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Albania

5. Protection of Property Rights

Individuals and investors face significant challenges with protection and enforcement of property rights. Despite some improvements, procedures remain cumbersome, and registrants have complained of corruption during the process. Over the last three decades, the GoA has drafted and passed much, though not all, of its property legislation in a piecemeal and uncoordinated way. However, the GoA is working to complete the process for registration and compensation of properties, and the law on the finalization of transitional ownership processes adopted in March 2020, specifically aims to consolidate property rights by finalizing land allocation and privatization processes contained in 14 various laws issued between 1991 and 2018. According to the European Commission Report 2021 on Albania, progress on property rights should be made on further first registration of properties and transitional ownership processes, in a transparent and inclusive manner. The GoA aims to fully digitize property documents within 2023, however, the poor state of the data is a risk for title security and a constraint to investment. To streamline the property management process, the GoA established in April 2019 the State Cadaster Agency (ASHK), which merged different agencies responsible for property registration, compensation, and legalization, including the Immovable Property Registration Office (IPRO), the Agency of Inventory and Transfer of Public Properties (AITPP), and the Agency for the Legalization and Urbanization of Informal Areas (ALUIZNI).

The property registration system has improved thanks to international donor assistance, but the process has moved forward very slowly as Albania has yet to complete the initial registration of property titles in the country. In total, about 3.54 million properties were registered as part of the initial registration process. In December 2021, GoA launched a two-year project which aims to complete the digitization of the about 2.3 million remaining properties however plot records for many of these properties are still only in paper form and often in poor and outdated condition. Approximately half a million properties have still not been registered for the first time, which includes the southern coastal area. In 2020, the State Cadaster Agency initiated the process of first registration for eight zones in the Himara municipality area that holds significant potential for the tourism industry.

The Agency for the Treatment of Property (ATP) continued assessing requests and distributing funds for compensation of properties. In 2021, it distributed around USD 9.5 million from the financial fund and an area of around 100 hectares from the land fund.

Albania has registered an estimated 440,000 illegal structures, built without permits, and illicit construction continues to be a major impediment to securing property titles. A process that aims to legalize or eliminate such structures started in 2006 but is not complete. Around 200,000 legalization permits were issued through the end of 2020. The fluid situation has led to clashes between squatters, owners of allegedly illegal buildings, and the Albanian State Police including during the demolition of these structures to make way for public infrastructure projects.

According to the 2020 World Bank’s “Doing Business Report,” Albania performed poorly in the property registration category, ranking 98th out of 190 countries.  It took an average of 19 days and five procedures to register property, and the associated costs could reach 8.9 percent of the total property value. The civil court system manages property rights disputes, but verdicts can take years, authorities often fail to enforce court decisions, and corruption concerns persist within the judiciary.

Albania is not included on the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR’s) Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List. That said, intellectual property rights (IPR) infringement and theft are common due to weak legal structures and poor enforcement. Counterfeit goods are present in some local markets and shopping malls, including software, garments, machines, and cigarettes. Albanian law protects copyrights, patents, trademarks, industrial designs, and geographical indications, but enforcement of these laws remains weak. Regulators are ineffective at collecting fines and prosecutors rarely press charges for IPR theft. U.S. companies should consult an experienced IPR attorney and avoid potential risks by establishing solid commercial relationships and drafting strong contracts. According to the 2021 International Property Right Index published by Property Right Alliance, Albania ranks 98th out of 129 countries evaluated, registering an improvement compared to the previous year when ranked 112th. It ranked 79th in the subcategory of copyright protection and 23rd in trademark protection.

Amendments to the Albanian Industrial Property Law, introducing new provisions regarding trade secrets and trademarks entered into force in August 2021. The most significant change is the transposition of Directive (EU) 2016/943 on the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information (trade secrets) against their unlawful acquisition, use and disclosure. Trade secrets were previously regulated by the Law on Entrepreneurs and Companies, and Labor Code, and their subject matter was defined in broader terms. Now, under the amended IP law, a trade secret is defined as undisclosed expert knowledge, experience or business information that is not generally known or easily accessible, that has a certain market value, and for which sufficient measures have been taken to keep it a secret.  In 2019, the Criminal Code was amended to include harsher punishments of up to three years in prison for IPR infringement.

In the areas of copyright, patent, and trademarks, the two main bodies responsible are the Copyright Directorate at the Ministry of Culture and the General Directorate of Industrial Property (GDIP), which is in charge of registering, administering, and promoting IPR. Other institutions responsible for IPR enforcement include the Copyright Division of the State Inspectorate for Market Surveillance (SIMS), the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA), the General Directorate for Customs, the Tax Inspectorate, the Prosecutor’s Office, the State Police, and the courts. In 2018, the National Council of Copyrights was established as a specialized body responsible for monitoring the implementation of the law and certifying the methodology for establishing the tariffs. Two other important bodies in the protection and administration of IPR are the agencies for the Collective Administration (AAK) and the Copyrights Department within the Ministry of Culture. Four different AAKs have merged in 2017 to provide service into a sole window for the administration of IPR.

The 2021 amendments to the IP law also define the role and duties of the State Inspectorate for Market Surveillance (SIMS), the main responsibility of which is to ensure the safety of non-food consumer products by instigating internal market inspections. The SIMS, established in 2016, is responsible for inspecting, controlling, and enforcing copyright and other related rights.  Despite some improvements, actual law enforcement on copyrights continues to be problematic and copyright violations are persistent.  The number of copyright violation cases brought to court remains low. While official figures are not available this year, Customs does usually report the quantity of counterfeit goods destroyed annually.  In cases of seizures, the rights holder has the burden of proof and so must first inspect the goods to determine if they are infringing.  The rights holder is also responsible for the storage and destruction of the counterfeit goods.

Cigarettes are traditionally the most common counterfeited product seized by Customs. According to the EU 2021 report on Albania, the high number of counterfeit products in the country remains a cause for concern. Last year the customs administration suspended the release of more than 23,000 products suspected of infringing IPR.

The GDIP is responsible for registering and administering patents, commercial trademarks and service marks, industrial designs, and geographical indications. In 2020, the number of applications for registration of trademarks continued to rise, amounting to 1,164 national applications and 2,936 international applications. As for patents, 897 patent applications were filed at the GDIP in 2020, of which 12 were national patent applications with Albanian national applicants, and 885 patent applications were patents issued by the European Patent Office seeking protection in Albania.

Albania is party to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Patent Law Treaty, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the Berne Convention, the Paris Convention, and is a member of the European Patent Organization. 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 Law 34/2018 on Albania’s adherence to the Vienna Agreement for the International Classification of the Figurative Elements of Marks as well as the agreements of Lisbon and Locarno on international classification and protection of industrial designs. In June 2019, Albania joined the Geneva Act of WIPO’s Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications.

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

Resources for Rights Holders

Contact at Embassy Tirana on IPR issues:

E-mail: USALBusiness@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

(amcham.com.al) 

List of local lawyers:

tirana.usembassy.gov

Algeria

5. Protection of Property Rights

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.

Patent and trademark protection in Algeria remains covered by a series of ordinances dating from 2003 and 2005, and representatives of U.S. companies operating in Algeria reported that these laws were satisfactory in terms of both the scope of what they cover and the penalties they mandate for violations. A 2015 government decree increased coordination between the National Office of Copyrights and Related Rights (ONDA), the National Institute for Industrial Property (INAPI), and law enforcement to pursue patent and trademark infringements. An Algerian court ruled in favor of a U.S. pharmaceutical company in late 2020 in the first case of alleged patent infringement by a local producer pursued in the courts by a U.S. company.

ONDA, under the Ministry of Culture, and INAPI, under the Ministry of Industry, are the two entities within the Algerian government that protect IPR. 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 hundreds of thousands of counterfeit items, including clothing, cosmetics, sports items, foodstuffs, automotive spare parts, and home appliances. The government is currently drafting new legislation on counterfeiting and intellectual property to improve enforcement and interagency coordination.

Algeria is listed on the Watch List of USTR’s 2022 Special 301 Report (https://ustr.gov/issue-areas/intellectual-property/Special-301)for, among other reason, ineffective enforcement efforts against trademark counterfeiting and copyright piracy.

Resources for Intellectual Property Rights Holders:

Peter Mehravari
Patent Attorney
Intellectual Property Attaché for the Middle East & North Africa
U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi | U.S. Department of Commerce U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
Tel: +965 2259 1455 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 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.

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 the banking sector, including mortgages ( https://www.afa.ad/en ).

Andorra joined the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 1994 and is party to the Paris Convention, the Berne Convention, as well as the Rome Convention since 2004. Andorra is not a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) but holds observer status. The country’s intellectual property rights (IPR) regime is not in compliance with the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Protection of IPR in Andorra is weak. The legal framework includes the Trademarks Act of May 1, 1995, the Law 26/2014 on Patents of October 30 the Law on Authors’ and Neighboring Rights of June 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 to manage the economic rights, neighboring rights, and the interests of copyright holders. Right holders can choose whether to participate in this voluntary collective arrangement though in some cases, the collective arrangement system is compulsory.

Businesses seeking to register a trademark or patent should contact the Andorran Trademarks Office and Patents Office.

Trademarks and Patents Office of the Principality of AndorraMinistry of EconomyEdifici Administratiu del Prat del RullCami de la Grau s/nAD 500 Andorra La VellaTel. (376) 875 600Email: ompa@govern.ad http://www.ompa.ad/ 

Andorra is not listed in the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report nor 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/ .

Angola

5. Protection of Property Rights

Property rights enforcement remains difficult, given that the Land Law (Lei de Terras de Angola) has not been revised since its approval in December 2004 and two-thirds of Angolans are directly dependent on land property rights due to their work in agriculture. 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 Land Law includes a formal mechanism for transforming traditional land property rights into legal land property rights (clean titles), since a transparent system of land property rights enforcement did not exist before the civil war ended in 2002.

Foreigners are permitted to hold land in Angola through acquisition or lease under the 2004 Land Law. The Land Law sets out requirements for all potential landholders to acquire land, with the main distinctions for foreign entities being the type of identification (passport) a foreign citizen must produce.

Mortgages exist but can be difficult to obtain.

According to the Land Law, 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. The recipient of private property rights from the State can only transfer those rights with the consent of the local authority and after a period of five years of effective use of the land. 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 167 out of 173 according to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 survey, with fees averaging three percent of property value. Owners must 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 to support the development of commercial agriculture. However, this process has largely proceeded in an unsystematic way and does not follow any formal rule change on land tenure by the State.

Before obtaining proof of title nationwide, an Angolan citizen or an Angolan legal entity must also obtain the Real or Leasing Rights (“Usufruct”) of the Land from the Institute of Planning and Urban Management of Luanda (IPGUL), an often-time-consuming procedure that can take up to a year or more. However, if a company already owns the land, it must secure a land property title deed from the Real Estate Registry in Luanda. The local registry – if the property is not in the capital – then produces an updated property certificate (certidão predial) 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. Dispatch no. 174/11 of March 11, 2011, mandates the total fees for the property certificate 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); along with notary and other fees. The total fee is also dependent on the current value of the fiscal correction unit (UCF), set at 88 kwanzas.

Domestic enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights can be difficult due to lack of resources and competing priorities, but the National Authority of Economic Inspection and Food Safety (ANIESA) was able to identify and break up a network of businesses selling counterfeit cosmetic products in early 2021. Authorities traced the source of the products to DRC, highlighting concerns about lack of border measures to intercept counterfeits. The Angolan Government signed an agreement with Portugal in October 2021 to jointly combat counterfeit medicines. In December 2021, ANIESA suspended the operations of three factories (located in Viana, Kikuxi, and Benfica) for producing counterfeit Havaianas-branded sandals. Trademark registration is mandatory to be granted rights over a mark. Angolan trademarks are valid for 10 years from the filing date and renewable for further periods of 10 years.

The Instituto Angolano de Propriedade Intelectual (IAPI) is the governmental body within the Ministry of Industry & Commerce charged with implementing patent and trademark law. The Ministry of Culture, Tourism & Environment oversees copyright law.

Regarding patents, additional fees are due for each claim after the 15th. Additionally, the request for the anticipation or postponement of the publication of a patent is now provided by the new applicable fees.

Angola is not listed in United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 report nor 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/. 

Antigua and Barbuda

5. Protection of Property Rights

The government owns 55 percent of Antigua’s land, and 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.

Historically, the residents of Barbuda owned all land on Barbuda communally, however the recent appropriation of land for new development projects has resulted in legal challenges to this system. In the aftermath of 2017’s Hurricane Irma, the government attempted to introduce a private property system by amending and repealing the Barbuda Land Act and replacing it with the Crown Land Regulation Act, which would allow private ownership of land in Barbuda by non-Barbudans. Barbudan representatives have filed a legal challenge to the constitutionality of this legislation in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. Therefore, the Crown Land Regulation Act has not yet taken effect.

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, which requires buyers 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 land 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.

Antigua and Barbuda has an extensive legislative framework supporting the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), 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 Literacy and Artistic Works.

Article 66 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas establishing the CSME commits all 15 members to implement stronger intellectual property protection and enforcement. The CARIFORUM-EU EPA 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 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 WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS).” As a member of the WTO, Antigua and Barbuda recognizes the WTO TRIPS Agreement.

The Comptroller of Customs leads enforcement and prevention efforts against counterfeit goods, which include detention, seizure, and forfeiture. The Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda has extensive powers of search and seizure in the investigation of alleged infringements and has the power to confiscate suspected infringing copies.

Antigua and Barbuda is not included in the United States Trade Representative 2022 Special 301 Report or the 2021 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

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/ .

Argentina

5. Protection of Property Rights

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 Justice and Human 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 in 1995.

The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR)’s 2021 Special 301 Report listed 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 2021 Report, see: https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/2020_Special_301_Report.pdf .

Argentina continues to present long-standing and well-known challenges to intellectual property (IP)-intensive industries, including those from the United States.  A key deficiency in the 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.  These 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 made progress on eliminating the patent application backlog, however, this did not include the backlog for pharmaceutical or biotechnology innovations. The number of patent examiners remains insufficient with retention and recruitment hampered by low public sector salaries. Argentina did not extend the Patent Prosecution Highway signed between the National Institute of Industrial Property’s (INPI) and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which expired in March 2020.

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 and is cited in USTR’s 2021 Review of Notorious Markets for Piracy and Counterfeiting.  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, criminal infringers rarely receive deterrent sentences. Hard goods counterfeiting and optical disc piracy are widespread, and online piracy continues to grow due to nearly nonexistent criminal enforcement against such piracy.  As a result, IP enforcement online in Argentina consists mainly of right holders trying to convince Argentine internet service providers to agree to take down specific infringing works, as well as attempting to seek injunctions in civil cases, both of which can be time-consuming and ineffective.  Rights holders also cite widespread use of unlicensed software by Argentine private enterprises and the government.

Argentina made limited progress in IP protection and enforcement in a year marked by high inflation, sovereign debt negotiations with the IMF, and political conflicts within the ruling coalition.  The pressing economic situation led to an increase of counterfeit products sales in informal markets once the confinement measures enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic were relaxed in the second semester of 2020. Online sales of counterfeit products, especially apparel and footwear spiked amidst the pandemic. The Argentine Confederation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises noted an increase of national production of counterfeit sportswear, while sales of counterfeit luxury goods such as handbags decreased. Flight and border crossing restrictions applied during the COVID-19 health emergency prevented purchases of counterfeit products from China, Paraguay, and Bolivia, but were removed by November 2021.

INPI began accepting electronic filing of patent, trademark, and industrial designs applications in 2018. During 2020, the agency successfully transitioned to an all-electronic filing system.  Argentina continued to improve procedures for trademarks, with INPI reducing the time for a trademark opposition from an average of 3.5 years to one year.  On trademarks, the law provides for a fast-track option that reduces the time to register a trademark to four months.

Argentina formally created the Federal Committee to Fight Against Contraband, Falsification of Trademarks, and Designations, formalizing the work on trademark counterfeiting under the National Anti-Piracy Initiative launched in 2017.  In November 2020, Argentina and the United States held a virtual bilateral meeting under the Innovation and Creativity Forum for Economic Development, part of the U.S.-Argentina Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, 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 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/ 

Armenia

5. Protection of Property Rights

Armenian law protects secured interests in property, both personal and real. Armenian law 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.

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/.

Armenia has a strong legislative and regulatory framework to protect intellectual property rights (IPR). Domestic legislation, including the 2006 Law on Copyright and Related Rights, provides for the protection of copyright with respect to 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 Economy is responsible for granting patents and overseeing other IPR-related matters. The collective management organization ARMAUTHOR manages authors’ economic rights. Trademarks and patents require state registration by the IPA, but copyright does not. There is no special trade secret law in Armenia, but the protection of trade secrets is covered by Armenia’s Civil Code. Formal registration is straightforward, the database of registered IPR is public, and applications to register IPR are published online for two months for comment by third parties. Armenia’s legislation has been harmonized with the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). In 2005, Armenia created an IPR Enforcement Unit in the Organized Crime Department of the Armenian Police, which acts only based on complaints from right holders and does not exercise ex-officio powers.

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 rests with the offended party. Law enforcement 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. UNCTAD reports that low awareness and poor monitoring of IPR violations harm the business climate.

A new Law on Copyright has been drafted and submitted for government’s approval. It includes provisions from new international agreements (Marrakesh and Beijing Treaties). A new Law on Patents and Law on Industrial Design entered into force in July 2021. The new Law on Patents strengthens the requirement for substantive examination before rights registration and introduces the concept of a short-term patent. The new Law on Industrial Design includes some procedural changes, including publishing applications for industrial designs and objects during the state registration process.

Armenia 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 WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/.

Australia

5. Protection of Property Rights

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.

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 Markets 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.

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 (TGA). In March 2020 the government recommended changes to the notification process whereby generic product owners must notify the patent holder of an intent to market a new product at the point they lodge an application for evaluation with the TGA. These changes have not been legislated at the time of writing.

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

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/.

Azerbaijan

5. Protection of Property Rights

International organizations, foreign citizens, and foreign legal entities may not own land or be granted a purchase option on a lease, but they 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 recordkeeping and titling in rural areas, it is often difficult to determine definitively who owns a 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 legal structure covering intellectual property protections in Azerbaijan is relatively strong, but experts and businesspeople 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, including in government ministries.  U.S. companies routinely list weak IPR protections as a key concern.  With strong Embassy encouragement, the government is taking steps to increase the use of licensed software in government institutions, but progress thus far has been uneven.

IPR 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 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/.

Bahrain

5. Protection of Property Rights

The GOB enforces property rights protections for land and homeowners. Most land has a clear title. Ownership of land is highly concentrated among royal family members; certain areas may be closed to Bahraini investors as well as expatriates. Foreign firms and GCC nationals are permitted to purchase land in certain areas in Bahrain. Non-GCC nationals can acquire high-rise commercial and residential properties in designated areas. Foreign investors may purchase 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:

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

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

  1. Durrat Al Bahrain
  2. Riffa Views
  3. Amwaj Islands
  4. Bahrain Financial Harbor
  5. Bahrain Bay
  6. Reef Island
  7. Diyyar Al Muharraq
  8. 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.

Under the U.S.-Bahrain FTA, the GOB committed to enforce intellectual property rights (IPR) protections. Bahrain signed the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, Patent Cooperation Treaty, Nice Agreement, Madrid Agreement, Budapest Treaty, Trademark Law Treaty, 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 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 Paris Convention commitment, and in anticipation of acceding to the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks and the Locarno Agreement on establishing an international classification for industrial designs, and the International Patent Classification (IPC). Bahrain has acceded to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty. Bahrain ratified Law No. 31 on the Protection of New Plants Varieties in 2021 and is expected to accede to the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants by the end of 2022.

The GOB has made progress in reducing copyright piracy and there are few reports of significant violations of U.S. patents and trademarks in Bahrain. The GOB’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 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 the 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 Intellectual Property Rights Holders:

Peter Mehravari
Patent Attorney
Intellectual Property Attaché for the Middle East & North Africa
U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi | U.S. Department of Commerce U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
Tel: +965-2259-1455
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

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 often be uncertain of title. Land registration records have been historically 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. A 2015 study by leading Bangladeshi think tank Policy Research Institute (PRI) revealed one in seven households in the country faced land disputes. Bangladesh ranks 184 among 190 countries for ease of registering property in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 Report.

While property owners can obtain mortgages, 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 judicial system. The Transfer of Property Act of 1882  and the Registration Act of 1908  are the two main laws regulating transfer of property in Bangladesh but these laws have no 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 (IPR) and rights enforcement is not a priority for the Government of Bangladesh and it has not invested heavily in IPR protection. As a result, counterfeit goods are readily available in Bangladesh, and a significant portion of business software is pirated. Several U.S. firms, including fast-moving consumer goods manufacturers, film studios, pharmaceutical products, apparel goods, and software firms, have reported systematic violations of their IPRs. Investors note police are willing to investigate counterfeit goods producers when informed but are unlikely to initiate independent investigations.

The Government of Bangladesh has recently taken steps to develop its IP system. In February 2021, the Cabinet gave its final approval of a draft Bangladesh Patents Bill and in-principal approval of a draft Bangladesh Industry-Designs Bill to replace the Patents and Designs Act 1911. The bills aim to make necessary updates to existing regulations and improve IPR in Bangladesh. However, as of March 2022 the potential impact of the bills remains uncertain because the government had yet to make the drafts public for stakeholder review. The bills require approval by the Parliament before going into effect. A National IP policy was developed in 2018 but has not been fully implemented. Public awareness of IPR is slowly growing through efforts from industry associations like the Intellectual Property Rights Association of Bangladesh, AMCHAM, Bangladesh, and REACT. 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 2000 (amended in 2005), a Trademarks Act in 2009, and a Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act in 2013, in addition to the recent action on bills replacing the Patents and Designs Act.

Several government agencies are empowered to act against counterfeiting, including the National Board of Revenue (NBR), Customs, Mobile Courts, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), and the Bangladesh Police. However, enforcement agencies do not have appropriate resources nor are given the appropriate attention or priority to execute complaints filed by IP right holders. Accordingly, enforcement actions such as raids and seizures have become costly, time-consuming, and often nonproductive. In a positive development, in December 2019, the National Board of Revenue implemented the Intellectual Property Rights of Receipts of Imports: Rules of Implementation 2018. The rules intend to help stakeholders, though the bond requirement, for taking any enforcement action is a concern for the stakeholders. As per Rule 5 of the Intellectual Property Rights (Imported Goods) Enforcement Rules,2007, Industry is required to execute a specific bond of an amount equal to 110 percent of the value of the goods and furnish security in the form of a Bank Guarantee of an amount equal to 25 percent of the bond value within three days from date of confiscation of the goods. It is an issue as it is challenging to get all internal approval and get the bond executed within three days. Secondly, the bond is on hold until the case is disposed of, and thirdly it isn’t easy to do the valuation of a product.

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. However, reports are not publicly available.

Resources for Intellectual Property Rights Holders:

John Cabeca
Intellectual Property Counselor for South Asia
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Foreign Commercial Service
email: john.cabeca@trade.gov
website: https://www.uspto.gov/ip-policy/ip-attache-program
tel: +91-11-2347-2000

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/ .

Barbados

5. Protection of Property Rights

There are no restrictions on foreign ownership of property in Barbados. Foreign investors and locals are treated equally regarding 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 one percent stamp duty. Brokerage and legal fees are not included in these levies. Buyers should seek the advice of a local attorney when purchasing property.

Commercial, industrial, hotel, and villa properties are subject to a 0.95 percent land tax on the improved value of the property. Holders of a certificate from the Barbados Tourism Authority enjoy rebates of 50 percent for hotels and 25 percent from villas. The Commissioner of Land Tax charges an annual fee based on the assessed property value on residential property as follows:

  • 0% on the first $75,000 (150,000 Barbados dollars)
  • 0% on the first $75,000 (150,000 Barbados dollars)
  • 0.1% on amounts between $75,001 and $225,000 (150,001 and 550,000 Barbados dollars)
  • 0.7% on amounts between $225,001 and $425,000 (550,001 and 850,000 Barbados dollars)
  • 1.0% on amounts greater than $425,000 (850,000 Barbados dollars)
  • 0.8% on vacant land under 4,000 square feet
  • 1.0% on all other vacant land

The government has included an additional procedure that has increased the time to record the conveyance at the Land Registry and pay transfer fees and stamp duties. This has made transferring property more onerous. The Land Registry has digitized records dating back to 1952 and plans to further digitize deeds dating back to 1640. A landowner may lose his or her title to land if a trespasser or squatter takes possession for a period of ten years.

Barbados has a legislative framework governing intellectual property rights (IPR), though enforcement needs improvement. Barbados is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and is party to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, and the Nice Agreement Concerning the International Classification of Goods and Services for the Purposes of the Registration of Marks. The Government of Barbados has enacted IPR legislation on topics including patents, copyrights, trademarks, industrial designs, integrated circuits topography, plant breeders’ rights, geographical indications, and protection against unfair competition. Barbados’ Trademark and Industrial Designs Act meets international standards.

Barbados remains on the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report Watch List in 2021. Barbados acceded to the WIPO Internet Treaties in 2019 and has convened a public-private Advisory Committee on Intellectual Property Rights to redraft its Copyright Act. Once passed by Parliament, this will enable Barbados to implement its WIPO Internet Treaties obligations. CAIPO will be reorganized into two separate entities, one for business registration and one for IPR registration. The former CAIPO director was appointed as Master of the High Court in 2020, which deepened the court’s IPR expertise. These measures, along with the updates and upgrades to CAIPO’s database in 2021, were intended to strengthen IPR enforcement.

Currently, Barbados’ judicial system is unable to provide timely and effective relief on IPR violations due to a serious case backlog across all types of civil and criminal matters. Ongoing cases include the unauthorized transmission of U.S. broadcasts and cable programming by local cable operators, including state-owned broadcasters, without adequate compensation to U.S. right holders, and the refusal of Barbadian television and radio broadcasters and cable and satellite operators to pay for public performances of music.

Article 66 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas establishing the CSME commits all 15 members to implement stronger intellectual property rights protection and enforcement. The CARIFORUM-EU EPA contains the most detailed obligations regarding intellectual property in any trade agreement to which Barbados is a party. The EPA provides for 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 Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property.”

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’ Custom and Excises Department to have the goods destroyed. If the goods fall under the Ministry of Health’s 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. Barbados is not listed in USTR’s 2022 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

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 .

Belarus

5. Protection of Property Rights

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 except for land in the Great Stone Industrial Park, which foreign persons can acquire. The 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report ranked Belarus 14th on ease of property registration (  http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/exploreeconomies/belarus  ).

Belarus has made progress in improving legislation to protect intellectual property rights (IPR) and prosecute violators. However, challenges for effective enforcement include a lack of sufficiently qualified officers. According to information provided by Belarus’ National Center of Intellectual Property, Belarus adopted a law upon Belarus’ accession to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Marrakesh Treaty on facilitating access for the blind and visually impaired persons or people with other disabilities to printed information. Belarus received the status of a full member under this agreement in October 2020. In 2018, the government amended Article 4.5 of the Administrative Code to allow greater prosecution of industrial property and IPR violations. Authorities reported there was one criminal and 89 administrative cases pursued in 2020. No criminal and 178 administrative cases were prosecuted in 2021. In 2020 and in 2021 the National Center of Intellectual Property registered no complaints from U.S. companies or their representatives regarding violations of intellectual property rights.

In July 2021, the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs of July 2, 1999 (the Geneva Act) came into effect in Belarus and the country became the 66th member state to accede to the Geneva Act and became the 75th member of the Hague Union. In November 2021, Belarus adopted an IPR strategy through 2030 defining significant aspects of the country’s IPR system that need to be strengthened. In December 2021, Belarus acceded to the Industrial Design Protection Protocol to the September 9, 1994 Eurasian Patent Convention. The accession is set to come into effect in April 2022.

Belarus was removed from USTR’s Special 301 Report in 2016 and is not included in the Notorious Markets List.

Belarus is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and party to the Bern Convention, the Paris Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the WIPO Copyright Treaty, and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, among others. 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/ .

Belgium

5. Protection of Property Rights

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. Industrial spaces that are unused and neglected can be subject to levies. Owners of building plots are not required to build on them within a certain period. However, exceptions exist for plots that retain construction obligations. On those plots, owners are obliged to build within a certain timeframe.

Belgium generally meets very high standards for the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR). The EU has issued a number of directives to promote the protection and enforcement of IPR, which EU Member States are required to implement.  National laws that do not conflict with those of the EU also apply.  Belgium is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and so is party to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).  Belgium is also a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and party to many of its treaties, including the Berne Convention, the Paris Convention, the WIPO Copyright Treaty, and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.

IPR is administered by the Belgian Office of Intellectual Property (OPRI), which is part of the Directorate-General for Economic Regulation  in the Ministry for Economic Affairs: https://economie.fgov.be/en/themes/intellectual-property/institutions-and-actors/belgian-office-intellectual .  This office manages and provides Belgian IPR titles, oversees public awareness campaigns, drafts legislation, and advises Belgian authorities with regard to national and international issues.  The Belgian Ministry of Justice is responsible for enforcement of IPR.  Belgium experiences a rate of commercial and digital infringement – particularly internet music piracy and illegal copying of software – similar to most EU Member States.

Belgium is not included on USTR’s Special 301 Report.

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

Belize

5. Protection of Property Rights

The preamble of the Belize Constitution preserves the right of the individual to own private property to operate private businesses.  Common law, Belize legislation, and case law all reinforce property rights and interests.  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 and adhere to the Exchange Control Act and related regulations.

