the pharmaceutical product and 10 years from the date of approval of an agricultural chemical. Singapore has no specific legislation concerning protection of trade secrets. Instead, it protects investors’ commercially valuable proprietary information under common law by the Law of Confidence as well as legislation such as the Penal Code (e.g., theft) and the Computer Misuse Act (e.g., unauthorized access to a computer system to download information). U.S. industry has expressed concern that this provision is inadequate.

As a WTO member, Singapore is party to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). It is a signatory to other international intellectual property rights agreements, including the Paris Convention, the Berne Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the Madrid Protocol, and the Budapest Treaty. The WIPO Secretariat opened a regional office in Singapore in 2005. ( http://www.wipo.int/about-wipo/en/offices/singapore/)  Amendments to the Trademark Act, which were passed in January 2007, fulfilled Singapore’s obligations in WIPO’s revised Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks.

Singapore ranked 11th out of 53 in the world in the 2020 U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s International Intellectual Property (IP) Index. The index noted that Singapore’s key strengths include an advanced national IP framework and efforts to accelerate research, patent examination, and grants. The index also lauded Singapore as a global leader in patent protection and online copyright enforcement. Despite a decrease in estimated software piracy from 35 percent in 2009 to 27 percent in 2020, the index noted that piracy levels remain high for a developed, high-income country. Lack of transparency and data on customs seizures of IP-infringing goods is also noted as a key area of weakness.

Singapore does not publicly report the statistics on seizures of counterfeit goods and does not rate highly on enforcement of physical counterfeit goods, online sales of counterfeit goods or digital online piracy, according to the 2018 U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s International IP Index. Singapore is not listed in USTR’s 2020 Special 301 Report, but some Singapore-based online retailers are named in USTR’s 2019 Review of Notorious Markets. For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

Sweden

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Swedish law generally provides for adequate protection of real property.  Mortgages and liens exist, and the recording system is reliable.  Almost all land has clear title and unoccupied property ownership cannot revert to other owners.  Financial mechanisms are available in Sweden for securitization of properties for lending purposes and have been in use since the early 1990s.  Nordic banks account for the vast majority of secured lending transactions.  The Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority, Finansinpektionen, can provide further information regarding the regulations involved with securitization of properties at https://www.fi.se/en/.

Intellectual Property Rights

As a member of the European Union, Sweden adheres to a series of multilateral conventions on industrial, intellectual, and commercial property.

Patents:  Protection in all areas of technology may be obtained for 20 years.  Sweden is a party to the Patent Cooperation Treaty and the European Patent Convention of 1973; both entered into force in 1978.

Copyrights:  Sweden is a signatory to various multilateral conventions on the protection of copyrights, including the Berne Convention of 1971, the Rome Convention of 1961, and the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).  Swedish copyright law protects computer programs and databases.  Between 2005-2008, Sweden gained notoriety as a safe haven for internet piracy due to rapid internet connection speeds, a lag in implementing EU Directives, and weak enforcement efforts.  In 2009, however, Sweden implemented the EU’s Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED) 2004/48/EC and increased its enforcement against internet piracy.  The last few years also saw the conviction of the operators behind the Pirate Bay.org, a notorious BitTorrent tracker for illegal file sharing, and an increase in legal file sharing.  Legislative measures combined with added resources for enforcement and the emergence of successful legal alternatives have all contributed to a substantial increase in music and film distribution by legal means since 2010.  In 2016, Sweden set up a Specialist Court for IPR-related cases, to further increase efficiency by pooling specialist competence. In 2020, severe copyright infringement was added to the criminal code, giving police and prosecutors additional enforcement tools, and increasing the maximum penalty for such crimes to six years imprisonment.

Trademarks:  Sweden protects trademarks under a specific trademark act (1960:644) and is a signatory to the 1989 Madrid Protocol.

Trade secrets:  Proprietary information is protected under Sweden’s patent and copyright laws unless acquired by a government ministry or authority, in which case it may be made available to the public on demand.

Designs:  Sweden is a party to the Paris Convention and the Locarno Agreement and designs are protected by the Swedish Design Protection Act, as well as the Council Regulation on Registered and Unregistered Designs.  Protection under the act lasts for renewable terms of one, or several five-year periods with a maximum protection of 25 years.

Sweden is not included in USTR’s 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.

United Kingdom

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The UK has robust real property laws stemming from legislation including the Law of Property Act 1925, the Settled Land Act 1925, the Land Charges Act 1972, the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996, and the Land Registration Act 2002.

Interests in property are well enforced, and mortgages and liens have been recorded reliably since the Land Registry Act of 1862.  The Land Registry is the government database where all land ownership and transaction data are held for England and Wales, and it is reliably accessible online, here: https://www.gov.uk/search-property-information-land-registry.  Scotland has its own Registers of Scotland, while Northern Ireland operates land registration through the Land and Property Services.

Long-term physical presence on non-residential property without permission is not typically considered a crime in the UK.  Police take action if squatters commit other crimes when entering or staying in a property.

Intellectual Property Rights

The UK legal system provides a high level of intellectual property rights (IPR) protection, and enforcement mechanisms are comparable to those available in the United States.  The UK is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).  The UK is also a member of the following major intellectual property protection agreements: the Berne 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, and the Patent Cooperation Treaty.  The UK has signed and, through implementing various EU Directives, enshrined into UK law the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT), known as the internet treaties.

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is the official UK government body responsible forIPR, including patents, designs, trademarks, and copyright.  The IPO web site contains comprehensive information on UK law and practice in these areas.  https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/intellectual-property-office 

According to the Intellectual Property Crime Report for 2019/20, imports of counterfeit and pirated goods to the UK accounted for as much as £13.6 billion ($18.8 billion) in 2016 – the equivalent of three percent of UK imports in genuine goods.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR’s) 2020 Notorious Markets Report includes amazon.co.uk, based in the UK, due to high levels of counterfeit goods on the platform, but the report also notes the UK has blocking orders in place for a number of torrent and infringing websites.  The 2020 report further details the “innovative approaches to disrupting ad-backed funding of pirate sites” taken by the London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) and IPO.

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/.

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