Congo, Democratic Republic of the
5. Protection of Property Rights
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.