Mortgages and liens exist, and related real estate is recorded with the registry of the Lands and Survey Department.  The Lands and Survey Department has a history of corruption, and there have been charges of land fraud, abuses, and cronyism leveled against the Department during each administration.  As part of its land reform policy, the Lands Department continues to engage with the public through mobile clinics, where Lands Department personnel visit communities across to country to address land concerns, including issuing freehold titles. Investors are nonetheless advised to perform 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.  The Central Bank regulates real estate transactions involving non-residents for exchange control purposes.  Additionally, the rate of stamp duty chargeable on land transfers involving foreign persons or a foreign controlled company is 8 percent for land transfers valued in excess of US $10,000, as opposed to 5 percent on transfers involving Belizeans and CARICOM nationals.

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. Squatters’ rights exist but are only enforceable by order of the Supreme Court after the resident has proven uninterrupted possession for at least 30 years on national lands or at least 12 years on registered lands.

Belize is a member of the WTO and has implemented the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS).  Generally, Intellectual Property (IP) rights must be registered and enforced in Belize.  IP protections are enforceable through civil proceedings initiated by the IP holder.  The Belize Intellectual Property Office (BELIPO) (http://belipo.bz) was established to administer IP 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 topographies of integrated circuits.

In practice, however, there is no active enforcement of IP protections, though there is active pursuit and prosecution of contraband.  Bootleg CDs and DVDs are widespread and are marketed throughout the country and are especially prevalent in the Free Zones. During the past year, Belize enacted the Patents (Amendment) Act, 2021 and the Trademarks (Amendment) Act, 2021. Both amendments allow the Registrar of Intellectual Property to delegate certain function to the Deputy Registrar. There has been no report on seizures of counterfeit goods and no prosecution of IPR violations in the last year. Belize is not listed in the 2021 USTR’s Special 301 report nor the 2021 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

The Land Act, amended in 2017, codifies real property rights. Land ownership disputes account for roughly 80 percent of the cases seen by Beninese tribunals. The Land Act is designed to ensure fair access to land and protect ownership rights. 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. The Land Act stipulates that development projects financed by international or multinational agencies cannot implement or result in forced evictions. The state is obligated to do everything possible at each stage of project development to ensure due respect of economic, social, and cultural rights recognized by international conventions and the Beninese constitution.

Secured interests in real and personal property are recognized and enforced. Secured interests in property are registered with the Land Office of the Ministry of Economy and Finance. However, it is recommended that foreign and non-resident investors buy land with title deeds and the services of a notary public in order to avoid 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 https://www.andf.bj/. Beginning in 2023, the government will require a title deed for all transactions involving real property.

The 2005 Law on Copyright and Related Rights regulates intellectual property rights. Benin is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and has acceded to WIPO treaties and conventions on copyrights and intellectual property protection. However, enforcement of intellectual property rights in Benin is constrained by the government’s limited capacity.

Benin 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 .

Bolivia

5. Protection of Property Rights

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 usually take 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 eliminated annual productivity inspections, reducing their frequency to every five years.  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, 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 can 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.

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:  https://www.senapi.gob.bo/normas . SENAPI also maintains an updated version of the services they provide, along with associated costs, at:  https://www.senapi.gob.bo/propiedad-intelectual/tasas .

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 to prevent parties from going to trial, which is now the most common procedure to solve these disputes.

Bolivia does not have an area of civil law specifically related to industrial property, but it 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 regarding IPR protection.  Besides its international obligations, Bolivia has not passed any domestic laws protecting trade secrets.

CAN Decision 486 also enforces patent registrations in Bolivia. 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.

Law 1134, the “Bolivian Cinema and Audiovisual Arts Law” created a fund to promote Bolivian cinema by charging foreign movie distributors and exhibitors’ three percent of their total monthly revenue.   Article 27 of the 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, the informal sector has a sense of unregulated capitalism regarding the sale of counterfeit goods.  Many importers believe the payment of customs fees will “legalize” the sale of counterfeit products.   Sellers either do not know about or consider IPR, particularly in the textile, electrical appliances, and entertainment markets.  Large quantities of counterfeit electrical appliances imported from China bearing well-known and clearly non-original brands are available for purchase in local markets.  There is also a flourishing market of textile products made in Bolivia and 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 IPR infringements 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.  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.  Because of publicly reported problems of counterfeit COVID-19 medicines in 2020 and 2021, the Bolivian Police task force launched several raids to counter groups of counterfeit medicine smugglers. These groups reportedly smuggled products from Peru, Paraguay, and Brazil.

Bolivia is listed on the Watch List of the U.S. Trade Representative’s 2022 Special 301 Report and is not named in its 2021 Review of Notorious Market for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

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

The 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report ranked BiH at number 96 out of 190 in the ease of registering property, which takes 7 procedures and an average of 35 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 landowner. 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.

Companies should have a comprehensive intellectual property rights (IPR) strategy in BiH since rights must be registered and enforced according to local law. BiH’s IPR framework consists of seven laws adopted and put into force by the Parliament in 2010. This legislation is compliant with the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and EU legislation. BiH is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and party to a number of its treaties, including the Berne Convention, the Paris Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the WIPO Copyright Treaty, and the WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty. 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. Companies may wish to seek advice from local attorneys who are experts in IPR law. 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, none of which 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.

Some BiH government entities have been using licensed software for a number of years, such as the state-level government which came into compliance in 2009, a significant step forward in the government’s commitment to IPR protection. However, some of the Cantonal governments continue using unlicensed software as some officials still do not understand the implications for IPR infringement.

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. According to the Business Software Alliance (BSA), the rate of illegal software installed on personal computers in BiH currently remains at 66 percent, which is the regional average.

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

The U.S. Government, in conjunction with local partners, has made IPR awareness within the BiH enforcement community a priority through judicial engagement and public awareness programs.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is not included in the U.S. Trade Representative’s (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 www.wipo.int/directory/en/ 

Botswana

5. Protection of Property Rights 

Property rights are enforced in Botswana.  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 an approximate five percent of land in Botswana is freehold.  All minerals in Botswana, even those on private lands, are viewed as property of the State.  In the capital city of Gaborone, the number of freehold plots is limited.  In 2019, the GoB increased the rate of Transfer Duty on the sale and transfer of property to non-citizens (both individuals and companies) from five percent to 30 percent.

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 fewer 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.

Botswana’s legal intellectual property rights (IPR) structure is adequate, although some improvements are needed.  The key challenge facing the GoB is effective implementation. 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.  CIPA’s priorities are to strengthen and implement Botswana’s IPR regime and to improve interagency cooperation.  IPR infringement occurs in Botswana primarily through the sale of counterfeit items in low-end sales outlets.  According to CIPA, targeted raids by local law enforcement have reduced the availability of counterfeit goods across the country.  Several spot checks that were conducted in Gaborone revealed that most of the shops that used to sell counterfeit products were no longer selling them.  Of the raids that were done, 456 were works with no holograms, 34 pirated works and 1,454 were products infringing on trademarks such as Nike, Fila, Soviet, Adidas, Puma, Converse, etc.  Most of these were found with street hawkers.   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.  On March 31, 2022, the Parliament passed the Intellectual Property Policy which was developed with the assistance of the World Intellectual Property Authority (WIPO).  Its primary aim is to leverage Botswana’s IP potential for inclusive and sustainable economic growth and development.  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 not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

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

Brazil

5. Protection of Property Rights

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 estate property in Brazil. Foreign buyers frequently arrange alternative financing in their own countries, where interest rates may be more attractive. Law 9514/1997 helped to boost 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 local financing. Large U.S. real estate firms are, nonetheless, expanding their portfolios in Brazil.

Intellectual property (IP) rights holders in Brazil continue to face challenges. Brazil has remained on the “Watch List” of the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report since 2017. The U.S. Government has long-standing concerns about Brazil’s enforcement regime and specific problems like the excessively high rates of online piracy. Brazil has one physical market located in São Paulo that is listed on USTR’s 2021 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy. The Rua 25 de Março area is identified in the review as a distribution center for counterfeit and pirated goods throughout São Paulo. Government officials continue to take enforcement actions in this region, and authorities have used these enforcement actions as a basis to take civil measures against some of the other stores that have been identified for selling counterfeit goods in the area. According to the National Forum Against Piracy, contraband, pirated, counterfeit, and stolen goods cost Brazil approximately $54 billion in 2020. (https://www.fncp.org.br/areas-de-atuacao.html#combate-ao-mercado-ilegal  ) (Yearly average currency exchange rate: 1 USD = 5.3 BRL)

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 .  Additional information is also available from the USPTO IP Attaché in Brazil: https://www.uspto.gov/ip-policy/ip-attache-program/regions/brazil .

Brunei

5. Protection of Property Rights

Mortgages are recognized and enforced in Brunei; however, only Bruneian citizens can own land property in Brunei indefinitely. Foreigners and permanent residents can only own properties for up to 99 years. Brunei’s Department of Economic Planning and Development does not publish FDI data for real estate. Each transfer of ownership in Brunei requires the approval of “His Majesty in Council” which is a council of officials representing the Sultan. This process can be lengthy and opaque.

Brunei is considering amending the Land Code are being considered to ban past practices of proxy land sales to foreigners and permanent residents using power of attorney and trust deeds. The amendments to the Land Code have eliminated the recognition of powers of attorney and trust deeds as mechanisms in land transactions involving non-citizens. The government may grant temporary occupation permits over state land to applicants for licenses to occupy land for agricultural, commercial, housing or industrial purposes. These licenses are granted for renewable annual terms.

Brunei’s intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and enforcement regime is still in development but is increasingly strong and effective. The country was removed from the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 report in 2013 in recognition of its improving IPR protections, increasing enforcement, and efforts to educate the public about the importance of IPR.

Brunei finalized and adopted the Copyright (Amendment) Order 2013 in December 2013, a development long requested by the U.S. government. The amendment enhanced enforcement provisions for copyright infringement by increasing the penalties for IP offenses; adding new offenses; strengthening the enforcement powers of the Royal Brunei Police Force and the Ministry of Finance and Economy’s Customs and Excise Department; and allowing for sanctioned private prosecution. The amendments are designed to deter copyright infringements with fines of BND 10,000 (USD7,400) to BND 20,000 (USD14,800) per infringing copy, imprisonment for a term up to five years, or both. Enforcement agencies are authorized to enter premises and arrest without warrant; to stop, search, and board vehicles; and to access computerized and digitized data. The amendments further allow for admissibility of evidence obtained covertly and protect the identity of informants. Statistics on seizures of counterfeit goods are unavailable.

Brunei established the Brunei Intellectual Property Office (BruIPO) in 2013 under the Attorney General’s Chambers. The establishment of BruIPO expanded the country’s Patents Registry Office’s (PRO) ability to accept applications for trademarks registration in addition to patents and industrial designs.

In September 2013, Brunei acceded to the Geneva (1999) Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs to protect IP from industrial designs, making it the second ASEAN Member country, following Singapore, to accede. The accession emphasized Brunei’s commitment under the ASEAN Intellectual Property Rights Action Plan 2011 – 2015. Brunei has also publicly committed to acceding to other World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) treaties including the Madrid Protocol for the International Registration of Marks, the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty

(WPPT), and the UPOV Convention 1991 for the protection of New Varieties of Plants (PV).

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/ 

Bulgaria

5. Protection of Property Rights 

Restrictions still exist on the ownership of agricultural land by non-EU citizens.  Companies whose shareholders are registered offshore are banned from acquiring or owning Bulgarian agricultural land.  Non-EU citizens who have resided in Bulgaria for at least five years or their Bulgaria-registered companies can acquire Bulgarian agricultural land.

Mortgages are recorded centrally with the Bulgarian Registry Agency, at registryagency.bg .

Bulgaria was taken off the USTR’s Special 301 Watch List in 2018, following passage of amendments to the Copyright Law, improvements in royalty collection, and government procurement of licensed software. However, high levels of online piracy continue to exist, and IP enforcement and prosecution efforts continue to be areas of concern.

The 2021 Notorious Markets Report lists two online providers of pirated content which operate from Bulgaria.

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 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).  A 2019 Law on Marks and Geographical Indications updated procedures for trademark registration. The law introduced response deadlines as short as three days.

Trademarks and service marks are protected via registration with the Bulgarian Patent Office, or registration as a European Union Trademark, or an international registration under the Madrid Agreement and the Madrid Protocol that designates Bulgaria. A trademark is normally granted within ten months of application filing. Pending applications are published to allow for objections. Rejections can be appealed to the Patent Office’s Disputes Department. Decisions of this department can be appealed to the Sofia Administrative Court within three months.

The Bulgarian law on patents and utility model registrations is harmonized with EU law.  The latest amendments in the law provide for new electronic state registers on patents and utility models and services. The state registers are public and available on the website of the Patent Office.

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 the 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.

A 2019 law on trade secret protection allows for civil action for trade secret infringement. There is no special court for cases related to trade secrets.

Bulgarian customs maintain a section on its official web site customs.bg instructing rightsholders of the procedure for filing IPR infringement cases. In 2021, the main countries of origin of counterfeit goods were Turkey, China, and Hong Kong. The most frequently confiscated goods were clothing, perfumes and cosmetics, shoes, toys, bags, and wallets.

Online and broadcast piracy remain an enforcement issue in Bulgaria. While the cybercrime unit at the General Directorate for Combating Organized Crime (GDBOP) is generally responsive to reports of online copyright infringements, investigation of other computer-based IPR crimes is slow, and few result in criminal convictions.

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 .

Burkina Faso

5. Protection of Property Rights

Since the 2009 land tenure reform law, the government of Burkina Faso has been engaged to issue titles recognizing land ownership rights. The MCC’s first 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 titleholder 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.

Burkina Faso’s legal system offers protection for intellectual property rights (IPR), including patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, and semiconductor chip design. In practice, however, government enforcement of IPR law is lax. Burkina Faso is a destination point for counterfeit medicines, which can be purchased readily in Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso.

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 has also issued several decrees and rules to implement the two treaties.

The implementation of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is under the purview of two ministries. The first is the Office of Copyrights (le Bureau Burkinabe des Droits d’Auteurs, or BBDA) under the Ministry of Art, Culture and Tourism, which has the lead for copyright and related rights. The National Directorate of Industrial Property under the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Handicrafts has the lead for industrial property issues. 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, the BDDA tracks seizures pertaining to artistic material, and the National Directorate of Industrial Property tracks seizures pertaining to pharmaceuticals.

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

Burma

5. Protection of Property Rights

Property rights and interests are not consistently enforced. Land disputes involving foreign investments are common and land titling is opaque. Mortgages and liens exist, but there is not a reliable recording system.

The Myanmar Investment Law 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). The MIC may allow longer periods of land utilization or land leases to promote the development of difficult-to-access regions with lower development.

The 2016 Condominium Law allows for up to 40 percent of condominium units of “saleable floor area” to be sold to foreign buyers.

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.

In September 2018, the Burmese government amended the Vacant, Fallow, and Virgin Lands Management Law and required occupants of these lands to register at the nearest land records office 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 have been designated as vacant, fallow or virgin, and whether the notification or registration period was sufficient.

A continuing area of concern for foreign investors is investments involving 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 and protests from local communities about inadequate consultation and compensation regarding land.

In practice because of opaque land titling and unclear ownership, squatters de facto are permitted to use land that is unoccupied or land where ownership is contested or where they have an established history of living on that property.

Prior to the coup, Burma had expanded its legal intellectual property protections, but enforcement was limited. Burma’s Parliament passed four intellectual property laws in 2019 – the Trademark Law, Industrial Design Law, Patent Law, and Copyright Law.

Burma does not maintain publicly available data on seizures of counterfeit goods, although occasionally the government will announce seizures of counterfeit goods in government media or previously on Facebook government accounts. The Myanmar Police Force’s Criminal Investigative Department (CID) investigates and seizes counterfeit goods, including brands, documents, gold, products, and money, but not medicines. The CID currently does not record the value of the amount seized.

Burma is not listed in the USTR’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/ .

Burundi

5. Protection of Property Rights

Secured interests in both real and movable property are nominally recognized under Burundian law.  The Burundi land code, adopted in 2011, recognizes the right to property and protection for Burundians and for foreigners.  Foreigners enjoy the same rights and protection as nationals, subject to the principle of reciprocity.  The state can give property to foreigners for industrial, commercial, and cultural use, and can rent them out, but full ownership is reserved for Burundians.

Land titling in Burundi has historically been a lengthy, opaque, and centralized process.  The Land Titles Service registers real estate and security instruments, such as mortgages.  Property titles are accepted as a guarantee by commercial banks, but documents for properties located outside the capital city of Bujumbura are less readily accepted because of conflicts and crime related to land disputes in rural areas (more than 80 percent of criminal court cases are related to conflicts over land).

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

When a property has been legally purchased, it cannot be legally confiscated by the state except when it is the subject of an expropriation procedure in accordance with legal and regulatory procedures.

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 and the investment code 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 infringement violations.  No IPR-related law has been enacted during the past year and no bills are pending.

Agents of Burundian institutions in charge of the fight against piracy and counterfeiting (Burundian Revenue Office, Ministries of Trade and Public Health) have already benefited from various sources of support in terms of capacity building on industrial property rights and the fight against piracy and counterfeiting on the part of multilateral partners, but these institutions lack modern tools for detecting counterfeits.  Although these institutions have already committed themselves to carrying out reforms in this sector (a multisectoral committee responsible for promoting procedures to combat counterfeiting and piracy and monitoring has been set up), they still need to set up a database of recognized trademarks, in which all the information on trademarks registered at customs is compiled and to require this procedure for all companies or representatives of multinationals to be effective.

For now, the Burundi Bureau of Standardization (BBN) is the state authority responsible for monitoring 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.  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/.

Cabo Verde

5. Protection of Property Rights

Access, use, and transfer of land and real estate are recognized under the constitution, 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.

A legal entity records secured interests in property. Ownership documents (Certidao de Registo Predial) are obtained through the land registry department, including an official map with the property’s exact location (Planta de Localizaçao). A tax information certificate (Certidao Matricial) is requested from the municipality.

If the property is unregistered, it is possible to register the property with a certificate confirming that the property is not registered in anyone else’s name (Certidao Negativa) and a tax certificate confirming status of property tax payment. Under its second Millennium Challenge Corporation compact, Cabo Verde finalized a land information management system for the country and clarified parcel rights and boundaries for the islands of Sal, Boa Vista, and Maio and rural and high-potential tourism zone parcels on the island of Sao Vicente.

Legislation on intellectual property rights (IPR) aligns with international standards. The legal framework has been revised in accordance with provisions of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) agreements and those of the WTO. The body responsible for standardization in Cabo Verde is the Institute of Quality and Intellectual Property (IGOPC), https://igqpi.cv/ .

Officially, the IGOPC protects against IP infringement, but enforcement capacity is limited due to resource constraints including inadequate digitalization (though online registration and search of trademarks were made available recently), judicial system capacity constraints, and lack of awareness of intellectual property rights among businesses and consumers.

Cabo Verde is a party to international copyright treaties. Cabo Verde is not listed in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) 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/ .

Cambodia

5. Protection of Property Rights

Mortgages exist in Cambodia and Cambodian banks often require certificates of property ownership as collateral before approving loans. The mortgage recordation 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 period. The government is making efforts to accelerate the issuance of land titles, but in practice, the titling system is cumbersome, expensive, and subject to corruption. Most 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.

Infringement of intellectual property rights (IPR) is prevalent in Cambodia. Counterfeit apparel, footwear, cigarettes, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, and consumer goods, and pirated software, music, and books are some of the examples of IPR-infringing goods found in the country.

Though Cambodia is not a major center for the production or export of counterfeit or pirated materials, local businesses report that the problem is growing because of the lack of enforcement. To date, Cambodia has not been listed by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in its annual Special 301 Report, which identifies trade barriers to U.S. companies due to the IPR environment.

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.  Though there has been an increase in the number of seizures of counterfeit goods in recent years, in general such actions are not taken unless a formal complaint is made.

In 2020, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office concluded a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Cambodia on accelerated patent recognition, creating a simplified procedure for U.S. patents to be registered in Cambodia. The patent recognition application form can be found at this link .

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 this link .

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 must 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. Existing legislation does not discriminate against foreign landowners.

Records from the Ministry of State Property and Land Tenure 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 two 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. According to the World Bank, the registration process can cost up to 13.7 percent of the property value.

Land disputes are common among Cameroonian citizens. The disputes are generally caused by non-respect of commercial sales contracts or by informal sales of land. Illegal occupations of property are also common. Globally, Cameroon ranked 175th out of 190 economies on the ease of registering property in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020.

The legal structure for intellectual property rights (IPR) and corresponding enforcement mechanisms are weak.  IP infringement and theft are especially common in the media, pharmaceuticals, software, and print industries. To secure a trademark registration right, a Cameroonian attorney must prepare and file a trademark application with the African Organization for Intellectual Property (OAPI), which is headquartered in Yaoundé. The courts are responsible for enforcement.

There were no new IPR-related laws or regulations enacted during the previous year. The government seizes and publicly burns counterfeit goods. These actions are not documented systematically, and no cumulative data exist on the seizures. 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

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 under the USMCA have mechanisms available for dispute resolution regarding property expropriation by the Government of Canada. The recording system for mortgages and liens is reliable. Canada is ranked 36 out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s “Ease of Registering Property” 2020 rankings. Approximately 89 percent of Canada’s land area is government owned (Crown Land). Ownership is divided between by federal (41 percent) and provincial (48 percent) governments. The remaining 11 percent of Canadian land is privately owned.

British Columbia and Ontario tax foreign buyers of real property. In British Colombia, foreign buyers of real property in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, the central Okanagan regional district, Nanaimo, and the Capital Regional District are taxed at 20 percent of the property’s fair market value. In 2018, British Columbia broadened taxation on foreign ownership in Metro Vancouver and enacted a 0.5 percent Speculation and Vacancy Tax, targeting vacant foreign-owned homes. In 2019, the British Colombia Ministry of Finance increased the tax to 2 percent. The tax includes foreign owners and satellite families defined as those who earn most of their income outside of Canada. In Ontario, non-resident buyers of real property are subject to a non-resident speculation tax (NRST) at 15 percent of the property’s fair market value. Ontario extended the NRST in 2022 to apply to real property throughout the province. In 2022, Nova Scotia began levying property taxes on non-residents of Nova Scotia. Residential properties owned by non-residents of Nova Scotia (with exceptions for multi-unit buildings and properties leased for at least twelve months) are subject to a two percent property tax. In addition, non-residents who buy property and do not move to Nova Scotia within six months of closing have to pay a transfer tax of five percent of the property’s value. A federal one percent tax on the value of non-resident, non-Canadian owned residential real estate considered to be vacant or underused is undergoing parliamentary review as of March 2022. In April 2022, the federal government announced a proposed two year ban on sales of residential properties to non-Canadian residents.

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. 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, including for investment projects. In British Columbia, Crown land cannot be acquired by foreigners, while there are no restrictions on acquisition of other land.

Canada took significant steps to improve its intellectual property (IP) provisions when the USMCA came into force July 1, 2020, addressing areas with long-standing concerns, including full national treatment for copyright protections, transparency, and due process with respect to new geographical indications (GIs), more expansive trade secret protection, authority to seize counterfeit goods in transit to other countries, and enforcement measures in the digital environment. Canada must implement three additional provisions, including legislation to implement patent term adjustments to compensate for unreasonable patent prosecution delays by December 2024, legislation to extend copyright protections from 50 years to 70 years after the life of the author by December 2022, and accession to the Brussels Convention Relating to the Distribution of Program-Carrying Signals Transmitted by Satellite by July 2024. The Canadian courts have established meaningful penalties against circumvention devices and services. In 2019, Canada made positive reforms to the Copyright Board related to tariff-setting procedures for the use of copyrighted works, and efforts remain ongoing to implement those measures

Various challenges to IP protection in Canada remain despite this strong legal framework. Canadian IP enforcement of counterfeit and pirated goods at the border and within Canada remains limited. Canada’s system for providing patent term restoration for delays in obtaining marketing approval is also limited in duration, eligibility, and scope of protection. Canada’s ambiguous education-related exemption included in the 2012 copyright law undermines the market for educational publishers and authors.

Canada is on the 2022 Watch List in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report to Congress. The Pacific Mall located in Toronto, Ontario was listed in USTR’s 2021 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

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 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 most landowners do not have a title or a deed for their property. In 2022, an effort by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to advise the government on a more systematic framework to approach property issues marked the first major effort in many years to address property rights conflicts.

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. A significant portion of the legal system’s bandwidth is involved in ongoing land disputes. 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 then 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.

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).

Intellectual property violations are widespread. Counterfeit pharmaceuticals and pirated artistic works, such as music and films, are common in Chad. Imported counterfeit watches, athletic apparel, footwear, denim jeans, cosmetics, perfumes, and other goods are also readily available. Despite limited resources, Chadian customs officials make occasional efforts to enforce copyright laws, normally by seizing and burning counterfeit medicines, CDs, and mobile phones, though the government does not regularly track or report on seizures of counterfeit goods or on prosecution of IPR violations. Occasionally, Chadian authorities will, however, 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. In 2021, the government did not enact any new intellectual policy laws or regulations.

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

Property rights and interests are recognized and generally enforced in Chile. Chile ranked 63 out of 190 economies in the “Registering Property” category of the World Bank’s 2020 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 no time limit on the property rights acquired by them. 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 a criminal offense, several kinds of eviction procedures are allowed by the law, though they can sometimes be onerous and lengthy.

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 maintains a voluntary notification system; and provides for civil and procedural remedies. However, IP protection challenges remain. Chile’s framework for trade secret protection has been deemed insufficient by private stakeholders. Pharmaceutical products suffer from relatively weak patenting procedures, the absence of an effective patent enforcement and resolution mechanism, and some gaps in regulation governing data protection.

Two important IP-related laws are pending in the Chilean Congress. 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 bill was passed by the Lower Chamber and sent to the Senate. Meanwhile, a reform bill on Chile’s pharmaceutical drugs law called “Ley de Fármacos II”, originated in the Senate but was extensively amended by the opposition-controlled Lower Chamber, and has been under review by a mixed committee of both houses of the Chilean Congress since May 2020. While the pharmaceutical industry reports that the reconciliation process addressed some of their concerns regarding the new regulations, it identified the lack of coverage being offered in price regulations as an outstanding issue of concern.

A new legislation that modernizes certain aspects of Chile’s patent and IP regime – Ley Corta 21335 – entered into force on January 5, 2022. The new law modernizes procedures for industrial designs and trademarks registration; criminalizes trademark falsification with stronger fines and introducing prison terms of up to three years; introduces provisional patents, so that innovators can initiate a patent registration procedure while being afforded 12 months to gather necessary information; strengthens patent enforcement measures, allowing affected patent owners to request the transfer of an infringing registered patent and not only its annulment; and broadens the definition of trade secrets.

On February 7, 2022, a new law against trade in illicit and counterfeit goods, with a focus on disrupting organized criminal activity, entered into force. The scope of the law covers counterfeiting, the reproduction or unauthorized sale of literary, artistic, and scientific works protected by IPR, as well as phonograms, videos, phonographic records, cassettes, videocassettes, films or motion pictures, and computer programs.

The Intellectual Property Brigade (BRIDEPI) of the Chilean Investigative Police (PDI) reported that it seized 41,349 counterfeit products in 2021, worth a total of US$ 491,844, and arrested nine individuals on charges related to IPR infringement. Additionally, the National Customs Service reported that, between January and September 2021 (latest data available) it seized more than 4.9 million counterfeit products worth a total of US$ 54 million.

Chile’s IPR enforcement 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.

Since 2007, Chile has been on the Special 301 Priority Watch List (PWL). In October 2018, Chile’s Congress successfully passed a law that criminalizes satellite piracy. In December 2021, the Ministry of Culture, Arts, and Heritage took positive action by introducing legislation in the Chilean Congress to implement a legal framework to penalize the circumvention of technology protection measures (TPM) by amending Chile’s existing IPR law. This legislation remains pending in Congress. However, other challenges remain, related to longstanding IPR issues under the U.S.-Chile FTA: the pending implementation of UPOV 91; the implementation of an 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 HYPERLINK hError! Hyperlink reference not valid..

China

5. Protection of Property Rights

The government of China owns all urban land and only 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 renew automatically, while commercial and industrial grants renew if it does not conflict with other public interest claims. Several foreign investors have reported revocation of land use rights so that PRC developers could pursue government-designated building projects. Investors often complain about insufficient compensation in these cases. In rural China, the registration system suffers from unclear ownership lines and disputed border claims, often at the expense of local farmers whom village leaders exclude in favor of “handshake deals” with commercial interests. 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. PRC law does not prohibit foreigners from buying non-performing debt, but it must be acquired through state-owned asset management firms, and it is difficult to liquidate.

The PRC remained on the USTR Special 301 Report Priority Watch List in 2022 and was subject to continued Section 306 monitoring. Multiple PRC-based physical and online markets were included in the 2021 USTR Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy. Of note, in 2021, the PRC government took steps toward addressing long-standing U.S. concerns on a wide range of IP issues, from patents to trademarks to copyrights and trade secrets. The reforms addressed the granting and protection of IP rights as well as their enforcement, and included changes made in support of the Phase One Trade Agreement. In September 2021, the CCP Central Committee and State Council jointly issued the “Outline for Building a Strong Intellectual Property Nation (2021-2035).” The Outline was China’s second long-term plan to promote IP development since the 2008 National IP Strategy Outline, and provided a high-level framework and specific goals for reforms of China’s entire IP ecosystem, including mechanisms to incentivize the creation and utilization of IP, as well as the systems and mechanisms for protecting and enforcing it. The State Council in October issued the “National 14th Five-year Plan IP Protection and Utilization Plan” which provided a list of IP-related tasks to achieve during 2021-2025. The Plan called for expedited revisions to the Patent Law, Trademark Law, Copyright Law, Anti-Monopoly Law, Science and Technology Advancement Law, and e-Commerce law, and to strengthen legislation in areas such as geographical indicators and trade secrets. In 2021, China’s IP progress also included the implementation of a judicial interpretation related to punitive damages on IP infringements, the gradual elimination of subsidies linked to patent applications, and administrative measures addressing trademark and patent protection and enforcement, as well as enforcement of copyright and trade secrets.

