5. Protection of Property Rights
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.
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), the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), 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. Austria implemented the EU Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (2019/790) by adopting an amendment to the Austrian Copyright Act in December 2021, with the Austrian music and film industry lauding it as “modern, balanced, and taking into account the interests of the related business sector.”
Following a High Court decision from 2014, 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. In 2020 they registered 27,000 reports of illegal content.
Austria also has a law against trade in counterfeit articles in place (amended 2020, streamlining the customs authorities in charge of tracking violations). In 2020 (latest available report), Austrian customs authorities confiscated pirated goods worth EUR 24 million (USD 28.3 million), which was a 50 percent increase from the previous year.
Austria is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 or notorious markets reports, but its trade secrets regime has historically been 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. The new law also defines injunctive relief and claims for damages in case of breach of trade secrets. The 2020 government program includes a plan to further toughen prosecution of violation of trade secrets that have an impact on Austria as a business location and to tackle industrial espionage, but no specific actions to implement the plan have been taken yet.
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/.