Despite these reforms, IP rights remain subject to Chinese government policy objectives, which appear to have intensified in 2021. For U.S. companies in China, infringement remained both rampant and a low-risk “business strategy” for bad-faith actors. Further, enforcement and regulatory authorities continue to signal to U.S. rights holders that application of China’s IP system remains subject to the discretion of the PRC government and its policy goals. High-level remarks by PRC leader Xi Jinping and senior leaders signaled China’s commitment to cracking down on IP infringement in the years ahead. However, they also reflected China’s vision of the IP system as an important tool for limiting foreign ownership and control of critical technology and ensuring national security. While on paper China’s IP protection and enforcement mechanisms have inched closer to near parity with other foreign markets, in practice, fair, transparent, and non-discriminatory treatment will very likely continue to be denied to U.S. rights holders whose IP ownership and exploitation impede PRC economic development and national security goals.

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 IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/. 

Colombia

5. Protection of Property Rights

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 exist, 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 a survey made shortly before the signing of the FARC peace accord, some eight million hectares of land – 14 percent of the country – had been abandoned or acquired illegally. The government is working to title these plots and has started a formalization program for land restitution. The 2020 Doing Business report ranked Colombia 62nd for ease of registering property.

In Colombia, the granting, registration, and administration of intellectual property rights (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 INVIMA. Primary responsibility for enforcement resides with the Fiscalia General de la Republica (FGR), DIAN, and the Fiscal and Customs Police (POLFA).

The Intersectoral Intellectual Property Commission (CIPI) serves as the interagency technical body for IPR issues. On June 22, 2021 the Colombian Congress approved the Law 2090 known as the Marrakech Treaty to facilitate access to published works for blind, visually impaired or otherwise disabled persons. On the Beijing Treaty, the Ministry of Interior and Foreign Affairs presented to the Colombian Congress the draft bill 461 of 2021 which seeks to ratify this treaty. As of February 2022 it has been approved in first debate and three other debates remain pending for its final approval. In December 2021 Colombia’s NPD approved Conpes 4066, also known as the “Conpes on IP,” Colombia’s roadmap for leveraging IP rights and facilitating policies for IP protection. 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 grants utility patents that confer twenty years of protection for inventions, ten years of protection for process and design patents, and five years of protection for data collected during clinical trials. Colombia has been on the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 Watch List every year since 1991, and in 2019 was upgraded from “Priority Watch List” to “Watch List” status.

The CTPA improved standards for the protection and enforcement of a broad range of IPR. 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. However, Colombia has outstanding CTPA commitments related to IPR. Colombian officials continue discussing with the United States draft 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 has not yet signed the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV 91). Colombia maintains that the existing Andean Community Decision 345 is in effect and equivalent to UPOV 91, but this is not an interpretation shared by the United States. Colombia is a member of the Inter-American Convention for Trademark and Commercial Protection.

Colombia reformed its copyright law under Decree 1915 of 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. On July 31, 2019 the Colombian Constitutional Court issued ruling C-345-19 that recognizes the constitutionality of statutory damages for copyright infringement.

Colombia’s success combating counterfeiting and IPR violations, and enforcement in the digital space, remains limited. In March 2021, DNDA imposed an order requiring internet providers to block IP addresses used to transmit pirated digital content, the first such order in Colombia. Industry advocates called this an important precedent for combatting IP theft. A 2015 law increased penalties for those involved in running contraband, but more effective implementation is needed. Colombian authorities coordinate with the United States on investigations, but key agencies often do not have the requisite authorities or sufficient numbers of trained personnel to effectively inspect and seize merchandise and to investigate smugglers and counterfeiters. Despite high-profile seizures of counterfeit goods, such goods remain widely available in Colombia’s “San Andresitos” markets. No Colombian markets are listed in the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

U.S. stakeholders continue to raise concerns about Colombia’s regulation of the pharmaceutical sector, where regulatory barriers, a focus by the government on cost containment over health outcomes, delays in processing pharmaceutical registrations at INVIMA, and Congressional proposals to limit pharmaceutical IP restrict market entry and reduce the attractiveness of Colombia as a place to invest and do business.

Colombia is on the Watch List in USTR’s 2021 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/ .

Costa Rica

5. Protection of Property Rights

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, the National Registry, the government entity that records property titles, has been successfully targeted on occasion with fraudulent filing, which has led in some cases to overlapping title to real property. Costa Rican law allows long-time occupants of a property belonging to someone else (i.e. squatters) to eventually take legal possession of that property if unopposed by the property 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.

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 is severely restricted. 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.

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. In the 2019 United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report, USTR noted the substantial progress made by Costa Rica in protecting IPR. As a result, USTR did not include Costa Rica in the 2020 or 2021 Special 301 reports. Costa Rica was not listed in USTR’s 2021 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

Costa Rica is a signatory of many major international agreements and conventions regarding intellectual property.  Building on the existent regulatory and legal framework, the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) required Costa Rica to strengthen and clarify its IPR regime further, with several new IPR laws added to the books in 2008.  Prior to that, the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) took effect in Costa Rica on January 1, 2000.  In 2002, Costa Rica ratified the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Performances and Phonograms Treaty and the WIPO Copyright Treaty.

On June 22, 2020, the General Directorate of the National Registry merged the Registry of Industrial Property and the Registry of Copyright and Related Rights into a single Registry of Intellectual Property, improving the National Registry’s efficiency.

While online piracy remains a concern for the country, in February 2019 Costa Rica modified the existing regulation on internet service providers (ISPs) to shorten significantly the 45 days previously allowed for notice and takedown of pirated online content, creating an expeditious safe harbor system for ISPs in Costa Rica.

In August 2020, Costa Rica’s Intellectual Property Registry launched a WIPO online platform that will allow interested parties to submit online applications to register trademarks.  The online service has improved efficiency and encouraged registrations from small-to-medium-sized companies across the country. In 2021, the Intellectual Property Registry launched the development of the second stage of WIPO File that will allow for online filing of applications for patents, models, and industrial designs. In 2019, the National Registry of Industrial Property announced the implementation of TMview and DesignView, search tools that allow users to consult trademarks and industrial design data.

The Costa Rican government does not release official statistics on the seizure of counterfeit goods, but the Chamber of Commerce compiles statistics from Costa Rican government sources: http://observatorio.co.cr/  In the first six months of 2021, Costa Rica’s Economic Crimes Prosecutor investigated 26 IPR cases, up from the total of 14 cases in 2020. As in years past, prosecutors ultimately dismissed several cases due to lack of interest, collaboration, and follow-up by the representatives of trademark rights holders.  Government authorities complained that the lack of response by trademark representatives is a recurring behavior dating back to at least 2016 and may explain the drop in IPR cases.  In 2020, the Prosecutor’s Office established a specialized cybercrime unit with the purpose of improving the country’s response toward computer-oriented crimes, including copyrights infringements.

On September 4, 2019, Costa Rican Customs issued an executive decree titled “Contact of the Representatives of Intellectual Property Rights for Enforcement Issues” establishing a formal customs recordation system for trademarks that allows customs officers to make full use of their ex officio authority to inspect and detain goods. Under the decree, customs offices have the power to include new trademark rights holders in a formal database for use by customs officials in the field. As of 2021, 173 trademarks are included in this database.

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/ .

Côte d’Ivoire

5. Protection of Property Rights

The Ivoirian civil code provides for the enforcement of private property rights, and the government has undertaken reform efforts to secure property rights.  The cost of capital is high, and mortgages are costly, which inhibits investment. 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 2020 report, Côte d’Ivoire is ranked 112 out of 190 countries for ease of registering property.

Land tenure is a complicated and sensitive issue.  Land tenure disputes exist all over the country owing to multiple forms of traditional collective tenure and the lack of formal private land ownership in most areas.  Companies wishing to purchase land must have the property surveyed before obtaining title and obtaining construction authorization.  Surveying is tightly controlled by a small group of companies and can often cost more than the value of the parcel of land.  This has led to corrupt back-channel authorizations, which, together with improper inspections, has resulted in shoddy construction and building collapses.   In 2021, the government began streamlining and regularizing this process to accelerate construction authorizations and ensure quality construction. The Ministry of Construction has established a department to help individuals obtain land title and resolve disputes.  Freehold land tenure in rural areas remains difficult to negotiate, however, and can inhibit foreign investment.  Most businesses, including agribusinesses and forestry companies, circumvent the complicated land purchase process by acquiring long-term leases instead.  There are regulations designed to control land speculation in urban areas, but they do not prevent foreigners from owning land.

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

The Audace Institute, an independent Ivoirian think tank, estimates that 96 percent of land does not have a clear title.  The World Bank estimates that only 30 percent of property owners have clear title.  There have been several attempts by the government to require rural landowners register their lands, the most recent set a deadline of 2023 with a consequence that unregistered lands will be transferred to government ownership.  However, land registration is onerous and many owners are unable to afford the complex process.  As with other aspects of Ivoirian law, follow-up and enforcement is uneven.

The Ivoirian Civil Code includes measures to protect intellectual property rights (IPR), but the government has limited capacity to enforce them.  Inadequate enforcement of intellectual property rights remains a serious problem.  The government’s Office of Intellectual Property (OIPI – Office ivoirien de la propriété intellectuelle) is charged with ensuring the protection of patents, trademarks, industrial designs, and commercial names.  Patents are valid for 10 years, with the possibility of two extensions of five years each.  Trademarks are valid for 10 years and are renewable indefinitely. Copyrights are valid for 50 years.  The Ivoirian Copyright Office (BURIDA- Bureau ivoirien du droit d’auteur) has a labeling system in place to prevent counterfeiting and to protect audio, video, literary, and artistic property rights in music and computer programs.  A new cell charged with IPR and combating counterfeiting was inaugurated in November 2021.  This cell gathers large and small enterprises around counterfeiting practices and best methods to fight them.  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), the country lacks adequate customs inspections at its porous borders, limiting the law’s impact.

The government has not adopted any IPR-related laws or regulations in 2021.  In 2020, the Ministry of Culture, Art, and Entertainment Business established committees that study and make recommendations for the reform and restructuring of BURIDA.

The National Committee to Combat Counterfeiting (CNLC – Comité national de la lutte contre la contrefaçon) coordinates national efforts against counterfeit and pirated goods.  By law, the government must protect intellectual property on both exported and imported goods. Customs has the power to seize imported products that violate IPR laws even if installed with other equipment, including equipment detained, marketed, or illegally supplied.  Such seizures, generally of counterfeit consumer goods (increasingly medicines), are routinely publicized on government websites and media outlets, although statistics on seizures are unavailable.  IPR violations are prosecuted, and penalties vary from imprisonment of three months to two years and fines from 100,000 to 5,000,000 CFA (approx. $166 to $8,333 based on an average exchange rate of 600 CFA to one dollar).

Côte d’Ivoire 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/

Croatia

5. Protection of Property Rights

The right to ownership of private property is enshrined in Croatia’s Constitution and in numerous acts and regulations.  The Ownership and Property Rights Act establishes procedures for foreigners to acquire property by inheritance as well as through 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.

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.  Inheritance laws have led to situations in which some properties have claims by dozens of legal owners, some of whom are deceased and others who have emigrated and cannot be found. For all 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 Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development Directorate for Internationalization helps those seeking information about property status in Croatia. For more information, see:  http://investcroatia.gov.hr/ .

While the cadaster offices reliably maintain records, there is a portion of property in Croatia which has changed hands without appropriate documentation for various reasons, including avoidance of paying the title transfer fees or hiding wealth.  Historically, individuals and companies spent years in court attempting to resolve improper real estate documentation.  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).

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. In order to acquire property by means other than inheritance or as an incorporated Croatian legal entity, foreign citizens must receive approval from the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration, a process which can be lengthy due to the need for interagency clearance.  While EU citizens 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 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 states listed in the table in the “S.A.D” line at https://mpu.gov.hr/informacije-o-uzajamnosti-u-stjecanju-prava-vlasnistva-nekretnina-izmedju-republike-hrvatske-i-drzava-izvan-europske-unije-republike-island-knezevine-lihtenstajn-kraljevine-norveske-te-svicarske-konfederacije/6186 .  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.

Land ownership is distinct from ownership of buildings or facilities on the land.  Investors interested in acquiring state-owned companies from the Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction, and State Assets 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.

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. It is important to verify zoning regulations and 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.

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.  The sale of privately owned farmland is 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 Public Administration 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 http://www.uredjenazemlja.hr/default.aspx?id=17   where information is available in English.

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.  Croatia continues to process a backlog of cases and potential investors should seek a full explanation of land ownership rights before purchasing property. There is no property tax in Croatia.

Note that Croatia’s land records are available online at https://www.katastar.hr/en/#/ . Katastar.hr includes information on over 14 million pieces of land throughout the country and provides information in English.

Croatian intellectual property rights (IPR) legislation includes the Patent Act amended in January 2020, the Trademark Act, the Industrial Design Act, the Act on the Geographical Indications of Products and Services, the Act on the Protection of Layout Design of Integrated Circuits, and the Act on Copyrights and Related Rights, which was entirely rewritten and adopted in 2021.  The Law on Protecting Unpublished Information with Market Value went into force in 2018.  These acts define the process for protecting and enforcing IPR in Croatia.  Texts of these laws are available on the website of the State Intellectual Property Office at https://www.dziv.hr/en/ip-legislation/national-legislation/ .  The Law on Fees for the Intellectual Property Sector was adopted in 2021 in addition to the Regulation on Fees in the Intellectual Property Sector and Expert Services of the State Intellectual Property Office. All laws are harmonized with EU legislation.

The legal structure is strong, enforcement is good, and infringement of rights and theft of intellectual property are not common, although there are isolated incidents.

Croatian law enforcement officials keep public records of seized counterfeit goods.  According to a 2021 report from the Croatian Customs Office, officials stopped 472 international imports on the grounds of intellectual property rights violations, resulting in 657 procedures for temporary detainment of goods for a total of 209,972 items.  Customs also issued 94 domestic violations, seized 22,957 counterfeit goods, and initiated 26 criminal proceedings against individuals involved in violation of trademarks.  Croatian customs officials and the Ministry of Interior work together to locate and seize infringing goods.

Although some areas of IPR protection and enforcement remain problematic, Croatia is currently not included in the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.  Problem areas are piracy of digital media and counterfeiting.  Due to its geographic location, Croatia is also a transit route for various illegal products bound for other countries in the region.  There have been no problems reported with regard to registration of IPR in Croatia by American companies.  The American Chamber of Commerce maintains dialogue with the Croatian government on IPR issues.

As a WTO member, Croatia is 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) and party to the Berne Convention, the Paris Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the WIPO Copyright Treaty, and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.  For a list of international conventions to which Croatia is a signatory, consult the State Intellectual Property Office’s website at http://www.dziv.hr/hr/zakonodavstvo/medjunarodni-ugovori/ .

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

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 direct foreign ownership of real estate by non-EU individuals. 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. Foreign investment in Cypriot or EU companies is welcome, but 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; or
  • 50 percent or more of its share capital belongs to non-EU citizens; or
  • Control (50 percent or more) belongs to non-EU citizens; or
  • 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.

Legal requirements and procedures for acquiring and disposing of property in Cyprus are complex, but professional help from real estate agents and developers to ease the burden is readily available. 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.

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 Cypriots 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 2020 Doing Business report ranked Cyprus 71st among 190 countries in terms of efficiency and quality for registering property.

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, but the ROC does not consider the IPC to be a legitimate body. As of March 9, 2022, the IPC had received 7,085 applications, of which 1, 311 have been concluded through friendly settlements, and 34 through formal hearings.

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 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. A 2008 “law” requires non- “TRNC” residents to apply to the “Council of Ministers” for permission to purchase real estate, and non-residents are limited to a single small property. Foreigners can, however, own or control more real estate through a “TRNC” registered company.

REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS

ROC intellectual property rights (IPR) law is harmonized with EU directives and the ROC is party to major international IPR instruments. The country promotes itself as a low-tax, high protection (i.e., EU standards) destination for IPR.

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 introduces the alternative 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) strengthening earlier legislation targeting copyright infringement. The Department of Customs and the Police confiscate thousands of counterfeit items every year, including articles of clothing, luggage, accessories, and pirated optical media.

Primary responsibility for enforcing ROC IPR legislation rests with the Cyprus Police and the Department of Customs. The Competition and Consumer Protection Service of the Ministry of Energy, Commerce, and Industry (MECI) also plays a supportive role, while the Registrar of Companies and Official Receiver handles administration of patents and copyrights.

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/ .

Czechia

5. Protection of Property Rights  

Real estate (land and buildings) located in the Czech Republic must be registered in the national 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.

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

The Czech Republic is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and party to the Berne Convention, the Paris Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the WIPO Copyright Treaty, and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.  Domestic legislation protects all intellectual property rights (IPR), 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 the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).  The Criminal Code sets the maximum penalty of eight years of imprisonment for trademark, industrial rights, and copyright violations.  The Customs Administration of the Czech Republic and the Czech Commercial Inspection have legal authority to seize counterfeit goods.  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.

The Czech Republic was removed from the Watch List of the U.S. Trade Representative Special 301 Report in 2011.  While online piracy in the Czech Republic has been cited by some U.S. entities as an area of concern, the legal framework for protecting and enforcing IPR has been tested and proven successful in punishing infringers.  In response to the 2019 EU Copyright Directive, the Czech government proposed in November 2020 an amendment to their Copyright Act.  The amendment will clarify the right of copyright holders to receive payment for online distribution of their content by third parties.  The Czech Republic is not listed as hosting any physical markets in USTR’s 2021 Notorious Markets Report, but it reportedly hosts a website containing infringing content.

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/.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

5. Protection of Property Rights

The DRC Constitution protects private property without discriminating between foreign and domestic investors. Despite this provision, the GDRC recognized the lack of enforcement protecting property rights. The Congolese law on real property rights lists provisions for mortgages and liens. Real property (buildings and land) is protected and registered by the Office of the Registrar of Mortgages of the Ministry of Land Affairs. The registration of real property does not fully protect owners, as records are often incomplete and disputes over land transactions are common. Many property owners do not have a clear and recorded title to their property. In May 2021, the Ministry of Land Affairs presented the GDRC with its plan to digitize the land registry and secure land and property titles in the DRC. This plan will make it possible to digitize the entire land registry, to establish land security for investors and individuals alike, to electronically store all data collected in a database accessible to all public authorities, and to resolve land conflicts, which make up 80 percent of the cases handled.

Article 61 of Law No. 73-021 of 1973 on the general property regime, the land and real estate regime, and the system of securities, as amended and supplemented by Law No. 80-008 of 1980, provides that “a concession is a contract by which the State recognizes the right of use of land to a community, a natural person, or a legal entity of private or public law, under the terms and conditions provided for in the present law and its implementing regulations. However, a perpetual concession is only available to Congolese individuals. Foreigners and legal entities can only have access to an ordinary concession, which cannot exceed 25 years. However, the latter is renewable at the discretion of the State. In the event of non-renewal, the law provides for compensation for the concessionaire in certain cases (long lease, surface area). This compensation may not exceed 75 percent of the current and intrinsic value of the buildings incorporated into the land. Land is owned and managed by the GDRC. Government officials with the status of Registrars of Real Property Titles issue certificates of registration to individuals in their respective land districts.

Less than 10 percent of land has a clear property title, but the GDRC is in the process of promoting and encouraging people to regularize property titles by buying a final title called a “Record Certificate” (Certificat d’Enregistrement).

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 (IPR) are legally protected in the DRC, but enforcement of IPR regulations is limited and IP theft is common. Law n°82-001 of 1982 on Intellectual Property (IP) organizes the procedure of IP protection. The registration is done in three steps with the General Secretariat of the Ministry of Industry, which is the competent body for intellectual property in the DRC: (1) filing the file – after paying the official fees, the applicant must file his file. When the file is filed, the applicant receives a filing number that specifies the day and time of filing. This number is used to prove the earlier filing of the IP. (2) Examination of the application and (3) registration of the application. This administrative procedure can take between six and nine months. The applicant can carry out the procedure alone or be accompanied and assisted by an Industrial Property Agent.

The law provides several tools to protect IP against those who want to appropriate or use it without the owner’s consent; in particular, the infringement action or the opposition, which makes it possible to defeat IP violations. The protection of the registered trademark is valid for a renewable period of ten years from the date of filing. The patent allows to benefit on the Congolese territory from a monopoly of exploitation on an innovation for a limited period of 20 years. The registration of a design or model offers a five-year protection that can be renewed only once. The GDRC has yet to join the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI), which offers greater protection of trademarks (a protection valid in 16 African countries).

In the past year, no new IP-related laws or regulations have been enacted and no reform bills are underway. The country is a signatory to agreements with international organizations such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) and is subject to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

The country tracks and reports seizures of counterfeit goods but does not keep a public record of IPR violations. Information on these seizures is often reported by the Congolese Office of Control (OCC) – [Office Congolais de Contrôle]- which is responsible for enforcing laws, regulations, and standards on the conformity of products, goods, procedures and services.

The DRC is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 report.

The DRC is not listed in the notorious market report.

Denmark

5. Protection of Property Rights

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. In compliance with the covered bond definition in the EU Capital Requirements Directive (CRD), the Danish mortgage banking regulation allows for commercial banks to 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 permitted 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 ranked ninth out of 129 countries in the Property Rights Alliance’s International Property Rights Index 2021, and sixth in its region.

Intellectual property rights (IPR) in Denmark are well protected and enforced. Denmark has ratified and adheres to key international conventions and treaties concerning protection of IPR, including the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and several treaties administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), including the Berne Convention, the Paris Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the WIPO Copyright Treaty, and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.

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

A list of attorneys in Denmark known to accept foreign clients can be found at dk.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys.  This list of attorneys and law firms is provided by the U.S. 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 Faroe Islands may be found at the Danish Bar Association web site: www.advokatnoeglen.dk .

Djibouti

5. Protection of Property Rights

Djibouti’s legal system officially protects the acquisition and disposition of all property rights. Mortgages exist and are often guaranteed by the employer, who signs a form indicating the employee’s status and salary. The employer is then obliged to inform the bank if the employee leaves the company. Local workers rely on this mechanism to secure mortgages, and they expect that their employer will perform this role. Typically, the government originally owns and sells the land. There are no specific restrictions on foreign ownership of land. All property owners who have legally obtained their land are registered. Even if unoccupied, the property belongs to the owner who legally purchased it.

Djibouti’s legal structure for protecting and enforcement of IPR is weak but developing. There are few existing protections. However, the government passed a law that protects artists’ copyrights.

Djibouti ratified the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Convention, the Paris Convention on the Protection of Industrial Rights, and the Berne Convention on the Protection of Literature and Art Works. The Ministry of Communication and the Djibouti Office for Intellectual Property Rights are responsible for safeguarding intellectual property after registering products. Counterfeit products are commonly available in Djibouti’s markets. Infringing products include clothing, watches, electronics, and bags. Because of the nascent nature of IPR protections, counterfeit products are rarely seized, and no statistics on seizures are published. There have been reports of seizures of counterfeit money; however, statistics are unavailable.

Djibouti is not listed in the U.S Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 report or the Notorious Markets List. Compared to other industries, the sale of counterfeit goods does not appear to be at higher risk of labor rights violations, including child labor, forced labor, and dangerous working conditions.

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 POC is Political Economic Officer Joseph Chamberlain at DjiboutiCommerce@state.gov .

For a list of local lawyers, see: https://dj.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/

Dominica

5. Protection of Property Rights

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.

Local laws dictate that 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 $2,220 (6,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars) to 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 $7,400 (20,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars).  Upon acquiring land under Section 5 for an approved development, foreign investors must apply for development permission under the Physical Planning Act within six months of acquiring the land and must start construction of the approved development within one year of receipt of development permission. If property legally purchased is unoccupied for over twelve years, property ownership can revert to other owners, such as squatters.  This was affirmed by the CCJ in a 2019 ruling.

Dominica has a legislative framework that supports 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 CSME commits all 15 CARICOM members to implement IPR protection and enforcement.  The CARIFORUM-EU EPA contains the most detailed obligations regarding IPR in any trade agreement to which Dominica is party.  The CARIFORUM-EU EPA recognizes the protection and enforcement of IPR.  Article 139 of the CARIFORUM-EU 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 [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 offenses and administers fines and penalties.

Dominica is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) 2021 Special 301 Report or the 2021 USTR Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

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/ .

Dominica

5. Protection of Property Rights

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.

Local laws dictate that 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 $2,220 (6,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars) to 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 $7,400 (20,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars).  Upon acquiring land under Section 5 for an approved development, foreign investors must apply for development permission under the Physical Planning Act within six months of acquiring the land and must start construction of the approved development within one year of receipt of development permission. If property legally purchased is unoccupied for over twelve years, property ownership can revert to other owners, such as squatters.  This was affirmed by the CCJ in a 2019 ruling.

Dominica has a legislative framework that supports 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 CSME commits all 15 CARICOM members to implement IPR protection and enforcement.  The CARIFORUM-EU EPA contains the most detailed obligations regarding IPR in any trade agreement to which Dominica is party.  The CARIFORUM-EU EPA recognizes the protection and enforcement of IPR.  Article 139 of the CARIFORUM-EU 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 [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 offenses and administers fines and penalties.

Dominica is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) 2021 Special 301 Report or the 2021 USTR Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

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/ .

Dominican Republic

5. Protection of Property Rights

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, however, a patchwork history of land titling systems and sometimes violent political change has complicated land titling in the Dominican Republic. By law, all land must be registered, and that which is not registered is considered state land. There are no restrictions or specific regulations on foreigners or non-resident owners of land. Registering property in the Dominican Republic requires 6 steps, an average of 33 days, and payment of 3.4 percent of the land value as a registration fee.

Land tenure insecurity has been fueled by government land expropriations, institutional weaknesses, lack of effective law enforcement, and local community support for land invasions and squatting. Political expediency, corruption, and fraud have all been cited as practices that have complicated the issuance of titles or respect for the rights of existing title holders. Moreover, while on the decline, long-standing titling practices, such as issuing provisional titles that are never completed or providing titles to land to multiple owners without requiring individualization of parcels, have created ambiguity in property rights and undermined the reliability of existing records.

In the last decade, the Dominican government received a $10-million, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan to modernize its property title registration process, 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.

In 2008, the country transitioned to a new system based on GPS coordinates and has been working towards establishing clear titles, but, in March 2021, an industry source estimated that only 25 percent of all land titles were clear. 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.

Mortgages and liens do exist in the Dominican Republic. The Title Registry Office maintains the system for recording titles, as well as a complementary registry of third-party rights, such as mortgages, liens, easements, and encumbrances. Property owners maintain ownership of legally purchased property whether unoccupied or occupied by squatters, however, it can be difficult and costly to enforce private rights against squatters. This may in part be due to a provision in the law known as “adverse possession,” which allows squatters to acquire legal ownership of land without a title (thereby state-owned).

For investors in the tourism sector, it is important to note that the Dominican constitution guarantees public access to all beaches in the Dominican Republic. Disputes have arisen over whether this passage ensures access to sand or to the coast and may create legal risks for investors as coastlines change over time. In addition, investors or owners that might have property demarcated for sale when environmental sciences were not as developed are now subject to laws prohibiting private development any closer than 60 meters from the tideline.

The Dominican Republic has strong intellectual property rights (IPR) laws and is meeting its IP obligations under international agreements such as the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Nevertheless, weak institutions and limited enforcement can present challenges for investors. Under the Abinader administration, the country’s posture toward the protection and enforcement of IPR has improved. However, many agencies continue to be under resourced, a reality that is unlikely to change in a contracting fiscal environment. Illicit and counterfeit goods, as well as online and signal piracy, are common and continue to present challenges for authorities. In the Dominican Republic, illicit or counterfeit goods include the full gamut of fashion apparel and accessories, electronics, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, cigarettes, and alcohol.

Several IP authorities in the Dominican Republic grant intellectual property rights. The National Office of Industrial Property (ONAPI) issues trademarks and patents, the National Copyright Office (ONDA) issues copyrights, the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance (MISPAS) issues sanitary registrations required for marketing foods, pharmaceuticals, and health products, and the Directorate of International Trade (DICOEX) has jurisdiction over the implementation of geographical indications. IPR registration processes have improved in recent years, but delays and questionable adjudication decisions are still common. ONAPI started e-filing services for patents, which has helped make the registration process more efficient. However, ONDA continues to be hampered by lack of expertise and resources. The agency has the authority to investigate copyright violations but continued to shirk its responsibility of submitting formal requests to the telecommunications regulator (Indotel) to cancel licenses of those using pirated signals. As a result, copyright enforcement and prosecutions have been nonexistent.

IPR Enforcement is carried out by the Customs Authority (DGA), the National Police, the National Copyright Office (ONDA), the Dominican Institute of Telecommunications (Indotel), the Special Office of the Attorney General for Matters of Health, and the Special Office of the Attorney General for High Tech Crimes.

In October 2021 the Deputy Attorney General formed the National Advisory Board for Intellectual Property that should be approved by the President’s Legal Counsel in 2022. If approved as currently envisioned, the Board should be vested with the legal authority to delegate roles to the different agencies. This Board is in addition to the already functional interagency working group that has led to more coordination between the various IP agencies and the private sector. As a result, prosecution case counts have risen from 73 cases in 2018 to 217 cases in 2021. Additionally, the prospector’s office is investigating more cases. From 2018-2020 the prosecutor’s office investigated 268 cases. In 2021 alone the office investigated 468 cases. This can be attributed to better training of prosecutors at the regional level. In February 2021, the IP unit partnered with ONAPI and ONDA to launch an IP training academy for prosecutors and judges to improve the country’s judicial capacity.

Since 2003, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has designated the Dominican Republic as a Special 301 Watch List country for serious IPR deficiencies. The country, however, is not listed in USTR’s Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy. The Abinader administration has committed to getting the Dominican Republic removed from the Special 301 Watch 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 .

Ecuador

5. Protection of Property Rights

Foreign citizens are allowed to own land. Mortgages are available, and the property title registration system is generally reliable.

Enforcement against intellectual property infringement in Ecuador remains challenging. In April 2016, the United States Trade Representative moved Ecuador from Priority Watch List to Watch List in its annual Special 301 Report on intellectual property, and Ecuador has remained on the Watch List since that time. In December 2020, SENADI issued implementing regulations for the Code of Knowledge, Creativity, and Innovation Social Economy (Ingenuity Code) – the legislation that covers intellectual property rights. The regulations do not address concerns raised by the U.S. Government and various stakeholders on issues related to copyright exceptions and limitations, patentable subject matter, and geographical indications (GIs), including opposition procedures for proposed GIs, the treatment of common food names, and the protection of prior trademark rights.

The Lasso administration plans additional revisions to the Ingenuity Code, though has not communicated a timeframe. Enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights against widespread counterfeiting and piracy remains weak, including online and in physical marketplaces. Ecuador is also reportedly a source of unauthorized camcording. Online piracy continues to be a problem despite some increased enforcement activity, and Ecuador has not yet established notice-and-takedown and safe harbor provisions for Internet service providers. Customs enforcement on an ex-officio basis is weak, including actions against goods in transit. SENADI has limited enforcement capacity and remains hampered by a lack of funding and personnel due to budget cuts. SENADI 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

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.

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 2,000 EGP (approximately $120), irrespective of the property value.

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 of 2015 permitted the government to provide land free of charge, in certain regions only, to investors meeting certain technical and financial requirements. In order to take advantage of this provision companies 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 of 1963, Law 143 of 1981, and Law 230 of 1996. Law 15 of 1963 stipulates that no foreigners, whether natural or juristic persons, may acquire agricultural land. Law 143 of 1981 governs the acquisition and ownership of desert land. Certain limits are placed on the number of feddans (one feddan is approximately equal to one acre) 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 Prime Minister consents to an exemption.

Egypt remains on the Special 301 Watch List in 2022. Egypt’s intellectual property rights (IPR) legislation generally meets international standards, and the government has made progress enforcing those laws and reducing patent application backlogs. In 2020 and 2021, Egypt shut down a number of online illegal streaming websites. Stakeholders note continued challenges with widespread counterfeiting, opaque patent and trademark examination criteria, and the lack of an effective mechanism for the early resolution of potential patent disputes.

Multinational pharmaceutical companies in the past have complained that local generic drug-producing companies infringe on their patents. The government has not yet established a system linking pharmaceutical marketing applications with patent licenses, and as a result permits for the sale of pharmaceuticals are generally issued without first cross-checking patent filings.

Decree 251 of 2020, issued in January 2020, established a ministerial committee to review petitions for compulsory patent licenses. As of March 2022, the committee has not received any compulsory patent petitions, and the committee has not met or taken any actions. According to Egypt’s 2002 IPR Law (Law 82 of 2002), which allows for compulsory patent licenses in some cases, the committee has the power to issue compulsory patent licenses according to a number of criteria set forth in the law; to determine financial remuneration for the original patent owners; and to approve the expropriation of the patents.

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.

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 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.

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. 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/.

IPR Contact at Embassy Cairo:

Elizabeth Stratton
Trade & Investment Officer
20-2-2797-2735
StrattonEC@state.gov

El Salvador

5. Protection of Property Rights

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 property 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 property use 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’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.

In November 2021, the National Registry Center inaugurated the first Technology and Innovation Support Center (TISC) to assist innovators and entrepreneurs create, protect, and manage IP rights. The TISC provides access to patent and non-patent (scientific and technology) databases and IP-related publications, and information on IP laws and regulations.

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 five 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 (DNM) has 38 products registered for data protection, including five in 2019 and 3 in 2022. The DNM protects the confidentiality of relevant test data and the list of such protected medications is available on the DNM https: 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 – Asociación 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.

Customs officials have identified some counterfeit products arriving directly from China through the Salvadoran seaport of Acajutla. In 2021, Customs officials seized 20 shipments based on the presumption of containing counterfeit products. These shipments primarily involved toys (e.g., Mattel and Rubin Cube), clothing, handbags, and footwear (e.g., Victoria’s Secret, Pink, Levi’s, Guess, Ralph Lauren, Cartier, Puma, Nike, Adidas, Vans, and Tommy Hilfiger), perfumes and colognes (e.g., Chanel, Dior, Hugo Boss and Lacoste), mobile phone accessories (e.g., Samsung), and accessories for vehicles (e.g., Kia and Hyundai). 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 are imported to El Salvador. The Distributors Association of El Salvador (ADES) estimated in 2019 that the annual cost of illicit trade in El Salvador amounts to $1 billion. Most contraband cigarettes come in from China, Panama, South Korea, 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.

The national Intellectual Property Registry has 22 registered geographical indications for El Salvador. In 2018, the GOES registered four geographical indications involving Denominations of Origin for “Jocote Barón Rojo San Lorenzo” (a sour fruit), “Pupusa de Olocuilta” (a variant of El Salvador’s traditional food), “Camarones de la Bahía 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), “Café Ilamatepec” (coffee – since 2010), and “Chaparro” (Salvadoran hard liquor- since 2016).

El Salvador is not listed in the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 Report or its Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy. 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

Despite existing laws protecting the rights of property owners, the government selectively enforces those rights and uses the judicial system to seize land “in the public interest” with little to no due process. Mortgages are offered under a “Social Housing Program” in which payments are made to the government via the commercial bank CCEI Bank. Mortgage terms vary and can be more than 20 years, and interest rates are high, ranging from 12 to 18 percent. Non-payment for six months results in foreclosure on the property.

Equatorial Guinea is a member of the African Intellectual Property Organization (AIPO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). After 18 years of negotiations, Equatorial Guinea launched its Intellectual Property Documentation Center (CDPI) in September 2021 with assistance from the AIPO. The CDPI’s mission is to provide scientific and technical information on intellectual property and technological innovation. Intellectual property rights (IPR) protections fall under the Council of Scientific and Technological Research of Equatorial Guinea (CITCE). CITCE sends local applications to obtain a patent for a product to the central AIPO office in Yaoundé, Cameroon, which in turn shares them with other member offices to verify the products’ originality before granting a patent.

The government established a copyright law soon after joining the AIPO. The Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Artisanal Promotion sporadically applies IPR regulations, for which public information is not readily available. In cases of alleged IPR violations, the injured party must file a complaint with the Ministry of Justice, which refers the complaint to CICTE. Intellectual property (IP) is also regulated in part by the Industrial Property Law. CICTE issues certificate of protection to the owners of industrial property once it verifies the IP’s originality. AIPO requires that member countries draft national laws regulating artistic and cultural property. The government has yet to comply with this requirement, but a European Union committee will be assisting CICTE in drafting the relevant legislation in 2022.

While Equatorial Guinea still faces challenges in registering and protecting intellectual property, it was not included in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s 2022 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy nor in its 2022 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/ .

Eritrea

5. Protection of Property Rights

All land in Eritrea is owned by the GSE, and the right to use that land is given out based on a variety of factors to citizens. In practice, there are often disputes over ownership of buildings, though it is unclear what percentage of titles are disputed, and no effort has been made in the last five years to clean up the registries.

Foreigners are forbidden by law from owning real property; however, there are a number of exceptions to that law. If a foreign business is able to invest in Eritrea, the government will often provide unused land for the business’s use. People and businesses can be summarily ejected from their property at any time. If legally purchased property stays unoccupied for years, the government can force the owner to rent it out or, in rare cases, the government can seize the property.

Under Eritrean law, the Copyright section of the Civil Code addresses intellectual property (IP) rights. Due to a lack of transparency, it is difficult to determine if and how IP rights are protected in practice.  Legal structures are weak, and IPR protection and enforcement are rare to non-existent.  The government does not maintain publicly available statistics on law enforcement or judicial actions.  Eritrea 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

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 October 1, 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.

More info: http://www.globalpropertyguide.com/Europe/Estonia/Buying-Guide 

http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/exploreeconomies/estonia/registering-property#DB_rp 

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 are 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 on the Notorious Markets List.

Estonian Customs tracks and reports periodically on seizures of counterfeit goods. In 2021, the Estonian Tax and Customs Board processed 262 cases involving counterfeit goods resulting in seizures of 3690 items, primarily footwear, clothes, bags, toys, electronics. Most of the infringed goods were detected in mail, and the volume of goods seized by case was small. In Estonia, IPR crimes are prosecuted.

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

Eswatini

Ethiopia

5. Protection of Property Rights

The constitution recognizes and protects ownership of private property, however all land in Ethiopia belongs to “the people” and is administered by the government. Private ownership does not exist, but land-use rights have been registered in most populated areas. As land is public property, it cannot be mortgaged. Confusion with respect to the registration of urban land-use rights, particularly in Addis Ababa, is common. The GOE retains the right to expropriate land for the “common good” – which it defines as expropriation for commercial farms, industrial zones, and infrastructure development – and offer replacement land or monetary compensation to the previous owner. While the government claims to allocate only sparsely settled or empty land to investors, it has in some cases forced people to resettle. Traditional grazing land has often been defined as empty and expropriated, leading to resentment, protests, and in some cases, conflict. In addition, leasehold regulations vary in form and practice by region. Successful investors in Ethiopia conduct thorough due diligence on land titles at both regional and federal levels and conduct consultations with local communities regarding the proposed use of the land before investing.

We encourage potential investors to ensure their needs are communicated clearly to the host government. It is important for investors to understand who had land-use rights preceding them, and to research the attitude of local communities to an investor’s use of that land, particularly in the region of Oromia, where conflict between international investors and local communities has occurred.

The Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office (EIPO) oversees intellectual property rights (IPR) issues. Ethiopia is not yet a signatory to several major IPR treaties, such as the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty, the Berne Convention for Literary and Artistic Works, the Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks, or the Patent Cooperation Treaty. In 2020 Ethiopia ratified the Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled. The government has expressed its intention to accede to the Berne Convention, the Paris Convention, and the Madrid Protocol. Because Ethiopia’s accession to the WTO is incomplete, it is not a party to the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

EIPO is primarily tasked with protecting Ethiopian patents and copyrights and fighting software piracy. Historically, however, the EIPO has struggled with a lack of qualified staff and small budgets; further, the institution does not have law enforcement authority. Abuse of U.S. trademarks is rampant, particularly in the hospitality and retail sectors. The government does not publicly track counterfeit goods seizures, and no estimates are available. Ethiopia is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.

EIPO contact and office information is available at http://www.eipo.gov.et/ 

For additional information about the national law and for a local WIPO point of contact, please see WIPO’s country profile at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

Embassy POC: Economic Officer, USEmbassyPolEconExternal@state.gov 

Fiji

5. Protection of Property Rights

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 landowners who purchase approved land to build a dwelling valued at a minimum of $117,925 (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 landowners criticized the government of Fiji for the speed at which the act was passed and the perceived lack of consultation with landowners 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 makes it difficult to comply with the two-year time frame for building a dwelling before tax penalties set in.

According to the pre-COVID-19 World Bank’s 2020 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.

Fiji’s copyright laws are in conformity with World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) provisions. However, the enforcement of these laws remains weak, and capacity is a challenge.

Illegal materials and reproductions of films, sound recordings, and computer programs are widely available throughout Fiji. In 2021, Fiji’s parliament passed new intellectual property laws including the protection of trademarks, patents, and designs. The laws are yet to be implemented.

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/ .

Finland

5. Protection of Property Rights

The Finnish legal system protects and enforces property rights and secured interests in property, both movable and real. Finland ranked fourth in the world of 129 countries in the Property Rights Alliance 2021 International Property Rights Index (IPRI) which concentrates on a country’s 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 34th out of 190 countries in the ease of Registering Property according to the World Bank’s 2020 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/apartments-and-real-property .

The Finnish legal system protects intellectual property rights (IPR), and Finland adheres to numerous related international agreements. One of Prime Minister Marin’s goals is to draft a National IPR Strategy for Finland. A draft government resolution has been prepared on the intellectual property rights (IRP) strategy. The aim of the draft IRP strategy, which was circulated for comment in January 2022, is that in 2030 the Finnish IPR legislation will support innovations and creative work. Treaties: Finland is a member of the World International Property Organization (WIPO) and party to a number of its treaties, including the Berne Convention, the Paris Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the WIPO Copyright Treaty, the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, and the International Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations (Rome Convention). Finland is party to the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Copyrights: The Finnish Copyright Act can be found at: https://wipolex.wipo.int/en/text/397616. Assessment of the Finnish Copyright system can be found at: https://www.cupore.fi/en/research/research-projects/assessment-of-the-finnish-copyright-system Distribution of information on copyright and surveillance of rights is performed by the Copyright Information and Anti-Piracy Centre (CIAPC).

Trademarks: The new Finnish Trademarks Act entered into force in May 2019. With this Act, Finland implemented the revised EU Trademark Directive, enforces the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks, and brings the 1964 trademark regulations up to date. Provisions concerning collective marks and control marks are included in the Act, which nullified the Act on Collective Marks. The Act also includes amendments to related legislation such as the Finnish Company Names Act, the Criminal Code, and relevant procedural acts. Trademark applicants or proprietors not domiciled in Finland are required to have a representative resident in the European Economic Area. Finland is party to the Madrid Protocol.

Trade secrets: In August 2018, Finland adopted a new Trade Secrets Act to incorporate the provisions of the EU Directive 2016/943 on Trade Secrets. The new Act replaces the Unfair Business Practices Act and provides harmonized definitions at the EU level for trade secrets, their lawful and unlawful acquisition, and their use and disclosure. The Act also 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 Trade Secrets Act can be found at: https://www.finlex.fi/en/laki/kaannokset/2018/en20180595 . The Finnish Act implementing the EU Whistleblower Protection Directive is scheduled to be presented to Parliament in spring 2022. According to the Finnish draft act, all companies employing 50 people or more must establish an internal reporting channel, with a transition period for businesses employing 50–249 people extending to December 2023.

Patents: Patent rights in Finland are consistent with international standards, and a granted patent is valid for 20 years. The Finnish Patent and Registration Office (PRH) website contains unofficial translations in English of the Patents Act, Patents Decree, and Patent Regulations https://www.prh.fi/en/patentit/lainsaadantoa.html . 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 USTR’s Special 301 Report Watch List in 2009 but was removed in 2015 when the term for relevant patents expired.

Designs: Finland is party to the Locarno Agreement and the Hague Agreement for Industrial Designs, and design are protected by the Finnish Registered Designs Act. The Designs Register at the Finnish Patent and Registration Office (PRH) contains entries about national designs, i.e. design rights, applied for and registered in Finland: https://mallioikeustietopalvelu.prh.fi/en .

Finnish Customs officers have ex-officio authority to seize and destroy counterfeit goods. IPR enforcement in Finland is based on EU Regulation 608/2013. In 2021, according to the Grey Economy Crime statistics, Finnish customs authorities inspected 17,530 suspected counterfeit goods (with a value of USD 2 074). The number and value of counterfeit goods detained by Finnish Customs have been in decline since 2013. The long-term trend indicates a decline in counterfeit goods detected in large volume shipments. The further decline is most recently due to a steep slowdown in transports from Russia in addition to the impact of the COVID pandemic. However, due to increased online purchases, small volume shipments via postal and express freight traffic have increased in number, and these are more difficult to screen for counterfeits.

Finland is mentioned in USTR’s 2021 Notorious Markets List for reportedly hosting a Flokinet server associated with infringing activity, and reportedly hosting FLVTO web server in Finland.

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/members/en/details.jsp?country_id=57

France and Monaco

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real property rights are regulated by the French civil code and are uniformly enforced. The World Bank’s Doing Business Index ranks France 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.

France is a strong defender of intellectual property rights (IPR). Under the French system, patents and trademarks protect industrial property, while copyrights protect literary/artistic property. By virtue of the Paris Convention , 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 IPR. The French Intellectual Property Code has been updated repeatedly over the years to address this challenge, most recently in 2019 with the implementation of the so-called Action Plan for Business Growth and Transformation or PACTE Law (Plan d’Action pour la Croissance et la Transformation des Entreprises).  This law reinforced France’s anti-counterfeiting legislation and implemented EU Directive 2015/2436 of the Trademark Reform Package. It increased 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 legislation also increased the statute of limitations for civil suits from three to ten years and strengthened the powers of customs officials to seize fake goods sent by mail or express freight.  France also adopted legislation in 2019 to implement EU Directive 2019/790 on Copyright and Related Rights in the Digital Single Market.

The government also reports on seizures of counterfeit goods. On February 22, 2021, the government launched a new French customs action plan to combat counterfeiting for the 2021-2022 calendar year. Customs seizures in France have increased from 200,000 in 1994 to 5.64 million in 2020, and a record 9.1 million in 2021 (+ 62.5 percent compared to 2020). This new action plan focuses on improved intelligence gathering, investigation, litigation, and cooperation between all the stakeholders involved, including the Customs Office, which investigates fraud cases; the National Institute of Industrial Property, which oversees patents, trademarks, and industrial design rights; and France’s top private sector anti-counterfeiting organization, UNIFAB.

France has robust laws against online piracy. A law on the regulation and protection of public access to cultural works in the digital era approved by Parliament on September 29, 2021 established the Regulatory Authority for Audiovisual and Digital Communication (ARCOM) from the merger of the French Audiovisual Authority (CSA) and the French digital piracy agency HADOPI (High Authority for the Dissemination of Artistic Works and the Protection of Rights on Internet or Haute Autorite pour la Diffusion des Œuvres et la Protection des droits sur Internet). The HADOPI element of ARCOM administers a “graduated response” system of warnings and fines and has taken enforcement action against several online pirate sites. HADOPI traditionally cooperates closely with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) including pursuing voluntary arrangements to single out awareness about intermediaries that facilitate or fund pirate sites. The new law grants ARCOM wider investigative powers to close down mirror sites, as well as blacklist and block access to websites that repeatedly infringe on copyrights. The bill also introduces a fast-track remedy to prevent the illegal broadcast of sporting events. The establishment of this new authority was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the new authority was finally established in January 2022. The government also issued an order on May 12, 2021, enforcing in France the EU Directive on Copyright and Related Rights in the Digital Single Market (CDSM), which holds content-sharing platforms liable for the unauthorized communication of copyrighted content. The United States will continue to monitor ways this legislation may impact U.S. stakeholders.

France does not appear on USTR’s 2020 Special 301 Report.  USTR’s 2020 Notorious Market report continues to list France as host to illicit streaming and copyright infringement websites.  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/ .

Gabon

5. Protection of Property Rights

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, mostly tiny urban parcels, appear to have been registered in Gabon according to a 2012 report (the most recent year for which such records exist). 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 legally purchased property is unoccupied by the owner, property ownership can revert to others.

The Ministry of Commerce manages patents and copyrights in Gabon. Gabon is a member 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 technology transfer, and create favorable conditions for research. As a member of OAPI, Gabon acceded to international agreements on patents and intellectual property (IP), including the Paris Convention, the Bern Convention, and the Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization.

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

Georgia

5. Protection of Property Rights

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 www.napr.gov.ge .

The government has taken multiple steps to regulate land titling, including facilitating simplified procedures, free registration campaigns, and mediation services. Unclear or unregistered titling, which persists, bears the potential to hamper investment projects.

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

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

The legal framework for protection of intellectual property in Georgia is approximated to international standards. Six laws regulate intellectual property rights (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 Georgian Parliament adopted amendments to the IP legislation in 2017, which entered into force in 2018.  These new amendments were intended to further harmonize Georgia’s IP legislation with the EU.

The National Intellectual Property Center of Georgia (Sakpatenti) provides legal protection for intellectual property objects 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. 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 for IPR Enforcement. This Council is an efficient platform for government institutions to exchange their views on IPR enforcement 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 available 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.

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.

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.

Georgia participates in the EU-Georgia Intellectual Property Project, a 2020-2023 EU-funded project that supports Sakpatenti by focusing on specific capacity-building activities, training, technical and legal support, research and data collection, awareness raising, and information sharing.

Georgian legislation covers various types of liability for intellectual property right infringement. The Code of Civil Procedure of Georgia provides for the court’s authority to take provisional measures necessary for securing full and proper execution of the court’s decision.

In 2021, the Ministry of Finance’s Investigation Service initiated 13 cases due to violation of Articles 196 (Unlawful use of trademark or other commercial designations) of the Criminal Code of Georgia. As a result, 62,326 counterfeit items were seized, with the total value of around $80,000. In addition, the Customs Department issued 267 orders on the suspension of goods. Out of these, in 254 cases the right holder and the owner of the goods agreed on the destruction of the goods, with a combined value of approximately $18,300. In 2021, the Tax Monitoring Department of LEPL Revenue Service revealed 20 cases of trademark infringements. The government seized 412 counterfeit items, with the total value of $1,500.

Despite strong legal structure, enforcement of IP generally remains challenging. Civil cases on IPR infringement have not reflected the full extent of the situation regarding counterfeiting and piracy in Georgia, as the private sector has often not used available legal mechanisms for IPR enforcement. 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 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/ .

Germany

5. Protection of Property Rights

The German Government adheres to a policy of national treatment, which considers property owned by foreigners as fully protected under German law. In Germany, mortgage 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 to 1897. 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, as well as liabilities and restrictions. 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.

Germany has a robust regime to protect intellectual property rights (IPR). Legal structures are strong and enforcement is good. Nonetheless, internet piracy and counterfeit goods remain issues, and specific infringing websites are occasionally included in USTR’s 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 2020 are available at

https://www.zoll.de/SharedDocs/Broschueren/DE/Die-Zollverwaltung/jahresstatistik_2020.html 

Germany is party to the major international IPR 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, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the Brussels Satellite Convention, the Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Many of the latest developments in German IPR law are derived from European legislation with the objective to make applications less burdensome and allow for European IPR protection.

The following types of protection are available:

Copyrights: National treatment is granted to foreign copyright holders, including remuneration for private recordings. Under the TRIPS Agreement, Germany grants legal protection for U.S. performing artists against the commercial distribution of unauthorized live recordings in Germany. Germany is party to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, which came into force in 2010. Most rights holder organizations regard German authorities’ enforcement of IP rights as effective. In 2008, Germany implemented the EU Directive (2004/48/EC) on IPR enforcement with a national bill, thereby strengthening the privileges of rights holders and allowing for improved enforcement action. Germany implemented the Digital Single Market Directive with the “Act to Adapt Copyright Law to the Requirements of the Digital Single Market,” which entered into force on June 7, 2021. This new law implemented necessary changes to the German Copyright Act. As part of the implementing legislation parliament passed the new Copyright Service Provider Act, which entered into force on August 1, 2021.

Trademarks: National treatment is granted to foreigners seeking to register trademarks 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. It is possible to register for trademark and design protection nationally in Germany or for an EU Trade Mark and/or Registered Community Design at the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). These provide protection for industrial design or trademarks in the entire EU market. Both national trademarks and European Union Trade Marks (EUTMs) can be applied for from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) as part of an international trademark registration system, or the applicant may apply directly for those trademarks from EUIPO at https://euipo.europa.eu/ohimportal/en/home .

Patents: National treatment is granted to foreigners seeking to register patents at the German Patent and Trade Mark Office. Patents are granted for technical inventions that 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 from the patent application filing date. Patent applicants can request accelerated examination under the Global Patent Prosecution Highway (GPPH) when filing the application, provided that the patent application was previously filed at the USPTO and that at least one claim had been determined to be patentable. There are a number of differences between U.S. and German patent law, including the filing systems (“first-inventor-to-file” versus “first-to-file”, respectively), which a qualified patent attorney can explain to U.S. patent applicants. German law also offers the possibility to register designs and utility models.

A U.S. applicant may file a patent in multiple European countries through the European Patent Office (EPO), which grants European patents for the contracting states to the European Patent Convention (EPC). The 38 contracting states include the entire EU membership and several additional European countries; Germany joined the EPC in 1977. It should be noted that some EPC members require a translation of the granted European patent in their language for validation purposes. 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/applying/basics.html . U.S. applicants seeking patent rights in multiple countries can alternatively file an international Patent Coordination Treaty (PCT) application with the USPTO.

Trade Secrets: Trade secrets are protected in Germany by the Law for the Protection of Trade Secrets, which has been in force since April 2019 and implements the 2016 EU Directive (2016/943). According to the law, the illegal accessing, appropriation, and copying of trade secrets, including through social engineering, is prohibited. Explicitly exempt from the law is “reverse engineering” of a publicly available item, and appropriation, usage, or publication of a trade secret to protect a “legitimate interest,”, including journalistic research and whistleblowing. The law requires companies implement “adequate confidentiality measures” for information to be protected as a trade secret under the law. Owners of trade secrets are entitled to omission, compensation, and information about the culprit, as well as the destruction, return, recall, and ultimately the removal of the infringing products from the market.

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

For additional information about how to protect IPR in Germany, please see Germany Trade & Invest website at https://www.gtai.de/en/invest/investment-guide/company-set-up 

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

https://www.zoll.de/SharedDocs/Broschueren/DE/Die-Zollverwaltung/statistik_gew_rechtsschutz_2019.html;jsessionid=F8B0524DFF4F1ADF99DEBB858E4CAD31.internet412?nn=305648  https://www.zoll.de/SharedDocs/Broschueren/DE/Die-Zollverwaltung/statistik_gew_rechtsschutz_2019.html;jsessionid=F8B0524DFF4F1ADF99DEBB858E4CAD31.internet412?nn=305648 

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

http://www.markenpiraterie-apm.de/index.php?article_id=1&clang=1 

Ghana

5. Protection of Property Rights 

The legal system recognizes and enforces secured interest in property.  However, 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.  Ghana passed a new land law, Land Act, 2020 (Act 1036), which revised, harmonized, and consolidated laws on land to ensure sustainable land administration and management.  The new law makes it possible to transfer and create or register interests in land by electronic means to speed up conveyancing, supports decentralized land service delivery, and includes provisions relating to property rights of spouses by ensuring that spouses are deemed to be party to the interest in land that is jointly acquired during the marriage.  These changes are expected to improve accessibility and secured tenure.

Mortgages exist, although there are only a few thousand due to factors such as land ownership issues and scarcity of long-term finance.  Mortgages are regulated by the Home Mortgages Finance Act, 2008 (Act 770), which has enhanced the process of foreclosure.  A mortgage must be registered under the Land Act, 2020 (Act 1036), for it to take effect.  Registration with the Land Title Registry is a reliable system of recording the transaction.

The protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) is an evolving area of law in Ghana.  There has been progress 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.  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.  IPR holders have access to local courts for redress of grievances, although the few trademark, patent, and copyright infringement cases that U.S. companies have filed in Ghana 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.

Please contact the following at Mission Ghana if you have further questions regarding IPR issues:

U.S. Embassy, Economic Section
No. 24 Fourth Circular Road, Cantonments, Accra, Ghana
Tel: +233(0) 302 741 000 (Omit the (0) after the area code when dialing from abroad)
Email: AccraICS@state.gov

The United States Embassy in Accra maintains a list of local attorneys, which is available through the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service ( https://www.trade.gov/ghana-contact-us) or U.S. Citizen Services ( https://gh.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/).

American Chamber of Commerce Ghana
No. 10 Mensah Wood Avenue, East Legon, Accra.P.O. Box CT2869, Cantonments-Accra, Ghana
Tel: +233 (0) 302 247 562/ +233 (0) 307 011 862 (Omit the (0) after the area code when dialing from abroad)
Email: info@amchamghana.org
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

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 €250,000 ($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 €400,000.  The permit can be extended for an additional five years and allows travel to other EU and Schengen countries without a visa.

On April 29, 2020, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) delisted Greece from the USTR Special 301 Watch List due to progress in addressing concerns regarding IP protection and enforcement.  The widespread use of unlicensed software in the public sector in Greece had been of long-standing concern to right holders.  In December 2019, Greece took clear steps to address this matter by allocating over €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 blocking of dynamic domains, in order to improve even further the protection of IP rights.  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 €1.8 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 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 IP legislation with EU rules and regulations.  The WTO-TRIPS agreement 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.

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/

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

Grenada

5. Protection of Property Rights

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.

Property rights and interests are enforced under the Aliens 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. 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 147 out of 190 for the ease of registering property on the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business Report, which provides the latest statistics available.

The Patents Act (Cap. 227 of the Consolidated Laws of Grenada) or the Trademarks Act (Cap. 284 of the Consolidated Laws of Grenada), or the Copyright Act Cap. 32 of 1988 (Cap. 67 of the Consolidated Laws of Grenada) guarantees the intellectual property rights of investors and investment enterprises e.g., 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. In April 2021 the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, of which Grenada is a member, signed a MOU with the WIPO. This will help strengthen the regional legal and regulatory architecture necessary to support the protection and monetization of intangible assets and other forms of intellectual property in the region.

Domestic legislation regarding intellectual property protection has not been fully amended to bring it in line with the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Agreement. However, updates to existing legislation are currently being drafted and reviewed.

Trademarks

Trademarks are regulated by the Trademarks Act of 2012.

Patents

The Registration of United Kingdom Patents Act Cap 283 of the Continuous Revised Laws of Grenada is still in force, although outdated. In accordance with the act, any person being the grantee of a patent in the United Kingdom or any person deriving right from such grantee may apply within three years from the date of issue of the patent in in the UK to have it registered in Grenada.

The Patent Act Cap 227 of the Continuous Revised Laws of Grenada is not TRIPS compliant. Implementation of the Patent Act No. 16 of 2011 has been slow due to the lack of implementing regulations, but the government has indicated that this a priority.

Copyright

The Copyright Act No. 21 of 2011 is in force.  In accordance with the Berne Convention, there is no existing formal system of registration of copyrighted works. There are current discussions with WIPO, in conjunction with the intellectual property offices in the region, to consider a voluntary system of registration for copyrighted works.

Geographic Indication Bill

The geographic indication bills have been drafted but not yet enacted. The 2012 Trademarks Act provides for registration of collective marks in the absence of a geographic indication act.

Industrial Designs Bill

The Industrial Design Bill is a work in progress. According to the Office of Corporate Affairs, its enactment is a priority.

Administration of intellectual property laws in Grenada is the responsibility of the Ministry of Legal Affairs. The Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property Office (CAIPO) is currently responsible for the registration of trademarks, re-registration of UK patents, and all other IP matters.

Post is unaware of any current or past prosecutions of IPR violations. Grenada is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 report or in the 2020 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/ 

Guatemala

5. Protection of Property Rights

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. Most banks offer mortgage loans with terms as long as 25 years for residential real estate. Mortgages and liens are recorded at the real estate property registry. According to the 2020 World Bank’s Doing Business Report, registering property in Guatemala takes 24 days, and it costs 3.6 percent of the property value. In the 2020 report, Guatemala ranked 89 out of 190 countries in the category of Registering Property.

The legal system is accessible to foreigners who may buy, sell, and file suit under the law. However, the legal system is not easily navigated without competent counsel. Foreign investors are advised to seek reliable local counsel early in the investment process.

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 (TLT) and the Marrakesh Treaty in February 2016. Legislation to incorporate TLT provisions into local law is pending as of March 2022. The Guatemalan congress passed amendments to the Copyright and Related Rights Law to adapt Marrakesh Treaty provisions into local law in October 2018, and the Guatemalan government issued its implementing regulation in March 2022.

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.

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.

Guatemala remains on USTR’s Special 301 Watch List in 2022 and has been on the Watch list for more than 10 years. Despite a generally sound legal framework, IPR enforcement remains limited due to resource constraints, and limited coordination among law enforcement agencies. Piracy and copyright and trademark infringement, including those of some major U.S. food and pharmaceutical brands, remain problematic in Guatemala.

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/ .

Guinea

5. Protection of Property Rights

The Estate and Land Tenure Code of 1992 provides a legal base for documentation of property ownership.  Mortgages are nearly non-existent in Guinea.  As with ownership of business enterprises, both foreign and Guinean 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.  Only about 2.5 percent of the population has title to real property.  The Ministry of Urban Affairs is developing an online platform that will facilitate the registration of land titles and reduce waiting times to about five days.  The Ministry of Urban Development, Housing, and Regional Planning launched the Building Permit One-Stop-Shop in February 2022, which is slated to reduce building permit procurement processing from 40 to seven days.

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 Berne 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 infringement 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 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 https://www.wipo.int/directory/en/contact.jsp?country_id=67&type=ADMIN.

Guyana

5. Protection of Property Rights

Property rights are enforced but it is often time consuming to determine the rightful owner of a particular plot of land. Ownership of property can be unclear even among government entities and potential investors are encouraged to have a local lawyer review any potential property purchase before executing the deal.

Guyana has a dual registry system of property rights with distinct requirements, processes, and enforcement mechanisms.  The two types of registry systems are deeds (regulated by the Deeds and Commercial Registry) and title (regulated by the Land Registry) registries that operate in separate jurisdictions, which in theory helps avoid the problem of double entry and dual registration. However, the percentage of land in Guyana that lacks a clear land title is unknown and the lack of a digital registry with which to easily verify title further complicates the transfer of property rights. Companies often complain about Guyana’s property rights being overly bureaucratic and complex, with opaque regulations that overlap and compete. Some report that this affects the proper allocation, enforcement, and effectiveness of property rights, as well as the efficiency of property-based markets, such as real estate and financial markets (especially primary ones, such as mortgage markets).  As previously stated, the judicial system is generally perceived to be slow and ineffective in enforcing legal contracts. The GoG is the country’s largest landowner. Property can be reverted to squatters who have squatted for over 10 years, but in most instances the GoG repossesses the land. Frustration arises when investors who have been leased land do not proceed with planned investments, so an ability to secure financing and move forward with projects is key.

Upon independence in 1966, Guyana adopted British law on intellectual property rights (IPR). Guyana’s relevant laws governing IPR are the 1956 Copyright Act and the 1973 Trademark Act and Patents and Design Act.  Local contacts report that numerous attempts to pass comprehensive reforms to this legislation have been unsuccessful. However, piecemeal modernization amendments contained in the 2005 Geographic Indication Act, the 2006 Competition and Fair-Trading Act, the 2000 Business Names Registration Act, and the 1999 Deeds Registry Authority Act have offered additional protection to local products and companies.  In the past year, there was no new IP laws enacted.

No modern legislation exists to protect the foreign-registered rights of investors. However, investors are encouraged to seek a lawyer to register and/or make an application for intellectual property. In the case of trademarks, registration is done through writing to the registrar, which once accepted after advertisement in the official gazette, the registrar inserts the particulars and issues a registration bearing the seal of the patent office. Guyana joined the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and acceded to the Berne and Paris Conventions in 1994. Guyana has not ratified a bilateral intellectual property rights agreement with the United States. The previous government drafted intellectual property rights legislation which has yet to be taken up in Parliament.

Many businesses report that the registration time for a patent or trademark may take in excess of six months. However, there is a lack of effective enforcement to protect intellectual property rights. Patent and trademark infringement are common, as is evident among local television broadcasts of pirated and rebroadcasted TV satellite signals. Guyana has seen seizures of counterfeited food items by the Guyana Foods and Drugs Analyst Department (GFDD). However, the GFDD is severely short staffed and unable to police all commerce effectively. Local news media sources report that piracy of foreign academic textbooks is common. Guyana’s laws have not been amended to fully conform to the requirements of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.  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 is not mentioned in the United States Trade Representative’s 2021 Special 301 Report, nor is it named in its 2020 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

Haiti

5. Protection of Property Rights

Foreign investors have noted that real property interests are affected by the absence of a comprehensive civil registry (cadastre). 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. Additionally, mortgages are not always properly recorded under the debtor or creditor’s name. 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. As a factor in its overall Ease of Doing Business ranking, the World Bank ranks Haiti 182 out of 187 among countries globally on ease of registering property.

In Haiti, the measures to protect copyright date back to the 2005 decree of 9 January 1968 on the copyright of literary, scientific, and artistic works. 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. Some report that weak enforcement mechanisms, inefficient courts, and judges’ inadequate knowledge of commercial law may impede the effectiveness of statutory protections.

Haiti is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Haiti has completed accession to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. Haiti is a signatory to the Buenos Aires Convention of 1910, the Patent Law Treaty, and the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances.

Haiti is not mentioned in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) 2021 Special 301 Report or the 2021 Notorious Markets List. For additional information about the national laws 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

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. The right for CCIT and CCIC to administer their own merchant registries is derived from a concession in Honduras’ secured transactions law.

Land title procedures have been an issue leading to investment disputes involving U.S. nationals who are landowners, especially, but not limited to, the tourist destination of Roatan. 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.

The legislative framework for the protection of intellectual property (IP) rights , which includes the Honduran copyright law and its industrial property law, is generally adequate, but often poorly enforced. Honduras has enacted legislation to implement 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 and Public Ministry handle IP protection and enforcement.

CAFTA-DR Chapter 15 on Intellectual Property Rights further provides for the protection and enforcement of a range of IP rights, which are consistent with U.S. and international standards . 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.

Digital piracy is widespread and frequently ignored in Honduras, especially by telecommunications companies. The Special Prosecutor for IP will not investigate a case unless it receives a complaint from a rights holder. Often, rights holders do not submit complaints because of either the perceived bureaucratic process or the fear of losing business. In addition, sentencing for IP crimes remains ineffective to deter future violations. IP violators typically receive a three-to-six-year sentence and an approximately $2,000 fine. If a sentence is less than five years, however, the convicted party can choose to pay a larger fine and not serve any jail time.

Honduras is not listed in United States Trade Representative’s 2021 Special 301 Report or its 2020 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

A list of local attorneys is available at  https://hn.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/local-resources-of-u-s-citizens/attorneys/. The U.S. Commercial Service office also maintains a screened list of attorneys through its  Business Service Provider (BSP) directory  . The American Chamber of Commerce Honduras 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

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.

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.

Hong Kong generally provides strong intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and enforcement. Hong Kong has effective IPR enforcement capacity, and a judicial system that supports enforcement efforts with a public outreach program that discourages IPR-infringing activities. Despite the robustness of Hong Kong’s IP system, challenges remain, particularly in connection with copyright infringement and effective enforcement against the heavy, bi-directional flow of counterfeit goods.

Hong Kong’s commercial and company laws provide for effective enforcement of contracts and protection of corporate rights. H 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). 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 are applicable to Hong Kong. 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 substantial resources to IPR enforcement. CED works 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.

Other IPR challenges include end-use piracy of software and textbooks, internet peer-to-peer downloading, illegal streaming, 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 to make a non-infringement patent declaration. The Copyright Ordinance protects any original copyrighted work created or published anywhere in the world and criminalizes unauthorized copying and distribution of protected works. The Ordinance also provides rental rights for sound recordings, computer programs, films, and comic books, and includes 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 June 2020, Hong Kong passed legislation to implement the Marrakesh Treaty.

In November 2021, HKG launched a three-month public consultation on the proposal to update the Copyright Ordinance. The proposal is based on the 2014 Copyright (Amendment) Bill, which was shelved in 2016 amid opposition by pan-democratic Legislative Council (LegCo) members. The proposal covered five key areas to modernize the copyright regime, such as giving copyright owners a “technology-neutral exclusive communication right” and providing new copyrights exemptions for three purposes, including “parody, satire, caricature and pastiche; commenting on current events; and quotation of copyright works”. The three-month consultation ended in February 2022. The HKG released a summary of the public consultation process on April 19, 2022 stating that they will proceed with submitting the 2014 Copyright (Amendment) Bill, with minimal changes, to LegCo with the first half of 2022.

The Patent Ordinance allows for issuing a patent in Hong Kong based on patents issued by the United Kingdom and mainland China known as a “re-registration” system. Patents issued in Hong Kong have no effect in mainland China and vice versa. Patents issued in Hong Kong are capable of being tested for validity, rectified, amended, revoked, and enforced in Hong Kong courts. Hong Kong’s Original Grant Patent (OGP) system, which enables applicants to file patent applications directly in Hong Kong without having to go through the re-registration process, came into operation in December 2019. The OGP system co-exists with the re-registration system for the granting of patents, allowing applicants flexibility while applying for patent protections in Hong Kong. In June 2021, Hong Kong granted its first‑ever standard patent by original grant. As of end‑May 2021, the IPD received a total of 426 OGP applications, with 67 percent from non‑local Hong Kong residents.

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 allows for registration of trademarks relating to services. All trademark registrations originally filed in Hong Kong are valid for seven years and renewable for fourteen-year periods. Owners of trademarks registered elsewhere must apply in Hong Kong and satisfy all requirements of Hong Kong law. When evidence of use is required, such use must have occurred in Hong Kong. In June 2020, Hong Kong amended its Trade Marks Ordinance to provide a basis for the application of the Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks (Madrid Protocol). The HKG is expected to implement the Madrid Protocol in 2023 at the earliest.

Hong Kong has no specific ordinance to cover trade secrets; however, the government has a duty under its 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 during trade.

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

Hungary maintains a reliable land registry, which provides public information for anyone on the ownership, mortgage, and usufruct rights of a 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.

Please see the section on Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment for information regarding restrictions on purchasing farm landfarmland.

Hungarian law allows acquisitive prescription for unoccupied real property if the user of the property occupies it continuously for at least 15 years. Real estate and land purchase contracts must be countersigned by an attorney registered in Hungary.

Hungary has an adequate legal structure for protecting intellectual property rights (IPR), although sentences for civil and criminal IPR infringement cases are not usually adequately harsh to serve as a deterrent.  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 Prosecutor General’s Office were to establish specialized IPR units.  The most common IPR violations in Hungary include the sale of imported counterfeit goods, including 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’s (WTO’s) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and many other major international IPR agreements, including some administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), such as the Berne Convention, the Paris Convention, the WIPO Copyright Treaty, and the WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty.  As an EU Member State, Hungary is required to implement EU Directives and so is party to the EU Information Society Directive and EU Enforcement Directive, among others.

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

In 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.  In 2012 the USPTO and HIPO signed a Memorandum of Understanding to further streamline and expedite bilateral patent recognition. More details about this Patent Processing Highway (PPH) program can be found on HIPO’s website at   www.hipo.gov.hu/English/szabadalom/pph/  .

Hungary is not included in the U.S. Trade Representative’s (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 HYPERLINK “http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/” HYPERLINK “http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/”  http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

Resources for Rights Holders

Iceland

5. Protection of Property Rights

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 leasing 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 see 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.

Iceland adheres to key international agreements on property rights. Trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, and industrial designs are all protected under Icelandic law. Iceland is a signatory of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), and of the European Patent Convention (EPC). For further information see ( https://europa.eu/youreurope/business/running-business/intellectual-property/patents/iceland/index_en.htm ). Iceland is also 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/ ).

The Icelandic Intellectual Property Office’s (ISIPO) is a government agency under the auspices of the Minister of Industries and Innovation. The institution was established on July 1, 1991 and assumed responsibility for the patent and trademark department from the Ministry of Industries. In 2019, ISIPO, which used to be called the Icelandic Patent Office, took up its current name, the Icelandic Intellectual Property Office. ISIPO’s scope of operation is defined by Advertisement no. 187/1991 and Regulation no. 188/1991. ISIPO is responsible for “issues relating to patents, trademarks, design protection, municipal emblems, and other comparable rights as provided for by law, regulations, and international agreements on the protection of intellectual property rights in the field of industry.” For more information visit, the ISIPO webpage in English ( https://www.isipo.is/ ).

Illegal downloading and distribution of films and TV shows has decreased in recent years due to widespread access to international streaming services, such as Netflix and Disney Plus. Purchasing cheap, counterfeit consumer goods on Chinese websites, namely AliEpxress.com is popular in Iceland, although that trend has declined somewhat due to increasing fees imposed by Iceland Post on incoming international deliveries. Customs seize counterfeit products if found and contact the owner of the intellectual property who then decides whether to press charges against the importer. If the owner of the intellectual property does not want to take legal actions, customs clears the items and send them to the importer. Iceland Revenue and Customs has on a few occasions seized counterfeit consumer goods that led to charges being pressed against the importer, including shipments containing counterfeit Nike shoes and Arco designer lamps in 2014. Iceland Revenue and Customs participated in the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s campaign against counterfeit products in 2014 ( https://www.tollur.is/embaettid/frettir/frett/2014/03/13/Althjodlegt-atak-gegn-eftirlikingum/ ).

Iceland is not listed in the USTR’s 2021 Special 301 Report, but the country is listed in the Notorious Markets for Piracy and Counterfeiting 2021 Report, as Iceland reportedly hosts servers for hosting provider FlokiNET.

India

5. Protection of Property Rights

In India, a registered sales deed does not confer title of land ownership and is merely a record of the sales transaction that only confers presumptive ownership and can still be disputed. Instead, the title is established through a chain of historical transfer documents that originate from the land’s original established owner. Accordingly, before purchasing land, buyers should examine all the documents that establish title from the original owner. Many owners, particularly in urban areas, do not have access to the necessary chain of documents. This increases uncertainty and risks in land transactions.

Several cities, including Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Chennai, have grown according to a master plan registered with the central government’s Ministry of Urban Development. Property rights are generally well-enforced in such places, and district magistrates – normally senior local government officials – notify land and property registrations. Banks and financial institutions provide mortgages and liens against such registered property.

In other urban areas, and in areas where illegal settlements have been established, titling often remains unclear. The government launched the National Land Records Modernization Program (NLRMP) in 2008 to clarify land records and provide landholders with legal titles. The program requires the government to survey an area of approximately 2.16 million square miles, including over 430 million rural households, 55 million urban households, and 430 million land records. Initially scheduled for completion in 2016, the program is now scheduled to conclude in 2021.

Although land title falls under the jurisdiction of state governments, both the Indian Parliament and state legislatures can make laws governing “acquisition and requisitioning of property.” Land acquisition in India is governed by the Land Acquisition Act (2013), which entered into force in 2014, and continues to be a complicated process due to the lack of an effective legal framework. Land sales require adequate compensation, resettlement of displaced citizens, and 70 percent approval from landowners. The displacement of poorer citizens is politically challenging for local governments.

Foreign and domestic private entities are permitted to establish and own businesses in trading companies, subsidiaries, joint ventures, branch offices, project offices, and liaison offices, subject to certain sector-specific restrictions. The government does not permit FDI in real estate, other than company property used to conduct business and for the development of most types of new commercial and residential properties. Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) can invest in initial public offerings (IPOs) of companies engaged in real estate. They can also participate in pre-IPO placements undertaken by real estate companies without regard to FDI restrictions.

Businesses that intend to build facilities on land they own are also required to take the following steps: 1) register the land and seek land use permission if the industry is located outside an industrially zoned area; 2) obtain environmental site approval; 3) seek authorization for electricity and financing; and 4) obtain appropriate approvals for construction plans from the respective state and municipal authorities. Promoters must also obtain industry-specific environmental approvals in compliance with the Water and Air Pollution Control Acts. Petrochemical complexes, petroleum refineries, thermal power plants, bulk drug makers, and manufacturers of fertilizers, dyes, and paper, among others, must also obtain clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The Real Estate Act, 2016 aims to protect the rights and interests of consumers and promote uniformity and standardization of business practices and transactions in the real estate sector. Details are available at: http://mohua.gov.in/cms/TheRealEstateAct2016.php 

The Foreign Exchange Management Regulations and the Foreign Exchange Management Act set forth the rules that allow foreign entities to own immoveable property in India and convert foreign currencies for the purposes of investing in India. These regulations can be found at: https://www.rbi.org.in/scripts/Fema.aspx . Foreign investors operating under the Automatic Route are allowed the same rights as an Indian citizen for the purchase of immovable property in India in connection with an approved business activity.

Traditional land use rights, including communal rights to forests, pastures, and agricultural land, are protected according to various laws, depending on the land category and community residing on it. Relevant legislation includes the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006, the Tribal Rights Act, and the Tribal Land Act.

India remained on the Priority Watch List in the USTR Office’s 2022 Special 301 Report due to concerns over weak intellectual property (IP) protection and enforcement. The 2022 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy includes physical and online marketplaces located in or connected to India.

In the field of copyright, procedural hurdles, cumbersome policies, and ineffective enforcement continue to remain concerns. In February 2019, the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which would criminalize illicit camcording of films, was tabled in the Parliament and remains pending. In June 2021, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting sought public comments on the Draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2021. While the draft Bill proposes to enhance the penalties against piracy envisaged in the earlier 2019 bill, it also creates new concerns for the right holders by exempting all exceptions to copyright infringement covered by Section 52 of the India Copyright Act. The expansive granting of licenses under Chapter VI of the Indian Copyright Act and overly broad exceptions for certain uses have raised concerns regarding the strength of copyright protection and complicated the market for music licensing. In April 2021, India abolished the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) and transferred its duties to the High Courts and Commercial Courts, creating uncertainties throughout the IP landscape, including raising concerns regarding the efficient adjudication of contentious IP matters. In addition, the abolishment left open how certain IP royalties will be set, collected, and distributed across the country.

In August 2021, the DPIIT issued a notice requesting stakeholder comments on the recommendation of the July 2021 Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce (DRPSCC) Report to amend Section 31D of the Indian Copyright Act to extend statutory licensing to “internet or digital broadcasters.” The recommendation broadens the scope of statutory licensing to encompass not only radio and television broadcasting, but also online transmissions, despite a High Court ruling earlier in 2019 that held that statutory broadcast licensing does not include online transmissions. If implemented to permit statutory licensing for interactive transmissions, the DRPSCC Report’s recommendation would not only have severe implications for rights holders who make their content available online, but also raise serious concerns about India’s compliance with relevant international obligations.

In the field of patents, the potential threat of compulsory licenses and patent revocations, and the narrow patentability criteria under the Indian Patents Act, burden companies across industry sectors. Patent applications continue to face expensive and time consuming pre- and post-grant oppositions and excessive reporting requirements. In October 2020, India issued a revised “Statement of Working of Patents” (Form 27), required annually by patentees. While some stakeholders have welcomed the revised version of Form 27, concerns remain as to whether the requirement and its associated penalties suppress innovation, and whether Indian authorities will treat as confidential the sensitive business information that parties are required to disclose on the form.

India has made some progress on certain administrative decisions in past years, upholding patent rights, and developing specific tools and remedies to support the rights of a patent holder. Nonetheless, concerns remain over revocations and other challenges to patents, especially patents for agriculture, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical products. In addition to India’s application of its compulsory licensing law, the Indian Supreme Court in 2013 interpreted Section 3(d) of India’s Patent Law, as creating a “second tier of qualifying standards for patenting chemical substances and pharmaceuticals.”

India currently lacks an effective system for protecting against unfair commercial use, as well as unauthorized disclosure, of undisclosed tests or other data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical and agricultural products. Investors have raised concerns with respect to allegedly infringing pharmaceuticals being marketed without advance notice or adequate time or opportunity for parties to achieve early resolution of potential IP disputes.

U.S. and Indian companies have advocated for eliminating gaps in India’s trade secrets regime, such as through the adoption of legislation that would specifically address the protection of trade secrets. While India’s National Intellectual Property Rights Policy called in 2016 for trade secrets to serve as an “important area of study for future policy development,” this work has not yet been prioritized.

India issued a revised Manual of Patent Office Practice and Procedure in November 2019 that requires patent examiners to look to the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Centralized Access to Search and Examination (CASE) system and Digital Access Service (DAS) to find prior art and other information filed by patent applicants in other jurisdictions.

Other recent developments include India’s steps toward reducing delays and examination backlogs for patent and trademark applications. In addition, India actively promotes IP awareness and commercialization throughout India through the Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM), a professional body under the aegis of the DPIIT, and through the Innovation Cell of the Ministry of Education. Following the IPAB’s abolition in July 2021, the Delhi High Court created an Intellectual Property Division (IPD) to deal with all matters related to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), including those previously covered by the IPAB.

In July 2021, DRPSCC issued a report on “Review of the Intellectual Property Rights Regime in India” that is largely based on a premise that stronger protection and enforcement of IP would lead to better economic and social development in the country. The report makes many positive recommendations and emphasizes that India’s IP regime should comply with “International agreements, rules and norms” and be compatible with other nations and foreign entities. Some of the DRPSCC’s recommendations are problematic and raise serious concern from the perspective of U.S. innovators and creators, such as those relating to statutory licensing for “internet or digital broadcasters” under copyright law, and compulsory licensing under patent law.

Resources for Intellectual Property Rights Holders:

John Cabeca
Intellectual Property Counselor for South Asia
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Foreign Commercial Service
email: john.cabeca@trade.gov
website: https://www.uspto.gov/ip-policy/ip-attache-program 
tel: +91-11-2347-2000

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

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 Land Acquisition Law No. 2/2012, which was amended by the Omnibus Law on Job Creation (Law No. 11/2020), that enshrined the concept of eminent domain and established mechanisms for fair market value compensation and appeals. The National Land Agency registers property under Government Regulation No. 18/2021, though the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK) administers all “forest land.”  The regulation introduced e-registration to cut bureaucracy and minimize land disputes. Registration is not conclusive evidence of ownership, but rather strong evidence of such. It allows foreigners domiciled in Indonesia to have housing property with land under a “right to use” status for a maximum of 30 years, with extensions available for up to 20 additional years, as well as a “right to own” status for apartments located in special economic zones, free trade zones, and industrial areas. The Omnibus Law on Job Creation aims to reduce uncertainty around the roles of the central and local governments, including around spatial planning and environmental and social impact assessments (AMDALs), by simplifying the licensing process through implementation of a risk-based approach. The Omnibus Law also created a land bank to facilitate land acquisition for priority investment projects.

Indonesia remains on the priority watch list in the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report due to the lack of adequate and effective IP protection and enforcement. Indonesia’s patent law continues to raise serious concerns, including patentability criteria and compulsory licensing. Indonesia is amending the Patent Law, in addition to the amendment made through the Omnibus Law and hopes for the amendment deliberation to start in 2022. Counterfeiting and piracy are pervasive, IP enforcement remains weak, and there are continued market access restrictions for IP-intensive industries. According to U.S. stakeholders, Indonesia’s failure to protect intellectual property and enforce IP rights laws has resulted in high levels of physical and online piracy. Local industry associations have reported large amounts 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 Mangga Dua Market, and online markets Tokopedia and Bukalapak, were included in USTR’s Notorious Markets List in 2021.

The Omnibus Law on Job Creation amended key articles in Patent Law No. 13/2016 and the Trademark and Geographical Indications Law No. 20/2016. While Patent Law amendments require the patent holder to exercise their patented invention locally within 36 months after the patent is granted, the new amendments provide flexibility to IP holders to meet local “working” requirements. The new law also revokes a provision requiring patent holders to support technology transfer, investment, and employment in local manufacturing as a condition of patent protection. The law reduces the processing time required for simple patent applications from 12 months to 6 months.

In January 2020, Indonesia ratified the Marrakesh Treaty through Presidential Regulation No. 1/2020 to facilitate access to public works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print-disabled. Indonesia also ratified the Beijing Treaty on IPR protection for audiovisual performances to protect actors through Presidential Regulation No. 21/2020. Indonesia deposited its instrument of accession to the Madrid Protocol with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 2017 and issued implementing regulations in 2018. Under the new rules, applicants desiring international mark protection under the Madrid Protocol must first register their application with DGIP and 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 the treatment of internationally 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.

Ministry of Finance (MOF) Regulation No. 6/2019 grants the Directorate General of Customs and Excise (DGCE) legal authority to hold shipments believed to contain imitation goods for up to two days, pending inspection. Under Regulation No. 6/2019, rights holders are notified by DGCE (through a recordation system) when an incoming shipment is suspected of containing infringing products. If the inspection reveals an infringement, the rights holder has four days to file a court injunction to request a shipment suspension. Rights holders are required to provide a refundable monetary guarantee of IDR 100 million (USD 6,600) when they file a claim with the court. If the court sides with the rights holder, then the guarantee money will be returned to the applicant. DGCE intercepted three suspected infringement product imports in 2020 by using this recordation system, as only 17 trademarks and two copyrights are registered in the recordation system. Despite business stakeholder concerns, the GOI retains a requirement that only companies with offices domiciled in Indonesia may use the recordation system.

Trademark, Patent, and Copyright legislation require a rights-holder complaint for investigation. DGIP and BPOM investigators lack the authority to make arrests so must rely on police cooperation for any enforcement action. DGIP created an IP Enforcement Task Force in late 2021 to include DGIP, the Indonesian National Policy (INP) Criminal Investigation Agency, DGCE, MCIT, and BPOM. The Task Force is more focused on IP Enforcement and is promising but has not fully ramped up its efforts and more time is needed to evaluate its long-term effectiveness.

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:  https://id.usembassy.gov/attorneys.

Iraq

5. Protection of Property Rights

Since 2009, Iraqi law has allowed foreigners to own land and the amended Investment Law expressly provides foreigners the right to own land for the 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.  The GOI approved implementing regulations in 2010 that 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 land registration can be revoked if the domestic or foreign investor does not carry out the obligations of their agreement.

For non-residential, commercial investment projects, including agriculture, services, tourism, commercial, and industrial projects without an Iraqi partner, foreign investors can lease government land.  The terms and duration of these leases vary by project type and the result of 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 percent to 25 percent, amount to significant rent reductions for leased land.

In the IKR, foreign land ownership is allowed under Law Number 4 (2006).  The KBOI initially awarded more than half of all investment licenses to housing projects, but that percentage has declined in favor of priority sector development areas of agriculture, industry, and tourism. Delays in the 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 121 out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s “registering property” index of its 2020 Doing Business report.

Legal systems that protect intellectual property (IP) rights in Iraq are inadequate and infringement is common.  Counterfeit products are widespread in the Iraqi marketplace, including pharmaceutical drugs.  According to a 2018 study (latest data available) by the Business Software Alliance on self-reported piracy, 85 percent of Iraq’s software was unlicensed in 2017, consistent with the levels found in each survey since 2009.  New IP legislation is being drafted but it remains unclear when it will pass the Council of Ministers and the COR in 2022.  The IKR has no independent IP protections and outsources all IP complaints to the GOI. The KRG is working with GOI to develop new laws.

Responsibility for IP rights enforcement is spread across several ministries.  The Ministry of Culture handles copyrights, and the Ministry of Industry and Minerals (MIM) houses the trademarks office.  The Central Organization for Standardization and Quality Control, an agency under the MOP, handles the patent registry and the industrial design registry.  The MOP’s patent registry office has occasionally included Arab League Israel Boycott questionnaires in the patent registry application, which U.S. companies are not allowed to complete under U.S. law.  IP infringement cases are primarily heard in commercial courts, although infrequently transferred to the criminal courts.

A draft IP law, which would comply with the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and consolidate all IP responsibilities into a single body, was stalled in the Shura Council but is now again under consideration.

In 2018, the COM Secretariat reviewed IP forms and processes for simplification.  As a result, the patent application 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.

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 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).  GOI approved joining the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) in March 2021, law no.15 has been issued on July 01, 2021, to be enforced on May 01, 2022.

Iraq is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 Report, but two markets located in Iraq were listed in the 2020 and 2021 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.  The 2021 Notorious Markets List is available online at:

https://ustr.gov/about-us/policy-offices/press-office/press-releases/2022/february/ustr-releases-2021-review-notorious-markets-counterfeiting-and-piracy

Resources for Intellectual Property Rights Holders:

Peter Mehravari
Patent Attorney
Intellectual Property Attaché for the Middle East & North Africa
U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi | U.S. Department of Commerce U.S. Patent & Trademark Office Tel: +965 2259 1455 Peter.Mehravari@trade.gov

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

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 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.

Ireland implemented the EU’s 2019 Copyright in the Digital Single Market directive in November 2021.

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 

Israel

5. Protection of Property Rights

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 local courts may accept judgments of foreign 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.

The Intellectual Property Law Division and the Israel Patent Office (ILPO), both within the Ministry of Justice, are the principal government authorities 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.

Israel was removed from the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 Report Watch List in 2014.

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.

The 2018 New Designs Law brought 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.

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, including trade secret misappropriation, can be common and relatively sophisticated in Israel. The European Commission “closely monitors” IP enforcement in Israel. The EC 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 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.

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

According to the World Bank 2020 Doing Business Index, Italy ranks 26th 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, the Embassy estimates that less than 10 percent of the land in Italy lacks 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.

Italy tracks and reports seizure of counterfeit goods, primarily through the Italian customs agency, Agenzia Dogane Monopoli (ADM). The Italian customs agency, Agenzia Dogane Monopoli (ADM), has an active enforcement posture at Italian ports and an excellent track record for interdicting counterfeit and substandard goods coming into Italy and the European Union.  In 2020, ADM noted it confiscated almost 13 million fraudulent pieces nationwide (with a retail value of €1.64 billion (down 16.75% from 2019) – 98.3% of which reached Italy by ship. ADM also have the authority to monitor, inspect, and embargo intra-EU shipments that pass through Italian ports. During the COVID-19 pandemic, ADM detected an increased use of Adriatic ferries funneling counterfeit goods (mostly clothes and accessories from Bulgaria and Greece originating in China). For example, almost half of the counterfeit footwear (128,748 pieces) seized in trucks traversing in Adriatic ferries originated in China with upwards of three-fourths destined for the Italian market. Counterfeiting remains an issue, but it is in Italy’s interest to protect the “Made in Italy” branding and, accordingly, Italian law enforcement agencies are reportedly active in combatting this phenomenon.

ADM also reported ongoing efforts to monitor and seize counterfeit personal protective equipment (PPE), medication, and unauthorized treatments for COVID-19. In 2020, ADM confiscated over 7.575 billion units valued at €3.10 billion. In addition to counterfeit masks and gloves, and substandard PPE, ADM enlisted private logistics operators to increase awareness of organized crime involvement in COVID-19 vaccine supply chains.

USTR removed Italy from the Special 301 Watch List in 2014 after the Italian Communications Authority (AGCOM) issued new regulation to combat digital copyright theft.  The regulation created a process by which rights holders can report online infringements to AGCOM, which then blocks access to the domestic hosting infringing content.  Italy is not listed in USTR’s Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy although USTR has identified several online and domains in Italy that have promoted access to unlicensed digital content. AGCOM’s authority is limited to blocking access to computer servers and web sites located in Italy. Many illegal services provide content through servers located outside Italy.

In December 2021, the EU Copyright in the Digital Single Market (CDSM) Directive came into force, essentially replacing the Italian Copyright Act. The Italian version is more lenient on sharing the digital search results (through via new original works research) of legally accessed materials databases and archival collections unless rights holders “opt out.’” The Italian law also recognizes the exception to copyright for cultural heritage preservation. For example, copies of works in any format or medium and cannot be limited via a contract if permanently held by cultural heritage institutions.  The law also allows educational institutions to use sections of copyrighted materials without the copyright holder’s permission if used in secure online systems accessed only by students and educators.

In July 2020 the UK International Brand Firm, which had registered the Supreme trademark in San Marino in November 2015 (and subsequently sold “legal fakes” in third countries using the “Supreme” trademark) transferred ownership of the trademark to Chapter 4 Supreme, the New York-based streetwear products maker in the United States. This was the result of a settlement following a complaint filed by Chapter 4 in San Marino, which had also led to the precautionary seizures of counterfeit goods in San Marino the year before. The Republic of San Marino is considering new legislation to improve trademark registration. The San Marino Trademark and Patent Office (USBM) publishes a bimonthly bulletin to advertise new trademark applications. Requests remain pending for four months, during which interested third parties can submit their observations to USBM. While the final decision rests with USBM, there is pending legislation that would grant third parties the possibility to submit their remarks and express their opposition to the registration of a trademark. In this case, the final decision would not rest with USBM, but rather a new entity (still undefined) likely composed of specialized experts and attorneys.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IPR offices, please see the World Intellectual Property Organization’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.

Property rights are guaranteed by the Jamaican Constitution.  The 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.  With less than half of land in Jamaica registered, it can take a long time for landowners to secure titles.  

Squatting is also a major challenge in Jamaica, with an estimated 20 percent of the population living as squatters.  Three-quarters of these 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 landowner).  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 85 in 2020, improving significantly due to the reduction in cost associated with transferring and registering collateral using property.  Jamaica continued 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/Registration%20of%20Titles.pdf  

Jamaica has one of the stronger intellectual property (IP) protection regimes in Latin America and the Caribbean according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Intellectual 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).  In January 2020, the country passed its long-awaited TRIPS compliant Patent and Designs Act and has been removed from the USTR Special 301 Watchlist.  The Act came into force in February 2022.  The Geographical Indications Act (GI) of 2004 is now fully in force and is TRIPS compliant, protecting products whose particular quality or reputation is attributable to its geographical origin.  The Trademarks (Amendment) Act of 2021 went into force in March 2022, bringing into effect the Madrid Protocol.  General law provides protection for trade secrets and protection against unfair competition is guaranteed under the Fair Competition Act.  The Madrid Protocol allowing for international registration of a trademark on the basis of a single application takes effect on March 27, 2022.

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.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force established a specialized intellectual property unit within its counter terrorism and organized crime branch (C-TOC) in 2015 to boost IP enforcement.  The unit continued to work with the Contraband Enforcement Team of the Jamaica Customs Agency to seize and destroy counterfeit goods, while pursing criminal proceedings where possible.  In 2021, over $60 million in counterfeit goods were destroyed by state agencies.  The amount increased significantly due to the destruction of goods seized by Jamaica Customs in 2017.  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.  Rights holders are responsible for paying the costs associated with storage and destruction of counterfeit goods, and in recent cases the cost started at $250,000.  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

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 2020 “Doing Business” Report, Japan ranks 43 out of 190 economies in the category of Ease of Registering Property. There are 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 down payment required of the purchaser, as the bank will provide financing only up to the appraisal value.

Japan currently has no laws that ban or control land purchases by foreign nationals who live in the country. Foreign individuals and entities located outside of Japan also have the right to purchase property. On June 16, 2021, Japan’s Diet passed the Law to Investigate and Regulate Land Use around Important Facilities and Remote Border Islands, tightening oversight of land use near designated areas such as military defense facilities by allowing the Japanese government to collect personal information of individuals, both foreign nationals and Japanese citizens, to investigate their land usage. The law and its implementing guidelines may enter into effect as early as April 2022.

The Japanese government is unsure of the titleholders to 4.1 million hectares of land in Japan, roughly 20 percent of all land. It estimated that by 2040 the amount of land without titleholders will increase to 7.2 million hectares. There are a number of reasons beyond the administrative difficulties of a title transfer as to why land lacks a clear title holder. They include: population decline, especially in rural areas; the difficulty of locating heirs, particularly if there are multiple heirs or if the deceased had no children; and the cost of reregistering land under a new name due to taxes. Virtually all the large banks, as well as some other private companies, offer loans to purchase property in Japan.

Japan maintains a comprehensive and sophisticated intellectual property (IP) regime recognized as among the strongest in the world. In 2021, Japan ranked fifth out of 53 countries evaluated by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on the strength of IP environments. The government has operated a dedicated “Intellectual Property High Court” to adjudicate IP-related cases since 2005, providing judges with enhanced access to technical experts and the ability to specialize in intellectual property law. However, certain shortcomings remain, notably in the transparency and predictability of its system for pricing on-patent pharmaceuticals and medical devices. The discriminatory effect of healthcare reimbursement pricing measures implemented by the Japanese government continues to raise serious concerns about the ability of U.S. pharmaceutical and companies to have full and fair opportunity to use and profit from their IP in the Japanese market. More generally, the weak deterrent effect of Japan’s relatively modest penalties for IP infringement remains a cause for concern.

On May 19, 2021, Japan’s National Diet amended the country’s Trademark Act, closing a loophole that had permitted unlimited importation of counterfeit goods delivered by mail to individuals who claimed the items were for personal use. Previously, only imports for business purposes were within the scope of the Trademark Act. Items claimed for personal use were exempted, and there was no restriction on the quantity of items imported for personal use, nor any limit on the number of times an individual could apply the personal use exemption.

On May 26, 2021, Japan’s National Diet amended the country’s Copyright Act, a move that U.S. rights holders have flagged as potentially compromising intellectual property rights.  The amendment went into effect on January 1, 2022.  It stipulates that any license obtained to transmit content through traditional television broadcasting systems can be presumed to include a grant of rights to simulcast the content via other means, including Internet transmission. Lawmakers crafted the presumption of rights extension to overcome “difficulties” expressed by domestic broadcasters associated with obtaining rights from “non-professional” creators and licenses obtained via non-contract scenarios.  U.S. stakeholders have expressed concern about the revision creating potential uncertainty for commercial licensing and the potential for unintended consequences without due consideration of global perspectives. In response, officials of Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs (ACA) stressed that business contracts, such as those under which major international content distributors operate, would not be affected, and the ACA does not foresee the amendment materially altering such existing business practices.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo is aware of isolated claims of U.S. IP misappropriation by Japanese state-owned or affiliated entities and presumes, and given the vast volume of bilateral trade, that additional cases across public and private sectors may exist. That said, the Japanese government has taken several steps in recent years to improve protection of trade secrets. In July 2019 revisions to the Unfair Competition Prevention Act (UCPA) went into effect. They classify the improper acquisition, disclosure, and use of specified protected data as an act of unfair competition and offer civil and criminal remedies to stakeholders. The revisions also extend the scope of unfair competition to include attempts to circumvent technological restriction measures. Japan has taken a leading role in promoting the expansion of IP rights in recent regional trade agreements, including:

  • RCEP: The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership includes a comprehensive IP chapter, much of it repeating norms set out in the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement, but also offering unique protections for genetic resources, traditional knowledge, and folklore.
  • Japan-UK CEPA: The Japan-UK Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement signed on October 23, 2020, and in force beginning January 1, 2021, contains an IP chapter including provisions on copyrights, trademarks, geographical indications, industrial designs, patents, regulatory test data exclusivity, new plant varieties, trade secrets, domain names, and enforcement.
  • Japan-EU EPA: The Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement, which entered into force February 1, 2019, also includes a substantial IP chapter.
  • CPTPP: As part of its 2018 accession to the CPTPP, Japan passed several substantive amendments to its Copyright Law, including measures that extended the term of copyright protection and strengthened technological protection rules.

Japan’s Customs and Tariff Bureau publishes a yearly report on goods seizures, available online in English ( http://www.customs.go.jp/mizugiwa/chiteki/pages/g_001_e.htm ). Japan seized an estimated USD 118.3 million worth of IP-infringing goods in 2020, a decrease of 2.4 percent over 2019. In June 2020, the Customs and Tariff Bureau of the Ministry of Finance announced the “SMART Customs Initiative 2020,” which aims to utilize cutting-edge technologies such as AI to improve the sophistication and efficiency of its operations. For additional information about national laws 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/ .

Jordan

5. Protection of Property Rights

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.

Jordan approved an investment program that grants citizenship or permanent residency of non-Jordanians in February 2018. This program includes permanent residency for non-Jordanians who purchase properties worth a minimum of JOD 200,000 ($282,100) and hold the properties for 10 years.

A new Property law passed in 2019 consolidated 13 laws governing property ownership in one legislation and addressed 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.

Jordan has a fairly strong legal structure to protect intellectual property rights (IPR), having passed several laws in compliance with its international commitments. Laws consistent with Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) now protect trade secrets, plant varieties, and semiconductor chip designs. Jordan’s record on IPR enforcement has improved in recent years, but more effective enforcement mechanisms and legal procedures are still needed to address the cases of infringement and theft that persist.

Copyrights are registered with the Ministry of Culture’s National Library Department, and patents and trademarks are registered with the Registrar of Patents and Trademarks at the Ministry of Industry and Trade. Registration of patents and trademarks can be done electronically at https://ippd-eservice.mit.gov.jo/ .

Jordan ratified the Patent Cooperation Treaty and the Madrid Protocol in 2007. 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 may seek joint ventures and licensing agreements with multinational partners.

In 2021, the Industrial Property Protection Directorate, in cooperation with the World Intellectual Property Organization, completed institutional intellectual property policies for Jordanian universities and research institutions where 11 Jordanian universities benefited from this technical support.

Despite improvements in enforcement generally, infringements persist, especially copyright violations of electronic media. In particular, a significant amount of pirated videos, software, and television content remains in the marketplace.

During 2021, the National Library referred 23 cases of copyright violations to the judiciary.

In October 2021, the government enacted a bylaw on Border Measures to Protect Intellectual Property Rights to stipulate the procedures to be followed by customs officials at the border to ensure the protection of IPR. The bylaw allows the right holder of a good to request the competent court to stop clearance procedures and prevent the release of suspected counterfeits.

Jordan was not included in the 2021 Special 301 report. One online market in Jordan was included in the 2021 Notorious Markets Report for streaming pirated television content.

Mr. Peter Mehravari
Intellectual Property Attaché for the Middle East & North Africa
U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi
Tel: +965 97589223
Email:  Peter.Mehravari@trade.gov 

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

Kazakhstan

5. Protection of Property Rights

Secured interests in property (fixed and non-fixed) are recognized under the Civil Code and the Land Code. Agricultural land and certain other natural resources may only be owned or leased by Kazakhstani citizens.

In May 2021, President Tokayev signed into law amendments which prohibit foreigners, persons without citizenship, foreign legal entities and legal entities with foreign participation, international organizations, scientific centers with foreign participation, and repatriated Kazakhs from owning or leasing agricultural lands.

The legal structure for intellectual property rights (IPR) protection is relatively strong; however, enforcement needs further improvement. Kazakhstan is not currently included in the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report. To facilitate its accession to the WTO and attract foreign investment, Kazakhstan continues to improve its legal regime for protecting IPR. The Civil Code and various laws protect U.S. IPR. Kazakhstan has ratified 18 of the 24 treaties endorsed by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO): https://wipolex.wipo.int/en/treaties/ShowResults?country_id=97C 

The Criminal Code sets out punishments for violations of copyright, rights for inventions, useful models, industrial patterns, selected inventions, and integrated circuit topographies. The law authorizes the government to target internet piracy and shut down websites unlawfully sharing copyrighted material, provided that the rights holders had registered their copyrighted material with the IPR Department at the Ministry of Justice. Despite these efforts, the use of pirated software remains high.

Kazakhstan amended its legislation to comply with OECD IPR standards. The law set up a more convenient, one-tier system of IPR registration and provided rights holders the opportunity for pre-trial dispute settlement through the Appeals Council at the Ministry of Justice.

Authorities conduct nationwide campaigns called “Hi-Tech” and “Anti-Fraud” that are aimed at detecting and ceasing IPR infringements and increasing public awareness about IP issues. In 2021, these campaigns resulted in the seizing of 3,500 units of counterfeit goods and closing access to 40 foreign websites selling pirated software. In 2021, the Agency for Financial Monitoring filed 11 criminal cases for IPR violations worth more than $4.2 million.

Foreign companies complain of inadequate IPR protection. Judges, customs officials, and police officers lack IPR expertise, which exacerbates weak IPR enforcement.

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=KZ .

Kenya

5. Protection of Property Rights

The constitution prohibits foreigners or foreign owned firms from owning freehold interest in land in Kenya.  However, unless classified as agricultural, there are no restrictions on foreign-owned companies leasing land or real estate.  The cumbersome and opaque process to acquire land raises concerns about security of title, particularly given past abuses related to the distribution and redistribution of public land.  The Land (Extension and Renewal of Leases) Regulations (2017) prohibited automatic lease renewals and tied renewals to the economic output of the land, requiring renewals to be beneficial to the economy.  If legally purchased property remains unoccupied, the property ownership can revert to other occupiers, including squatters.

The constitution, and subsequent land legislation, created the National Land Commission (NLC), an independent government body mandated to review historical land injustices and provide oversight of government land policy and management.  The creation of the NLC also introduced coordination and jurisdictional confusion between the NLC and the Ministry of Lands.  In 2015, President Kenyatta commissioned the National Titling Center and promised to significantly increase the number of title deeds.  From 2013 to 2018, an additional 4.5 million title deeds have been issued, however 70 percent of land in Kenya remains untitled.  Due to corruption at the NLC, land grabbing, enabled by the issuance of multiple title registrations, remains prevalent.  Ownership of property legally purchased but unoccupied can revert to other parties.

Mortgages and liens exist in Kenya, but the recording system is unreliable – Kenya has only about 27,993 recorded mortgages as of 2019 in a country of 47.6 million people – and there are complaints that property rights and interests are seldom enforced.  The legal infrastructure around land ownership and registration has changed in recent years, and land issues have delayed several major infrastructure projects.  The 2010 Kenyan Constitution required all existing 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, or confiscate the land if it determines the land had not been used productively.  In 2010, 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.  However, the implementation of this amendment remains somewhat ambiguous.  In July 2020, the Ministry of Lands and Physical planning released draft electronic land registration regulations to guide land transactions.

The major intellectual property enforcement issues in Kenya related to counterfeit products are corruption, lack of enforcement of penalties, insufficient investigations and seizures of counterfeit goods, limited cooperation between the private sector and law enforcement agencies, and reluctance of brand owners to file complaints 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 common.  Kenya’s score in the 2021 International Property Rights Index, which assesses intellectual and physical property rights, decreased marginally from 5.0 in 2020 to 4.98 in 2021, though its relative ranking improved, rising from 10 to 8 of 28 countries in Africa, and from 86 to 85 of 129 globally.

The Presidential Task Force on Parastatal Reforms (2013) proposed that the three intellectual property agencies – the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI), the KECOBO and the Anti-Counterfeit Authority (ACA) – be merged into one government-owned entity, the Intellectual Property Office of Kenya.  A task force on the merger, comprising staff from KIPI, ACA, KECOBO, and the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development is drafting the instruments of the merger, including consolidating intellectual property laws, and updating the legal framework and processes.

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 import standardization mark (ISM).  Several categories of imported goods, specifically food products, electronics, and medicines, must have an ISM.  Under this program, U.S. consumer-ready products may enter Kenya without altering the U.S. label but must also have an ISM.  Once the product qualifies for Confirmation of Conformity, KEBS issues the ISMs for free.  KEBS and the Anti-Counterfeit Agency conduct random seizures of counterfeit imports, but do not maintain a clear database of their seizures.

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 intellectual property offices, please see the World Intellectual Property Organization’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/.

Kosovo

5. Protection of Property Rights

Property rights and interests are enforced, but weaknesses in the legal system and difficulties related to establishing title to real estate, in part due to competing claims arising from the history of conflict with Serbia, can make enforcement difficult. Minority communitiesin particular, are frequently unable to fully exercise their property rights. The country’s legal and regulatory framework is complex, but generally, Kosovo’s de jure property-related laws are well structured and provide for security and transferability of rights. In 2018, Kosovo adopted a new Law on the Treatment of Constructions without Permit under which all buildings constructed without a permit prior to 2018 are subject to legalization and formalization through registration in the Cadaster and Immovable Property Rights Registry, thereby protecting individual property rights and unlocking this capital for circulation in the formal economy and bringing all real property into the property tax system.

The jurisdictions of government ministries, municipal authorities, and independent agencies often overlap, and the court system is backlogged with property-related cases. Mortgages and liens are available, but the range of financial products is 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 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 related to the 1998-1999 conflict and post-conflict period. 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 limits 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 comparing the cadastral records with the records taken by Serbia and resolving any gaps, predicated on Serbia returning the cadastral records to Kosovo. The KPCVA is charged with carrying out the task of property comparison and verification.

In February 2022, the Kosovo Assembly approved the Law on Property Rights of Foreign Citizens in the Republic of Kosovo, which establishes the principle of reciprocity and restricts ownership rights of a foreign national only in cases where the origin country of those foreign nationals restricts ownership rights to Kosovo nationals. 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.

Registration of intellectual property rights (IPR) in Kosovo conforms with regional and international practices. The trademark registration process takes approximately nine months, while patent approval takes about 18 months.

Public awareness of the importance of IPR is low. 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.

The Ministry of Industry, Entrepreneurship and Trade established the Industrial Property Rights Office (IPO) in 2007, which is tasked with IPR protection. Kosovo’s IPR laws were amended in 2015 to align with EU standards and strengthen legal remedies for right holders. Kosovo’s 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 and comply with related international conventions, even though Kosovo is not party to the associated international organizations. Examples of these conventions include the Paris Convention, the Budapest Treaty, the Madrid Protocol, and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). In 2018, the Assembly approved the Law on Customs Measures for Protection of Intellectual Property Rights to harmonize Kosovo law with EU regulations.

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 Crime and Corruption and Cyber Crimes, the Market Inspectorate, and the Ministry of Justice. The Council also includes the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council, judicial courts, and other government and non-governmental institutions.

Kosovo is not included in the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR’s) 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

Non-GCC citizens may own properties only under special conditions that require Cabinet approval.

Kuwait was removed from USTR’s Special 301 Watch List in 2022 for making continued and significant progress on concerns that stakeholders identified with IP enforcement and transparency. 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. In 2019, Kuwait passed the Copyright and Related Rights Law and related Implementing Regulations. In 2021, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Copyright Office each created online portals for streamlining the submission of trademark and copyright violation reports, respectively.

Right holders continue to raise concerns regarding the lack of transparency of administrative and criminal enforcement proceedings.  The government did not prioritize the prosecution of criminal behavior in such cases nor reduce the undue delays in the judicial process. Kuwait does not publicly report statistics on seizures of counterfeit goods, but IPR authorities have increased public outreach and awareness building over the past year.

The following descriptions characterize the protection of IPR in Kuwait:

Legal Structure: strong; Kuwait’s 2019 Copyright Law addressed serious concerns about Kuwait’s intellectual property protection regime. IPR legislation is adequate.

Enforcement: medium; The Kuwait Ministry of Commerce and Industry has made significant progress over the past year in improving enforcement of IPR laws. The Ministry reported that it cited 327 shops in 2021 for selling counterfeits and ordered the closure of 80 of these violating businesses. The Ministry is improving its collaboration with Kuwait’s judicial authorities to increase successful prosecution of IP violations.

Infringement on rights: common; Counterfeit items are widely available and often sold in plain sight. However, increased and improved enforcement of IPR laws is having a visible impact on businesses’ ability to market counterfeit goods.

Theft: uncommon; intellectual property theft is rare, principally because Kuwait’s technology, manufacturing, and research sectors are relatively small.

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/. 

Mr. Peter Mehravari
Intellectual Property Attaché for the Middle East & North Africa
U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi
Tel: +965 97589223
Email:  Peter.Mehravari@trade.gov

Embassy list of local lawyers:  https://kw.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/

Kyrgyz Republic

5. Protection of Property Rights

Inviolability of property rights is written in the Kyrgyz Constitution and the Civil Code. Mortgages and liens are common in the Kyrgyz Republic and operate according to relevant legislation. The State Registration Service is the major operator of a recording system (database) on property under mortgage/lien commitments. When providing mortgages, local banks must request a reference from the State Registration Service that confirms the property is not under lien.  However, several have questioned the reliability of the recording system, and the Service itself is frequently subject to allegations of corruption.

There are a number of legal restrictions on the right of foreign persons to own land in the Kyrgyz Republic. The land rights of foreign persons are limited to the following:

  • Foreign persons may not own or use agricultural land.
  • Foreign persons may not own or use any land except residential land, which has been foreclosed under a mortgage loan agreement in accordance with Kyrgyz Pledge Law. Foreclosed agricultural land may belong to foreign banks and specialized financial institutions but only for the period of two years (http://cbd.minjust.gov.kg/act/view/ru-ru/386).
  • Foreign persons may use non-residential land transferred thereto by way of universal succession, except agricultural and mining use land, subject to permission of the Kyrgyz Government, for the period of up to 50 years.
  • Foreign persons who have acquired ownership of land by way of universal succession (inheritance, reorganization) must transfer such land to a Kyrgyz national or legal entity within one year from the date of acquiring such ownership.

All land related issues are covered by the Land Code. The Land Code provides a description of all land types and how each type is transferred, sold, or leased. The Land Code states that all land either belongs to the state, municipality, or private owner. Article 7 describes the duration of ownership for each land type. The Government sells “untitled” territories through open bidding only if the land plot does not have a direct licensed owner. The Land Code is currently being revised by a special Commission that consists of 13 government bodies.

The Kyrgyz Republic has robust legislation protecting intellectual property (IP) and the country is a signatory to several IP related international treaties; enforcement remains problematic. The State Service for Intellectual Property and Innovation under the Cabinet of Ministers of the Kyrgyz Republic (“Kyrgyzpatent”) is the authorized body of the Executive Branch that issues documents to certify intellectual property. Kyrgyzpatent establishes the Appeal Council that is the primary body to hear intellectual property related disputes. The judicial system remains underdeveloped and lacks independence and the appeals process can be lengthy.

The Kyrgyz Republic is obligated to protect intellectual property rights as a member of the WTO. The Kyrgyz Republic acceded to both the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty in 2002. The Kyrgyz Republic was not included in the 2022 Special 301 report but was listed on the 2021 U.S. Trade Representative’s Notorious Markets report, due to the availability of counterfeit goods sold at the massive Dordoi bazaar – Central Asia’s largest market. Counterfeit goods imported from China are also re-exported to Russia and Kazakhstan. No specific action has been taken against Dordoi market. The Kyrgyz Republic did not pass any new IPR related laws or regulations in 2021.

IPR-related codes, laws and regulations of the Kyrgyz Republic are listed on Kyrgyzpatent’s website. The few pending IPR bills listed on the Parliament’s website are mainly aimed to make minor changes into the existing governmental IPR-related decrees (http://patent.kg/ru/sample-page-5-4/sample-page-2-2-3/). Criminal liability for violation of IPR is listed in the Criminal Code. Unfortunately, enforcement is lax and according to sources, there have been no successful prosecution for IPR violations in the history of the Kyrgyz Republic. The Kyrgyz Republic is not known as a major producer of counterfeit goods but sale/re-export of imported counterfeit goods remains prevalent. The State Customs Service regularly publishes alerts and notifications on the recent seizure of counterfeit goods on its official website. There is no central database of official statistics on the seizure of counterfeit goods to date.  KADI has dedicated a segment of its website to IPR.

Laos

5. Protection of Property Rights

In 2020, the government published the revised Law on Land, which is available at https://www.laoofficialgazette.gov.la/index.php?r=site/index . While restriction on the ownership rights of foreigners towards land remains unchanged, the revised law allows immovable properties to be owned and invested in by foreign nationals. This significant change in the regulatory framework is expected to accelerate development of the Lao PDR’s real estate sector. Laos hopes for an inflow of investment and foreigners as a result of the Lao-China railway which opened in December 2021.

Apart from the Land Law, 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 for the ownership of leases, the right to transfer leases, and to improve leasehold interests. Government approval is not required to transfer property interests, but the transfer must be registered, and a registration fee paid. According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, Laos ranked 88th out of 190 countries in terms of registering property in 2020.

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’s office. 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 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 for IPR protection 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, trademarks, Geographic Indicators, and Plant Varieties at https://dip.gov.la . Interested individuals can use the portal to complete the application forms online. The portal officially launched in February 2019. Additionally, the USAID LUNA II project provided technical support to the Lao government in amending the Law on Intellectual Property.

The government announced the dissolution of the Ministry of Science and Technology in February 2021. Consequently, the MOIC is now responsible for the issuance of patents, copyrights, and trademarks. There is insufficient understanding of the copyright principles among the general public. The MOIC has recently assigned administrative duties to relevant agencies attempting to ensure intellectual property rights are respected by individuals and businesses. 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.

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

Latvia recognizes the full spectrum of property rights, including mortgages and liens. Latvia does not have significant problems with unclear legal titles. More information: http://www.globalpropertyguide.com/Europe/Latvia/Buying-Guide .

To harmonize its legislation with EU and WTO requirements, Latvia has established a legal framework for the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), 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 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, pirated copies be destroyed, and that violators compensate them for losses (including lost profits). The criminal law stipulates penalties for copyright violations.

The United States has signed a Trade and Intellectual Property Rights Agreement with Latvia. Latvia is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and party to the Paris Convention, the Berne Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the WIPO Copyright Treaty, the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, and the Geneva Phonograms Convention. In addition, the Latvian government has amended all relevant laws and regulations to comply with the requirements of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to which Latvia acceded by joining the WTO.

The business community has occasionally raised concerns regarding the enforcement of IPR in Latvia. Digital piracy is still a concern in Latvia, as it is in much of Eastern and Central Europe. Latvian law enforcement authorities have the authority to investigate IPR infringement cases. The Government of Latvia is working to tackle online/digital piracy, and has drafted respective policy guidelines: https://www.iem.gov.lv/en/article/tackle-copyright-infringements-digital-environment-more-effectively . 

Every year, the European Commission publishes a report describing the customs detentions of articles suspected of infringing IPR. 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 included in the Notorious Market List.

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

Clare Zimmerman
Economic Officer, U.S. Embassy Riga, Latvia
+371 67107000
ZimmermanCN@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. Ilona Petersone
Director of Copyright Division, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia
+371 6733-0240
Ilona.Petersone@km.gov.lv 

Contact at Industrial Property Offices
Mr. Agris Batalauskis
Director of the Patent Office of the Republic of Latvia
+371 670 99 600
valde@lrpv.lv 

Lebanon

5. Protection of Property Rights

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 twenty 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.

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 Ministry of Economy and Trade’s (MOET) Intellectual Property Protection Office (IPPO) has led efforts to improve the IPR regime but suffers from limited financial and human resources, 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 (as well as key IPR treaties) aimed at improving the IPR environment, notably for industrial design, trademark, geographical indications, as well as amendments to the copyright law, await approval from both Lebanon’s Cabinet and Parliament. During the past year, Lebanon did not enact any new IP related laws or legislation. Lebanon does not track nor report on seizures of counterfeit goods.

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 trademarks on https://portal.economy.gov.lb/ . This service simplified the registration process and registrations of trademarks now 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 was removed from the Special 301 Watch List in 2022 as rights holders did not raised significant concerns about IP protection or enforcement during the review process.

Mr. Peter MehravariIntellectual Property Attaché for the Middle East & North AfricaU.S. Embassy Abu DhabiTel: +965 97589223Email:  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/ .

Lesotho

5. Protection of Property Rights

The right to private property is protected under the law.  Property rights and interests are enforced, and owners of property enjoy protection under the Lesotho Constitution of 1993. 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. Foreign Investors are eligible to hold rights under sublease agreements, which should not exceed duration of parent land leases being 90 years for residential leases, 60 years for commercial leases and 30 years for petroleum products respectively (section 32 of the Land Act).

Secured interests in property, both movable and real, are recognized and enforced under the Land Act of 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.

Land titles (leases) as well as secondary land transactions can be enforced in the Land Courts, Magistrate Courts, and the High Court.  For more information, please visit  www.laa.org.ls  

Through the support of the U.S. 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. The Land Administration Authority (LAA) has commenced preparations to implement a digital platform whereby, customers would be able to apply for land leases and register deeds online. This new system would help issue leases within three weeks as opposed to a period of over 12 months current turn around. The initiative is expected to improve Lesotho’s investment environment.

Legal structures to protect intellectual property rights (IPR) in Lesotho are relatively strong.  Investors complain that enforcement is somewhat weak, but 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 and Berne Conventions, respectively.  The laws protect patents, industrial designs, trademarks, and grants of copyright, but they do not protect trade secrets or semiconductor 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).

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/  

Liberia

5. Protection of Property Rights

Liberian law protects property rights and interests, but with weak enforcement mechanisms. “Long term” mortgages or construction loans of up to 10 years are only available through the  Liberia Bank for Development and Investment.   Only Liberians may own land, with the limited exception provided in Article 22(c) of the Constitution that non-citizen missionary, educational, and other benevolent institutions shall have the right to own property, if that property is used for the purposes for which acquired. Property no longer so used reverts to the Government of Liberia.

Other foreigners and non-resident investors may acquire land on leases, which ordinarily run for 25 to 50 years.  Liberian law provides for no official waiver mechanisms for limitations on foreign land ownership.

The Liberia Land Authority (LLA) , a one-stop-shop for all land-related matters, is working with international partners, including USAID, to implement strategic and targeted programs aimed at resolving critical land issues. Although the LLA encourages property owners to identify and register land titles, it does not have systemic enforcement programs.  The LLA estimates that less than 25 percent of the country’s total land is formally registered. Conflicting land ownership records are common. Investors sometimes experience costly and complex land dispute issues, even after concluding agreements with the government.

The Land Rights Act, enacted in 2018, was designed to resolve historical land disputes that have caused conflict and communal strife in the past. The Act defines four categories of land ownership as follows:

Public land, which is owned, but currently not used by the government

Government land, which is used by government agencies (for office buildings or other purposes)

Customary land, on which the livelihoods of most rural communities depend

Private land owned by private citizens.

Public awareness of the Land Rights Act is growing, but still limited.

See Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment, above, for further information, including implementation of the Land Rights Act. See, also: https://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/exploreeconomies/liberia#DB_rp     .

Foreign companies seeking to lease land may lease privately or publicly held land. Frequently, foreign companies seeking to acquire land leases do so through direct negotiations with landlords or owners.

Liberia has a weak legal structure and regulatory environment for enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). The Liberia Intellectual Property Act covers domain names, traditional knowledge, transfer of technology, patents, and copyrights.  The Liberia Intellectual Property Office (LIPO)  operates as a semi-autonomous agency under the oversight of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. LIPO, however, lacks the technical and financial capacity to address infringements of intellectual property rights.

The Copyright Society of Liberia (COSOL)  collaborates with the MOCI and LIPO to develop legal and international frameworks to guide the collection and distribution of royalties. In February 2021, LIPO and COSOL rolled out nationwide public awareness and inspection campaigns to remove pirated copyright materials from the Liberian market. In October 2021, during a meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the government recommitted to global efforts to protect and promote intellectual property rights.

There is no system to track and report on seizures of counterfeit goods. The government rarely prosecutes intellectual property violations. Many Liberians are unfamiliar with intellectual property rights, and intellectual property infringement is common, 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 or the Notorious Markets List.

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

Libya

5. Protection of Property Rights

Libyan property rights are complicated by past government policy actions and a weak regulatory environment. The Libyan government eliminated all private property rights in March 1978 and eliminated most private businesses later in the same year. The renting of property was illegal, and ownership of property was limited to a single dwelling per family, with all other properties being redistributed. Reduced rate “mortgages” were paid directly to the Libyan government, but many Libyans were exempted from these payments based on family income. This process, and destruction of official documents that followed several years later, has served to greatly complicate any subsequent effort to prove clear title to property throughout Libya. Post-revolutionary governments have made little progress on improving the situation. As a consequence of the ambiguity of property ownership, banks are reluctant to take property as collateral for loans until property disputes are resolved. Libya is tied for last place for ease of registering property in most recent edition of the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ index.

Article 1286 of the 2010 Commercial Code covers a set of rules which seek to protect intellectual innovations and the non-material aspects of industrial and commercial projects. It prohibits infringement of trademarks and transgression on registered trade names and logos; bans all acts of forgery, trademark or local counterfeiting, and all forms of intellectual property violations; and outlines the nature of financial and criminal procedures against those violations. The law provides for enforcement of the rules regulating registered industrial designs and models as well as information systems. Some additional laws providing protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) have been passed, such as Law No. 7 of 1984 and Law No. 8 of 1959 on patents, commercial designs, and models. The trademark office in the Ministry of Economy is responsible for enforcing the law of consumer and intellectual property protection, but trademark violations are widespread, especially in the retail sector, and enforcement generally requires a specific legal claim. U.S. brands remain vulnerable to such activity.

While Libya is in the process of applying for entry to the WTO, it is not currently a member, and thus is not a party to TRIPS (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights). The IMF has asked Libya to bring its IPR regime in line with international best practice.

Resources for Intellectual Property Rights Holders:

Peter Mehravari
Patent Attorney
Intellectual Property Attaché for the Middle East & North Africa
U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi | U.S. Department of Commerce U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
Tel: +965 2259 1455 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/  

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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Foreign investors may defend their rights under the Washington Convention of 1965 by
  • 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.

Lithuania has significantly improved its intellectual property rights (IPR) protection in recent years, and members of the innovation community report that IPR infringement and theft is infrequent. Lithuania joined the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 2002 and is 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. Lithuania joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 and so is party to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Following EU accession, Lithuania extended protection to member states’ trademarks and designs. Lithuania brought its national law protecting biological inventions into compliance with EU Directive 98/44 in June 2005.

In 2008, Lithuania was removed from USTR’s Special 301 Watch List and is not currently included in the Notorious Markets List.

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/ .

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

Secured interests in property in Luxembourg, both movable and real, are recognized and enforced through intellectual property rights (IPR) 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 iIPR, as well as adequate protection for patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets.

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).

Trademarks, designs, patents, and copyrights are the principal forms of intellectual property rights (IPR) available to companies and individuals. Luxembourg has been proactive in developing its IPR standards and participates in all the major IPR treaties and conventions, including:

  • Berne 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 a member state of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Adequate steps have also been taken to implement and enforce the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The regulation stipulating the measures to prohibit the release for free circulation, export, re-export, or entry for the suspension of counterfeit and pirated goods states that the competent authority to receive applications must be a customs authority. In Luxembourg, this is the Litigation and Research Department (Division des Contentieux et Recherches) of the Directorate of Customs and Excise (Direction des Douanes et Accises). 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 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 few provisions within the agreement deal with different IPR and allow for the possibility of confiscating, or even destroying, counterfeit goods and the tools or implements used for their production.

The Luxembourg customs authorities may impose measures 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 IPR, ordinary law applies.

In an effort to become the prime location for Europe’s knowledge-based and digital economy, Luxembourg implemented a new IPR tax regime in 2008, providing for a very competitive tax rate (first 8%, then down to 3%) applicable to a broad range of IPR income generated by taxpayers. However, due to pressure from the EU Commission in Brussels to disallow specific member state fiscal advantages, the IPR fiscal regime in Luxembourg was no longer offered as of 2016, and assets are now subject to the standard VAT rate of 17%.

In March 2018, the Luxembourg Government voted to approve the legislative measures necessary to bring Luxembourg’s new IPR regime into force with effect from January 1, 2018. The new regime is fully consistent with all recommendations made by the OECD’s Forum on Harmful Tax Practices, including those set out in the OECD/G20 BEPS Project Action 5 Final Report published in October 2015.

Under the new regime, eligible net income from qualifying IPR assets benefits from an 80% exemption from income taxes. Consequently, a corporate taxpayer based in Luxembourg City with eligible net income was taxed on such income at an overall (i.e., corporate income taxes plus municipal business tax) effective tax rate of 5.202% in the 2018 tax year.

IPR assets qualifying for the new regime also benefit from a full exemption from Luxembourg’s net wealth tax. Luxembourg is not included in the USTR’s 2021 Special 301 Report or 2020 Notorious Markets List.

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

Macau

5. Protection of Property Rights

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.

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 ETDB 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 2021, Macau Customs seized a total of 6,369 pieces of counterfeit goods, including 4,549 garments, 496 watches, and 721 containers of illicit alcohol. In 2021, the ETDB filed a total of 14,743 applications for trademark registrations.

Malawi

5. Protection of Property Rights

The government utilizes various laws and regulations to govern the acquisition, disposition, recording, and protection of all physical property rights. The land ownership registry is centralized, and record keeping is inefficient and often inaccurate. Efforts are underway to computerize and decentralize recordkeeping. Financing options in the housing sector are extremely limited. Most households finance their homes through savings or non-mortgage credit. Mortgage availability is inefficient to meet demand and interest rates generally start at 18 percent and go up.

The Land Act of 2016 converted customary land tenure to leasehold title to enable those currently using that land to have legal rights to it. The 2016 law prohibits freehold title; renewable lease terms for Malawians is up to 99 years and up to 50 years for foreigners. The Act prohibits the issuance of new freehold titles but grandfathered in existing land titles. The Office of Commissioner of Lands administers and manages land issues, grants, leases, and other dispositions. There is no reliable data on the proportion of land without clear titles, but it is likely much higher than 10%. Under the 2016 Act, land may be repossessed by the government if it lays idle for more than two years after it is registered to an individual or entity. No land has been repossessed from a developer the recent past. The 2022 session of Parliament is expected to review proposed changes to the 2016 Act. If passed, the reforms may negatively affect foreign ownership of land and investments in land-based enterprises while increasing ministerial powers to determine land uses.

Malawi recognizes the importance of intellectual property protection but lacks enforcement capacity. The Registrar General administers the Patent and Trademarks Act, which protects industrial intellectual property rights (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. General awareness of importance of protecting intellectual property in all forms has improved. The Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA) administers the Copyright Act of 2016, which protects copyrights and “neighboring” rights in Malawi.

The government approved copyright regulations and levies on storage devices in 2018. COSOMA and the Malawi Revenue Authority introduced a five percent levy on all media storage devices to be used to compensate rights holders. The Trademarks Act of 2018 and National Intellectual Property Policy of 2019 acknowledge the challenges to intellectual property rights in Malawi and provide a framework to foster the generation and protection of intellectual property rights. Enforcement officials routinely seize counterfeit goods, but there is no systematic approach to track and report on seizures, so statistics are not available. Malawi is not listed on USTR’s Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List. For additional information about national laws and points of contact for local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/. 

Maldives

5. Protection of Property Rights

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) and the Tourism Act (2/99).  Foreign parties cannot own land but can lease land for periods no longer than 99 years for business activity under the remaining regimes.

Although the government has an intellectual property unit within the Ministry of Economic Development, it is not active.  The government has not yet signed international agreements or conventions on intellectual property rights. A Trademarks Bill is in the legislative agenda for 2022 and Ministry of Economic Development is in the final stages of drafting process of the bill which is planned to be submitted to Parliament during the first parliamentary session of 2022.

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

Property rights are protected under Malian law. Ownership of property is defined by the use, the profitability, and the ability of the owner to sell or donate the property.

The government established the Malian Center for the Promotion of Industrial Property to implement property rights protection laws, including the WTO TRIPS (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) agreement. The Malian Center for the Promotion of Industrial Property is a member of the African Property Rights Organization and works with international agencies recognized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization. Patents, copyrights, and trademarks are covered under property rights protection laws. These structures notwithstanding, property rights are not always adequately protected in practice.

Mali’s National Land Agency (Direction Nationale des Domaines et du Cadastre or DNDC) is in charge of the land administration. In October 2021, Mali amended the land code to simplify the process of delivering land titles. The new code creates a one-stop-shop to handle land procedures. It reinforces traditional land rights (le droit coutumier) and enables the Minister of Land to cancel the attribution or confiscation of public properties. The new code considers the land title (le titre foncier), which gives full property ownership, as the unique property title. It also empowers the Ministry of Agriculture to deliver farming rights to rural agricultural communities. It clarifies the role of different offices in the management of lands affairs. All non-registered land belongs to the state. Various government officials, including prefects, governors, or subprefects, are no longer empowered to grant land ownership status. Mali is building a nationwide land registry to reduce competing claims for land.

Mali is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Mali has ratified a number of international treaties related to intellectual property rights (IPR). There are two primary agencies involved with the protection of IPR in Mali: the Malian Office of the Rights of the Author (Bureau Malien du Droit d’Auteur or BUMDA) and the Malian Center for the Promotion of Intellectual Property (Centre Malien de Promotion de la Propriété Industrielle or CEMAPI). CEMAPI is the primary agency for patents and for industrial property rights violation claims, while BUMDA covers artistic and cultural works. In addition to registering copyrights, BUMDA conducts random searches during which it seizes and destroys counterfeit products. Mali’s Agency for the Sanitary Security of Foods, the National Directorate of Agriculture, and the National Directorate for Commerce and Competition are also charged with enforcing laws related to fair trade, fair competition, and IPR.

In general, however, the government has limited capacity to combat IPR violations or to seize counterfeit goods. 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. Many CDs, movies, and books are reported to be pirated. Several companies have noted children are often involved in selling counterfeit products such as clothes, CDs, and books. In the past, counterfeit products were typically imported from foreign cities, including Guangzhou and Dubai. However, BUMDA has reported counterfeit products increasingly originate in Mali and Nigeria.

Mali 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/. 

Malta

5. Protection of Property Rights

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 funds, which 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 for investment within the EU. Investors typically use this system over the securitization of property.

The Maltese legal system adequately protects and facilitates acquisition and disposition of intellectual property rights. In 2000, Malta implemented the pertinent provisions of the WTO 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/trade/policy/accessing-markets/intellectual-property/ 

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 nor in the USTR’s Notorious Market Report. 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, European Funds and Lands is responsible for intellectual property-related issues.

The Malta Customs Intellectual Property Rights Unit – Enforcement Directorate operates in terms of the Intellectual Property Rights cross- border European measures. Given Malta’s strategic position in the Mediterranean Sea shipping routes, Malta Customs has a significant role and requires the office to inspect the transit/transshipment cargo at Malta Freeport terminal. Over the past years, Malta Customs major detentions of counterfeited goods were destined to the Northern African countries originating from Asia. Customs have detained millions of counterfeit goods that include cigarettes, sport shoes, sportswear, toothpaste, shampoos, deodorants, clothing accessories, and garments. Since Malta joined the EU, Malta Customs statistical recordings of counterfeit goods detentions have been among the highest recorded at an EU level. Annual statistics can be found at the following link:

https://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/customs-4/prohibitions-and-restrictions/counterfeit-piracy-and-other-ipr-violations/intellectual-property-rights-facts-and-figures_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/ .

Commerce Department, Lascaris Bastion, Valletta, VLT 1933, Malta
Tel: +356 2122 6688
Email: commerce@gov.mt 
Website: http://commerce.gov.mt/en/Pages/Contact-Details.aspx 

Mauritania

5. Protection of Property Rights

Property rights are protected under the Mauritanian Civil Code, which is modeled on the French code. 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 titling and tenure issues in southern Mauritania, particularly the area along the Senegal River, are the subject of much controversy. 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. For instance, in early 2021, there was a case of an alleged land grab by local authorities in the villages of Mbagne and Ferala in southern Mauritania. The land was designated for a World Bank project but following regional protests, over ownership of the property, the World Bank withdrew. The World Bank placed the project on hold until the issue between the community and the government is resolved.

The Ministry of Housing continues to digitize land licenses to provide more transparent land allocation. All information regarding the property titles is available at the Land Registry Agency housed at the Ministry of Housing, 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 need to have their notarized sale agreement along with the title certificate. There remains a large percentage (over 10 percent) of available owned land without a clear title. Even if property is legally purchased, there is always the possibility that the property is occupied by squatters.

The legal protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) remains a relatively new concept in Mauritania. 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, oversees 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) 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/ 

The government is favorable to portfolio investment. Private entities, whether foreign or national, have the right to freely establish, acquire, own, and/or dispose of interests in business enterprises and receive legal remuneration. Privatization and liberalization programs have also helped put private enterprises on an equal footing with respect to access to markets and credit. In principle, government policies encourage the free flow of financial resources and do not place restrictions on access by foreign investors. Most foreign investors, however, prefer external financing due to the high interest rates and procedural complexities that prevail locally. Credit is often difficult to obtain due to a lax legal system to enforce regulations that build trust and guarantee credit return. There are no legal or policy restrictions on converting or transferring funds associated with investments. Investors are guaranteed the free transfer of convertible currencies at the legal market rate, subject to availability. Similarly, foreigners working in Mauritania are guaranteed the prompt transfer of their professional salaries.

Commercial bank loans are virtually the only type of credit instrument. There is no stock market or other public trading of shares in Mauritanian companies. Currently, individual proprietors, family groups, and partnerships generally hold companies and portfolio investments.

The IMF has assisted Mauritania with the stabilization of the banking sector and as a result, access to domestic credit has become easier and cheaper. A proliferation of banks has fostered competition that has contributed to the decline in interest rates from 30 percent in 2000 to 10 percent in 2018, to 6.5 percent in 2020, to an annual 5 percent as part of the Central Bank of Mauritania’s (CBM) measures to countering the effects of the global pandemic. This interest rate does not include origination costs and other fees.

Nevertheless, the banking system remains fragile due to liquidity constraints in the financial markets. The country’s five largest banks are estimated to have USD 100 million in combined reserves; however, these figures cannot be independently verified, making an evaluation of the banking system’s strength impossible. As of April 2020, 25 banks, national and foreign, operate in Mauritania, even though only 15 percent of the population hold bank accounts.

The Central Bank of Mauritania oversees regulating the Mauritanian banking industry, and the Central Bank has made reforms to streamline the financial sector’s compliance with international standards. The Central Bank performs yearly audits of Mauritanian banks. There are no restrictions enforced on foreigners who wish to obtain an individual or business banking account.

In 2018, the Central Bank of Mauritania lost all correspondent banking relationships with banks in the United States due to de-risking policies enforced by U.S. banks. The Central Bank subsequently was able to reestablish a correspondent banking relationship in 2019; however, there are still no private Mauritanian banks that have been able to do the same. Local branches of international banks (such as France’s Société Générale or Morocco’s Attijari) do maintain correspondent banking relationships with U.S. banks and are able to clear transactions in USD.

The Central Bank administers the National Fund for Hydrocarbon Reserves, a sovereign wealth fund (SWF), which was established in 2006. The SWF is funded from the revenues received from the extraction of oil, any royalties, and corporate taxes from oil companies, and from the profits made through the fund’s investment activities. The fund’s mandate is to create macroeconomic stability by setting aside oil revenues for developmental projects. However, the management of the SWF lacks transparency and the projected revenue streams remain unrealized.

SOEs and the parastatal sector in Mauritania represent important drivers of the economy. They have an impact on employment, service delivery, and most importantly fiscal reserves given their importance to the economy and the state budget. In 2020 parastatal companies and SOEs experienced significant business and financial problems in the form of increasing levels of debt, operational losses, and payment delays because of the COVID pandemic. This increase in fiscal reserve risk led the government to provide subsidies to SOEs.

Hard budget constraints for SOEs are written into the Public Procurement Code but are not enforced. SOMELEC, the state-owned electricity company, has been operating in a precarious financial situation for many years. In principle, larger wholly government-owned enterprises are operated on a commercial basis. Nevertheless, many have operated at a loss since the 1970s and failed to provide the services for which they were responsible.

Most state-owned enterprises in Mauritania have independent boards of directors. Most board members are usually appointed based on political affiliations.

The Mauritanian government is putting a strong emphasis on liberalizing the trade and foreign investment frameworks and privatizing SOEs. While the GIRM has worked through its various economic reform program to privatize SOEs, (several SOEs remain, (most importantly the State Industrial and Mining Company (SNIM), the State Electricity Company (SOMELEC), the State Water Distribution Company (SNDE) and the National Airlines (Mauritania Airlines). The remaining SOEs are active in a wide range of sectors including energy, network utilities, mining, petroleum, telecommunications, transportation, commerce, and fisheries. Parastatal and wholly owned SOEs remain the major employers in the country. This includes the SNIM, which is by far the largest Mauritanian enterprise and second largest employer in the country after the government.

The publicly available financial information on parastatal and wholly owned SOEs is incomplete and outdated, except for budget transfers. There is no publication of the expenditures SOEs allocate to research and development. In addition, they execute the largest portion of government contracts, receiving preference over the private sector. According to the Public Procurement Code, there are no formal barriers to competition with SOEs. However, informal barriers such as denial of access to credit and/or land exist.

Post is not aware of any privatization programs during the reporting period.

Historically, corporate social responsibility in Mauritania is not a widespread practice. However, this is changing as more foreign-owned companies enter the Mauritanian market. Certain state-run industries have provided basic educational and training opportunities for the children of their employees and/or scholarships for their employees to study abroad, but this is usually the extent of social responsibility initiatives. Companies in the mining and hydrocarbon industries send young Mauritanians overseas to complete their studies on scholarship programs; many of the scholarship recipients have family ties to powerful individuals in the companies. The larger fishing companies have recently started to provide more opportunities for qualified youth to study at the fishing and naval training school in Nouadhibou to prepare them for careers in the fishing industry. Current projects by foreign-owned companies include providing free water to local communities; building vocational training centers, health clinics, and roadways; and providing healthcare equipment and medicines to towns near company operations.

Since 2011, three of Mauritania’s largest mining companies—Kinross, Mauritanian Copper Mines (MCM), and SNIM—funded a School of Mining with the goal of increasing the number of qualified Mauritanians to serve in the mining industry. The school has a partnership with the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal and with the mining companies. The school is considered a public entity under the Ministry of Petroleum, Mines, and Energy. In 2017, Kosmos Energy provided financial support to Diawling National Park in the south of the country, and in 2018, launched the Kosmos Innovation Center in Mauritania to invest in youth entrepreneurs and small business who have big ideas with the goal of contributing to the overall economic growth of Mauritania. In addition to Kosmos, companies such as BP and other international oil companies now operating in Mauritania are likewise increasing corporate social responsibility programs.

Department of State

Department of the Treasury

Department of Labor

Mauritania submitted its updated National Determined Contribution (NDC) in October 2021 primarily focusing on increasing Mauritania’s resilience to climate change through the promotion of low carbon growth, while increasing adaption for low lying coastal areas, upgrading infrastructure, and strengthening the country’s food security position.

Highlights from the NDC

Mauritania raised its climate ambition with a new target to cut greenhouse (GHG) emissions by 11% in 2030.

With more substantial support, Mauritania could ensure carbon neutrality and potentially reach a 92% reduction of its greenhouse gas emissions.

As well as increased mitigation targets, Mauritania enhanced the adaptation component of its NDC, including the creation of green jobs.

The NDC is intended to serve as a framework for consultation and dialogue to design transformative resilience programs that meet the needs of the populations and ecosystems affected climate change.

Mauritania’s NDC is based on the sectoral development programs and the strategic framework for the fight against poverty. These have the overall objective of contributing to development that is low-carbon and resilient to the impacts of climate change.

The NDC provides that at the request of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MEDD in French), each Ministry has a designated ‘Sectoral Focus Point’ in charge of climate change for its sector. Mauritania has thus developed a network of Sectoral Focus Points within ministerial departments to improve implementation of the objectives of the Convention.

Mauritania launched its National Adaption Plan (NAP) process in April 2019 with a two-day capacity building workshop led by the MEDD. The NAP is a three-year plan supported by $2.6 million from the United Nation’s Green Climate Fund (GCF). This UN contribution will provide technical support to advance climate science, ecosystem-based adaption, environmental economics, and integrated adaption strategies in Mauritania.

Mauritania’s NAP aims to strengthen the country’s technical and institutional capacities to better manage climate change adaptation planning. The NAP will improve quality and access to climate change data and enhance the monitoring and evaluation of adaptation planning at the national and local levels. According to the NAP-Global Support Programme (NAP-GSP), climate change is exacerbating desertification and loss of biodiversity in Mauritania. These trends are expected to worsen in the future based on current climate projections. The NAP supports Mauritania’s commitments to the Paris Agreement by addressing the adaptation component of Mauritania’s NDC to the UNFCCC.

Mauritania recognizes its vulnerability to climate change and has made some progress to increase its climate resilience. As mentioned above, Mauritania is a member of multiple

multilateral environmental agreements, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (1994), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD) (1996) and has signed onto several Protocols and sub-agreements, such as the Kyoto, Nagoya and Montreal Protocols and the Paris Agreement. Nationally, at the policy level, the country’s 2011-2016 planning framework (CSLPII, 2011-2016) included a vision on climate change with a plan of action considering the risks of climate change and a monitoring system (SEPANE 2).

More recently, the Sector Environment and Sustainable Development Strategy, 2017-2021 (SNEDD) provides a strategic background for integrating environmental, climate change and sustainable development goals into other sectoral policy frameworks. The country’s National Development Strategy (SCAPP 2016 – 2030, adopted in 2018) guides this integration with more focus on the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC, 2015). Specifically, Mauritania has also developed a National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) (2004). In September 2015, Mauritania submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) for the Paris Climate Agreement.

Since taking office in August 2019, President Ghazouani has made fighting corruption one of the cornerstones of his administration. In October 2019, the Court of Accounts published a detailed audit report covering fiscal years 2007 through 2017. The report highlighted lack of transparency in government tenders, weakness in public finances management, and provided credible recommendations. Based on the audit report findings, a parliamentarian committee was set up to further investigate four major government infrastructure and fisheries projects that were awarded to Chinese companies. The judiciary system moved forward with the investigation during the 2021 reporting period. On March 11, 2021, former President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and 14 other suspects were charged for mismanagement of State property and resources, bribery, illicit enrichment, and money laundering. Aziz and the 14 other suspects were placed under judicial supervision (i.e. house arrest). In June 2021, after violating the terms of his house arrest, the investigative judge decided to send Aziz to pre-trial detention at the Nouakchott police academy.

Tax evasion and corruption have deprived the government of a significant source of revenue, weakening its capacity to provide necessary services. In 2009, the government passed a law requiring all high-ranking government employees to publicly declare their assets, although this law is not enforced.

Corruption is an obstacle to foreign direct investment in Mauritania, but firms generally rate access to credit, an underdeveloped infrastructure, and a lack of skilled labor as even greater impediments. Corruption is most pervasive in government procurement, bank loans, fishing license attribution, land distribution, access to port facilities and tax payments. Giving or accepting a bribe is a criminal act punishable by two to 10 years imprisonment and fines up to USD 700, but there is little application of this law. Firms commonly pay bribes to obtain telephone, electricity, and water connections, and construction permits more quickly.

There are several organizations that track corruption within Mauritania. Transparency International has a representative who reports on local corruption policies and events.

In practice, annual auditing of government accounts is not enforced and therefore rarely conducted. However, the government rectified previously misreported financial data to be more transparent; this included publishing quarterly financial statements on a government treasury website: www.tresor.mr .

In April 2016, a new anti-corruption bill was introduced to address the provisions of the UN Convention against Corruption and to provide protection to NGOs involved in investigating corruptions cases.

Contact at the government agency or agencies that are responsible for combating corruption:

Cour Des Comptes Mauritanie
Email ccomptes@cc.gov.mr
Telephone: +222 4525 34 04
Fax: +222 4525 49 64

Contact at a “watchdog” organization:
Publiez ce que vous payez” (Publish What You Pay)
Executive Office
+222 4525-0455
+222 4641-7702

The August 2019 inauguration of President Mohamed Cheikh El Ghazouani marked the first democratic transition of power from one elected leader to another in the country’s history and ushered in a broad sense of optimism. Mauritania has not suffered a terrorist attack on its soil since 2011. And while the country continues to struggle in respecting human rights, the government is beginning to take concrete steps to address these issues. On October 20, 2021, President Ghazouani’s cabinet adopted the implementing decree for the Law on Associations (“NGO Law), which was adopted by the Parliament in January 2021. The law replaces the authoritative registration system with a declarative system more in line with international standards, allowing previously excluded non-government organizations to begin officially operating. The Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA) is one such organization that benefits from this new regulation; IRA’s anti-slavery mission includes combating child forced labor.

The Mauritanian economy is highly informal (especially in agriculture, artisanal fisheries/ mining, and animal husbandry) and according to the Ministry of Employment and Youth, the unemployment rate is estimated to be around 37 percent. While labor is abundant, there is a shortage of skilled workers and well-trained technical and managerial personnel in most sectors of the economy. As a result, there are few sectors of the economy that use advanced technologies because the skilled labor required to operate them is not readily available. The mining sector is led by the national company SNIM; the subsidiary of a Canadian gold mining company, Kinross-Tasiast; and the subsidiary of a Canadian company, MCM. These companies provide advanced training for their employees.

The “Mauritanization law” requires that employers give priority to nationals over foreign workers, unless the skills required for the position cannot be filled by the national labor force. Employers must develop a “Mauritanization” plan to transfer skillsets to local workers within a period of two years.

There are no restrictions on employers reducing their workforce in periods of unfavorable market conditions. However, the law requires that compensations be granted to laid-off employees.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) reported in 2018 that a significant pay gap between staff in the labor inspectorate and staff in other government inspection departments who receive better remuneration (such as tax inspectors or education inspectors) led to attrition. The ILO also reported that the labor inspectorate was subject to undue influence by employers and the government, thereby reducing the effectiveness of inspection activity. The law provides that men and women should receive equal pay for equal work. The two largest employers, the civil service and the state mining company, observed this law; most employers in the private sector reportedly did not. In the modern wage sector, women also received family benefits, including three months of paid maternity leave. Women face employment discrimination, because employers usually prefer to hire men, and women are overrepresented in low-paying positions

In March 2021, in partnership with ILO, the Mauritanian Government organized regional consultations and roundtables with child labor and protection stakeholders to draw up the list of hazardous work for children under 18 years of age, as established by the international and national standards of child labor. After collecting data from all fifteen regions, the government consolidated the data in June 2021 and narrowed the list down to 44 activities officially identified as hazardous work.

On January 17, 2022, with the support of the ILO, the Mauritanian Government banned hazardous child labor. The Ministry of Public Service and Labor issued a regulatory text listing hazardous work (LTD in French) that are prohibited for children. ( https://www.ilo.org/africa/countries-covered/mauritania/WCMS_835859/lang–en/index.htm )

The World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index (LPI) ranks Mauritania 157 out of 167 countries for the quality of infrastructure. This LPI sub-factor covers the quality and performance of ports, roads, railroads, and information technology. In addition, the World Economic Forum’s infrastructure quality rating for Mauritania’s is 2.6 out of 7, and 46 percent of companies in the country identify transportation inefficiencies as a major constraint on business. Currently, there is no investment with financial support from the Development Finance Corporation (DFC).

In 2019, Arise and Meridiam SAS entered a joint venture to support the modernization of the Nouakchott Port via a specific public-private partnership with a long-term concession of 30 years. Meridiam SAS received USD 24,840,000 in OPIC financing and political risk insurance. The project is not expected to have a negative impact on the U.S. economy. There is no U.S. procurement associated with this project, and, therefore, the project is expected to have a neutral impact on U.S. employment. But the project is expected to have a significant economic impact by expanding Mauritania’s port infrastructure capacity.

In December 2021, Arise inaugurated the new container terminal in Mauritania. This project represents a total investment of 278 million euros or USD 305 million. It is the first project developed under a Public Private Partnership scheme in Mauritania. Its scope covers the development, financing, construction, maintenance, and operation of a new and dedicated container terminal at the port of Nouakchott, designated to have an initial handling capacity of 250,000 TEUs (2), and the extension and deepening of the port area from previously 12m to 14,70 m to allow access of larger container vessels. The project foresees a significant potential for extending the capacity of the terminal in the future, which could be able to handle a potential maximum capacity of 600,000 TEU i.e., almost four times the actual container capacity.

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) N/A N/A 2019 $7,914 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S.  FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $96 BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP  

N/A

N/A 2018 142% UNCTAD data available at

https://unctad.org/topic/investment/
world-investment-report

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

U.S. Embassy Nouakchott
Economic/Commercial Section
NouakchottEconComm@state.gov 

Mauritius

5. Protection of Property Rights

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.

Intellectual property rights (IPR) in Mauritius are protected by three pieces of legislation, namely the Industrial Property Act of 2019, the Copyrights Act of 2014, and the Protection against Unfair Practices (Industrial Property Rights) Act of 2022.

The 2019 Industrial Property Act and the accompanying regulations entered into force on January 31, 2022. This act consolidates all industrial property-related issues in one statute. The protection framework covers patents; trademarks; industrial designs; utility models; layout-designs of integrated circuits; plant varieties; trade names, and geographic indications.

The Industrial Property Act also allows the international filing of trademarks under the Madrid Protocol, the international filing of industrial designs under the Hague Agreement, and the filing of patent applications under the Patent Cooperation Treaty. However, Mauritius has not yet acceded to these international instruments. 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.

Mauritius is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and party to the Paris and Bern Conventions for the protection of industrial property and the Universal Copyright Convention. Mauritius is a member of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO). However, as Mauritius has not yet acceded to the Harare or Banjul Protocols, it cannot be designated in patent, trademark or design applications filed via the ARIPO system. Trademark and patent laws comply with the WTO’s Trade Related Aspects of Industrial Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement. A trademark is initially registered for 10 years and may be renewed for successive periods of 10 years. A patent is granted for a maximum of 20 years. . While IP legislation in Mauritius is consistent with international norms, enforcement is relatively weak. In practice, police will usually take action against IP infringements only in cases where the IP owner has an official representative in Mauritius, as 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, and is also the competent authority that enforces IP rights. 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 intellectual property rights. Once an application is approved, it remains valid for two years. There are no administrative costs to pay for an application. It is recommended to file an application as a preventive measure. Customs may act upon its own initiative to suspend clearance if there is evidence that IP rights are being infringed. Customs will then contact the owner or authorized user for follow-up actions. For this reason, it is best for foreign companies to have a local representative in Mauritius. Owners of IP rights are recommended to join the Interface Public Members (IPM) 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 2021, the Customs Department carried out seizures of a total of 30,036 goods valued at $78,030, a significant decline from pre-pandemic figures. The infringing party is responsible for paying for the storage and/or destruction of the counterfeit goods. Mauritius is not listed in the 2021 U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the 2021 Notorious Market List.

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 

Marius Schneider, Attorney at Law
Nora Ho Tu Nam, Senior Associate
IPvocate Africa Legal Advisers Ltd
Ebene Junction, Rue de la Democratie
Ebene, Mauritius
Tel: +230 466 8183
Email: office@ipvocateafrica.com
www.IPvocateAfrica.com 

*Law firms listed for convenience and should NOT be taken to imply U.S. Government endorsement.

Mexico

5. Protection of Property Rights

Mexico ranked 105 out of 190 countries for ease of registering property in the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business report, falling two places from its 2019 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 Fideicomisos de Infraestructura y Bienes Raíces (FIBRAs) and Certificates of Capital Development (CKDs) listed on Mexico’s BMV stock exchange.

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in Mexico are covered by the Mexican Federal Law for Protection of Industrial Property (Ley Federal de Protección a 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 Prosecutor General’s Office (Fiscalia General de la Republica or FGR) oversees a specialized unit that prosecutes intellectual property (IP) 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 National Customs Agency of Mexico (ANAM) is responsible for 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 IMPI’s Gazette for opposition by a third party.  If no opposition is filed, IMPI 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 issues the registration.  A trademark registration in Mexico is valid for 10 years from the date of registration and is renewable for 10-year periods.  Any party with standing can challenge a trademark registration through a cancellation proceeding.  IMPI employs the following administrative procedures:  nullity, expiration or lapsing, opposition, cancellation, trademark, patent, and copyright 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.

To improve efficiency, in 2020 IMPI partnered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to launch the Parallel Patent Grant (PPG) initiative.  Under this new work-sharing arrangement, IMPI will expedite the grant of a Mexican patent for businesses and individuals already granted a corresponding U.S. patent.  This arrangement allows for the efficient reutilization of USPTO work by IMPI.  The USPTO also 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.

Mexico undertook significant legislative reform to comply with the USMCA.  The Mexican Federal Law for Protection of Industrial Property (Ley Federal de Protección a la Propiedad Industrial) went into effect November 5, 2020.  The decree issuing this law was published in the Official Gazette on July 1, 2020, in response to the USMCA and the CPTPP.  This new law replaced the Mexican Industrial Property Law (Ley de la Propiedad Industrial), substantially strengthening IPR across a variety of disciplines.  Mexico amended its Federal Copyright Law and its Federal Criminal Code to comply with the USMCA.  The amendments went into effect July 2, 2020.  These amendments should significantly strengthen copyright law in Mexico.  Still, there are concerns that constitutional challenges filed against notice and takedown provisions as well as TPMs in the amendments may weaken these. provisions.

Still, Mexico has 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; relatively widespread acceptance of piracy and counterfeiting, and lack of resources dedicated to enforcement.  In addition, the involvement of transnational criminal organizations (TCOs), which control the piracy and counterfeiting markets in parts of Mexico and engage in trade-based money laundering by importing counterfeit goods, 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 2021 Special 301 report published by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).  Obstacles to U.S. trade include the wide availability of pirated and counterfeit goods in both physical and virtual notorious markets.  The 2021 USTR Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy listed these Mexican markets:  Tepito in Mexico City, La Pulga Rio in Monterrey, and Mercado 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 Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, and the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.

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

5. Protection of Property Rights

The most important impediments to foreign direct investment (FDI) are derived from land and contract issues.  Foreign ownership of land is prohibited; most land is 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 United States are unable to inherit or own property unless they renounce their U.S. citizenship. 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.

Although foreign nationals, including corporations, cannot own real property, they can own buildings or other structures and lease the land beneath on a long-term basis.

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 is not listed in the USTR Special 301 Report, nor is it listed in the Notorious Market Report. The Embassy has not received complaints from U.S. firms regarding IPR issues, and the only U.S. corporations currently operating in FSM are 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 WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

Moldova

5. Protection of Property Rights

Moldova’s laws protect all property rights. 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 property rights of citizens and foreign investors.

Despite efforts to improve its intellectual property rights (IPR) regime 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 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. Under the AA/DCFTA, the government is working to bring Moldova’s practices in line with the EU.

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) treaties, including the Berne Convention, the Paris Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the WIPO Copyright Treaty, and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.

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.  A new IP strategy is currently under consideration and a topic of discussion with WIPO, European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and the European Patent Office (EPO). While some progress is being reported, there are still many outstanding issues related to IPR enforcement and geographical indications.

In 2018, AGEPI was reorganized and consolidated. AGEPI created a free and publicly available online IPR database, which can be found at www.db.agepi.md . AGEPI continued to integrate its legal services and data into the international and regional platforms. In 2020, AGEPI signed a new Memorandum of Understanding on Electronic Communication of the Madrid System with the International Bureau of WIPO (BI) and integrated into the Madrid e-Filing platform. Moldova began implementing the European common practices to harmonize trademark and design protocols with the EUIPO.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, AGEPI redesigned most of its processes, including IP consultancy and support services, by moving online and encouraging IP holders to use electronic communication.

Moldova’s criminal code prohibits the unauthorized disclosure of trade secrets. A law for the protection of pharmaceutical and medicinal product data came into force on January 1, 2020, the aim of which is to guarantee the confidentiality, non-disclosure, and non-reliance of data submitted while obtaining regulatory and market approval of the products.

Moldovan authorities, including Customs, the Ministry of Interior, and the General Prosecutor’s Office, track statistics for IPR violations annually, but such reports are not readily available online. To improve IPR enforcement, in 2020 Moldovan authorities developed, with EU support, an IPR Information System to track the exchange of IPR data between agencies, including AGEPI, Customs, Prosecution, Police, the Agency for Consumer Protection and Market Surveillance, and the Agency for Court Administration.

A report containing statistical and analytical data on IPR enforcement collected from all relevant stakeholders is released annually by the IPR Enforcement Observatory established by AGEPI. The 2021 Report is available in English and Romanian languages on the Observatory website: http://observatorpi.md/raport-national/ .

Moldova is not listed in the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report, nor is it included 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 

The Mongolian Constitution provides that “the State shall recognize any forms of public and private properties.”  Statute limits real-estate ownership to adult citizens of Mongolia. 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 that property or those rights.  In the case of use rights, revocation and assumption is almost always written into the formal agreements covering the rights.  Squatters may, under certain circumstances, claim effective property ownership of unused structures.

Foreign investors may own permanent physical structures and obtain use rights to land and resources, but only Mongolian citizens may own real estate, and only in municipalities.  Land ownership does not convey ownership of, or necessarily access to, surface or subsurface resource rights, which remain with the state.  Outside municipalities, the state owns the land and resources in perpetuity and may lease those resources to public and private entities.

Ownership of a structure may vest the owner with control over the use rights of the land upon which the structure sits.  Use rights are granted for terms ranging from 3 to 60 years, depending on the particular use right.  However, foreign nationals and foreign companies can lease land-use rights for no more than 10 years:  a five-year term and 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 investing in rural Mongolia, have no easy way to learn who might have conflicting rights. Complicating matters, Mongolia’s civil-law system is still developing a formal process for apportioning multiple use rights on adjacent lands or adjudicating disputes arising from conflicting use rights.  As of 2022, the Mongolian government has no accurate figure for land with clear titles.

Creditors may seize and dispose of property offered as collateral, although this process is often subject to lengthy legal delays.  Debt instruments backed by real estate, fixed structures, and other immovable collateral may be registered with the Immovable Property Office of the State Registration Office ( www.burtgel.gov.mn ).  Movable property (cars, equipment, livestock, receivables, and other items of value) may also be registered with the State Registration Office as collateral.  Investors report that the movable-property registration system, while generally reliable, experiences occasional technical capacity issues.

Film, television, and digital content from the United States enjoy strong copyright protection in Mongolia.  Mongolia’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will quickly block access to internet addresses of offending sites once listed by the Intellectual Property Office of Mongolia.  However, use of pirated software by Mongolian government ministries, home-use consumers, and businesses is rampant.  Patent protection for pharmaceutical and medical device importers is virtually non-existent, with trademark law generally the only recourse for rightsholders.  While enforcement agencies will seize trademark-infringing drugs, simply removing the infringing trademark still allows the importer to bring in the patent-infringing drug. Medical devices encounter similar problems.  Trademark infringement also includes stores distributing counterfeit apparel and fake spare parts for heavy equipment. However, the Intellectual Property Office of Mongolia has not focused on these areas because rightsholders have not filed complaints.

IPR violations below MNT 50 million ($17,000) are subject to administrative enforcement; those above MNT 50 million are subject to criminal enforcement.  Enforcement agencies do pursue criminal and civil intellectual property (IP) cases, suggesting a willingness by Mongolian courts, prosecutors, administrative investigators, and police to attack the problem.

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

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 new 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 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. An additional set of 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 it is 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 that provides powers to customs authorities to suspend customs procedures and seize pirated and counterfeit goods. Statistics on seizures of counterfeit goods is published by the Revenue and Customs Administration and available on their webpage www.upravaprihoda.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 started working on in 2008. 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) Standards, adopted by the World Customs Organization (WCO), to promote the efficient protection of IPR by customs authorities.Montenegro is not on the Special 301 Watch List. Montenegro is not listed in 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 2018 joint survey of Business Software Alliance and the International Data Corporation (IDC), the most recent report available, 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 which 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, with more information available on the WIPO’s website http://www.wipo.int/members/en/details.jsp?country_id=193 

Morocco

5. Protection of Property Rights

Morocco permits foreign individuals and foreign companies to own land, except agricultural land. Passed in 2021 Land Reform bill 62-19, which will open rural land acquisition to joint ventures and limited partnerships, is awaiting the publication of regulatory texts. Foreigners may acquire agricultural land 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 (10 years if the occupant and the landlord are not related and 40 years if the occupant is a family member). There are other specific legal regimes applicable to some types of lands, including:

  1. Collective lands: lands which are owned collectively by some tribes, whose members only benefit from rights of usufruct;
  2. Public lands: lands which are owned by the Moroccan State;
  3. Guich lands: lands which are owned by the Moroccan State, but whose usufruct rights are vested upon some tribes;
  4. 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” dropped in 2020 by 13 places, resulting in a ranking of 81 out of 190 countries worldwide in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report in this category. Despite reducing the time it takes to obtain a non-encumbrance certificate, Morocco made property registration less transparent by not publishing statistics on the number of property transactions and land disputes for the previous calendar year, resulting in a lower score than in 2019.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade 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 Youth, Culture, and Communication 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.

In 2020, OMPIC launched its second strategic plan, Strategic Vision 2025, following the conclusion of its 2016-2020 strategic plan. The new 2025 plan has three pillars: the creation of an environment conducive to entrepreneurship, creativity, and innovation; the establishment of an effective system for the protection and defense of intellectual property rights; and the implementation of economic and regional actions to enhance intangible assets and market-oriented research and development. In 2016 OMPIC partnered with the European Patent Office (EPO) and developed an agreement  for validating European patents in Morocco, and now receives roughly 80 percent of total applications via this channel. In 2021 OMPIC was certified to classify technical documents using the Cooperative Patent Classification, an extension of the International Patent Classification program which is jointly managed by the EPO and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. In 2021, OMPIC recorded more than 14,000 applications, a 24 percent increase from the previous year, and now exceeds pre-pandemic levels.

In 2016, the Ministry of Communication and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) signed an MOU to expand cooperation to ensure the protection of intellectual property rights in Morocco. The memorandum committed both parties to improving the judicial and operational dimensions of Morocco’s copyright enforcement, including the launch of WIPOCOS, a WIPO-developed database for collective royalty management organizations or societies.

Law No. 23-13 on Intellectual Property Rights increased penalties for violation of those rights and better defined civil and criminal jurisdiction and legal remedies. It also set in motion an accreditation system for patent attorneys 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.

Moroccan authorities continue to express a commitment to cracking down on all types of counterfeiting, but due to resource constraints, only focus enforcement efforts on the most problematic areas, specifically those with public safety and/or significant economic impacts. In 2019, the Customs and Indirect Tax Administration (ADII) seized 700,000 items and received 689 requests to stop the sale of counterfeit goods.

In 2015, Morocco and the European Union concluded an agreement on the protection of Geographic Indications (GIs), which is pending ratification by both the Moroccan and European parliaments. Should it enter into force, the agreement would grant Moroccan GIs sui generis, which is especially relevant as it is a prominent element of its Green Generation 2020-2030 agricultural development plan. The U.S. government continues to urge Morocco to pursue 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 listed in USTR’s most recent 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/. For assistance, please refer to the U.S. Embassy local lawyers’ list, as well as to the regional U.S. IP Attaché.

Resources for Intellectual Property Rights Holders:

Peter MehravariPatent AttorneyIntellectual Property Attaché for the Middle East & North AfricaU.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi | U.S. Department of Commerce U.S. Patent & Trademark OfficeTel: +965 2259 1455

Peter.Mehravari@trade.gov

Mozambique

5. Protection of Property Rights

The legal system recognizes and protects property rights to buildings and movable property, although private land ownership is not permitted, as all land is owned by the State. The GRM grants land-use concessions called Direitos de Uso e Aproveitamento de Terra (DUAT) for periods of up to 50 years with options to renew for additional periods. In practice, DUATs serve as proxies for land titles, although there is no robust market for DUATs as they are not easily transferable.  The process to award DUATs is not transparent and the GRM at times has granted overlapping DUATs that require lengthy negotiations to resolve.  It takes an average of 90 days to issue a DUAT. Banks in Mozambique tend to rely on property other than land – cars, private houses, and infrastructure – as collateral. While CTA and other entities have made efforts to make DUATs “bankable,” it is not currently possible to securitize DUATs for lending purposes.

In urban areas, the DUAT of a plot passes automatically to the purchaser following the sale of a house or building.  In rural areas, the purchaser of physical infrastructure or improvements and crops must request authorization from the GRM for the DUAT to be transferred.  This requirement is often cited as a barrier to obtaining loans in the agricultural sector and is seen as a potential barrier to investment and the transition to more intensive commercial forms of agriculture.

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 affected communities.  APIEX assists investors in finding land for development and obtaining appropriate documentation, including agricultural land.  The GRM advises companies on relocating individuals currently occupying land designated for development; however, companies are ultimately responsible for planning and executing resettlement programs.

Despite enforceable laws and regulations protecting intellectual property rights (IPR) and a relatively simple registration process, it remains difficult for investors to protect their IPR in Mozambique. Private sector organizations work with various GRM entities on an IPR taskforce to combat IPR infringement and related public safety issues stemming from the use of counterfeit products, but enforcement in Mozambique remains sporadic and inconsistent. Mozambique’s National Inspectorate of Economic Activities (INAE) has conducted seizures, confiscating fake Hewlett-Packard (HP) toner cartridges and falsely branded Nike, Adidas, Ralph Lauren, and other merchandise in several raids in 2019. However, in general, enforcement and prosecutions are limited.  Pirated DVDs and other counterfeit goods are commonly sold in Mozambique.

The Parliament passed a copyright and related rights bill in 2000 (no. 4/2001), 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 Agreement).  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.

Mozambique joined the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) in February 2020. Joining ARIPO paved the way for Mozambique to implement the Banjul Protocol and the GRM deposited its instrument of accession to the protocol at ARIPO in May 2020. Mozambique’s adhesion to ARIPO should facilitate filing trademarks, as ARIPO processes are standardized across all member states and valid across all jurisdictions.

Mozambique 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 https://www.wipo.int/directory/en/details.jsp?country_code=MZ  .

Namibia

5. Protection of Property Rights

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 (Article 16).

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 (PCT). Namibia is a signatory to the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT).

The responsibility for intellectual property rights (IPR) protection is divided among three government ministries. The MIT 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, Forestry, and Tourism (MEFT) 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 has been in the process of finalizing its intellectual property legislation for several years, which BIPA eventually will administer.

Namibia 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/ .

Nepal

5. Protection of Property Rights

The Secured Transactions Act (2006) applies to all transactions involving mortgages or liens where the effect is to secure an obligation with collateral, including pledge (when lender takes actual possession of goods), hypothecation (when possession remains with the borrower), hire-purchase, sale of accounts and secured sales contracts, and lease of goods.  The GoN has established the Secured Transactions Registry Office for registering notices under this Act.  Pursuant to this Act, the GoN may also designate any office to perform the notice registration function.  There are no debt markets in which securitization (use of a physical asset to back up a financial instrument) would be used.  However, physical assets, particularly property and land, are often used to secure personal and small business loans.

Nepal is ranked 97th in the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report for registering property.  The report notes that registering property requires four procedures that typically take six days to complete.  There are no exclusive regulations for land lease or acquisition by foreign and/or non-resident investors.  The FITTA and related laws governing foreign investment clearly state that investors can own property, but the title rests with the business/company rather than the foreign investor in an individual capacity.

The GoN does not maintain official statistics on untitled land.  The Ministry for Agriculture, Land Management and Cooperatives (previously known as the Ministry of Land Reform and Management) has been working for decades to identify property titles and registration.  Political instability, poor record-keeping, and resistance from stakeholders, however, has made this a difficult task.  Most arable land has a title, although titles have sometimes been acquired in a fraudulent manner.

For legally purchased property, ownership does not revert to other owners.  But, if that property remains unoccupied or unused for an extended period, there is the possibility that squatters may occupy and claim the land.  Although such occupation is not legally enforceable, there are hundreds of cases of unsettled or unlawful occupation of property languishing in Nepal’s court system, most dating back to the 1996-2006 Maoist insurgency.

In 2007, Nepal ratified the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (1989), which guarantees the rights of indigenous peoples.  Post is not aware of any legal case in Nepal citing this convention.

Nepal has a consolidated act on IP (The Patent, Design, and Trademark Act of 1965) that provides protection for industrial property, including patents, designs, and trademarks and a separate act on Copyright (The Copyright Act of 2002).  Patent protection is afforded to inventions, principles, formulae, and design protection, including physical shape and appearance.  Trademark protections include the word, sign, picture, or a combination thereof to differentiate the product from others in the market.  The Copyright Act of 2002 covers most modern forms of authorship and provides for adequate periods of protection.  Unlike other jurisdictions, Trademarks must be registered in Nepal to receive protection.  Once registered, trademarks are protected for a period of seven years.  For registration and grant of industrial designs and patents, an applicant must file formal applications with Nepal’s Intellectual Property office.

The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, & Supplies’ Department of Industry looks after patent and trademark issues, while the Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation oversee copyright issues.  The Department of Industry also acts as a semi-judiciary unit in cases of protection of industrial property and the settlement of disputes and other administrative procedures.  Nepal is a signatory to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and the Paris Convention for Industrial Property.  In 2017, the Government of Nepal (GoN) finalized an IPR Policy to be used as the foundation for new IPR legislation.  In 2018, GoN came out with a comprehensive draft law on IP.  However, the draft is still under governmental review.  The draft legislation substantially improves existing IP laws and regulations and endeavors to codify all industrial property laws in one place.  Once enacted, the law on IPR aims to bring the Nepalese national law in line with international IP standards.  Nepal is not included in the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.  However, enforcement of existing IPR violations is sporadic at best.  Law enforcement officials do not have adequate training on IPR issues and offenders can often pay a small bribe to avoid prosecution.  Nepal’s IPR laws are several decades old and penalties are too low to have deterrent effect.  Awareness of IPR issues is low in the private sector and in the legal system.  As a result, Nepal faces serious challenges in preventing the sale of counterfeit goods.  The primary marketplaces in Nepal are flooded with counterfeit products, including electronic equipment, clothing, digital media, and pharmaceutical products.  Nepal does not track seizures of counterfeit goods, neither does it have a strong track record of prosecuting IPR violations.

Improving Nepal’s IPR policies has been a top priority for the U.S. Embassy, and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has conducted nearly a dozen training courses on various aspects of IPR policy for Nepali officials over the past several years.  As a result, Nepal’s Cabinet approved a new IPR Policy in March 2017 that has served as the foundation for new IPR legislation.  Representatives from USPTO have reviewed the draft IPR bill, most recently in 2019, and provided the GoN recommendations on how the policy could be strengthened.  This IPR Bill is currently awaiting clearance by the Ministry of Finance and will then be presented to the cabinet and parliament for ratification.  It is expected that this new IP Act will be enacted some time in 2022; however, as this is an election year, it could be postponed to 2023.  As Nepal works to update its IPR legislation, USPTO and the U.S. Embassy continue to advocate for stronger IPR protection.

New Zealand

5. Protection of Property Rights

New Zealand recognizes and enforces secured interest in property. Most privately owned land in New Zealand is regulated by the Land Transfer Act 2017. These provisions guide 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. Mortgages are widely available and liens are used as security. For more information: https://www.treasury.govt.nz/information-and-services/other-services/bona-vacantia-ownerless-property/standard-requirements/liens 

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.

There are several types of land ownership in New Zealand: freehold title, leasehold, unit title, strata title, and cross-lease. Most of the land in New Zealand is freehold, also referred to as “fee simple,” or absolute ownership of the land and anything built on it. Unit titles make up the most common form of ownership for apartment developments and for commercial multi-unit developments. For more information on types of property ownership: https://www.settled.govt.nz/ 

Prior to purchasing property or land in New Zealand, prospective buyers are encouraged to perform due diligence by accessing a report from Land Information New Zealand (LINZ): https://www.linz.govt.nz/ 

Unoccupied, legally purchased property has historically been subject to adverse possession, a legal method allowing squatters to take ownership of a property after 20 continuous years of occupation. The method, a narrow exception to a legal principle under the Land Transfer Amendment Act of 1963, has been used in more than 200 applications since 1993. The Act was repealed in 2017 and replaced with the Land Transfer Act, which still provides for some squatters’ rights. More information on the Land Transfer Act 2017 can be found here:

https://www.linz.govt.nz/land/land-registration/land-transfer-act-2017 

New Zealand has a strong record on intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and is an active participant in international efforts to strengthen IPR enforcement globally. In 1984, New Zealand joined the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and is a member of a multitude of WIPO bodies and treaties. New Zealand participates in the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Council. The country operates on a common law legal system and enjoys a strong and independent justice system. The Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) assists those whose copyright has been infringed upon. There are both civil and criminal enforcement options. These options are administered through a variety of agencies, including MBIE and the Customs Service. Though there have been isolated incidents of IP theft, it is uncommon. https://www.iponz.govt.nz/about-ip/copyright/enforcing-copyright/ 

In 2018, the government began a public consultation to review the Copyright Act. This is the first step in making changes to copyright law and regulations, which were last reviewed in 2004. In 2019, MBIE published the results of the public consultation that outlined revised objectives for copyright law in New Zealand. In 2020, based on advice from stakeholders, the results of the consultation were withdrawn from the public. The government is now publicly consulting on potential changes to the objectives themselves. While the particulars of these revisions are unclear, the overarching theme is to ensure New Zealand’s copyright laws and regulations are fit for purpose in a rapidly changing technological environment. For more:

https://www.mbie.govt.nz/business-and-employment/business/intellectual-property/copyright/review-of-the-copyright-act-1994/ 

New Zealand does not publish specific statistics on seizures of counterfeited goods. The country has a robust procedure for the prosecution of IPR violations. New Zealand Police are authorized to investigate and prosecute trademark counterfeiters.

New Zealand is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 report. It is not mentioned in the Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

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/ 

Nicaragua

5. Protection of Property Rights

Property rights and enforcement are notoriously unreliable in Nicaragua. The government regularly fails to enforce court decisions on the seizure, restitution, or compensation of private property. Legal claims are subject to non-judicial considerations, and members of the judiciary, including those at senior levels, are widely believed to be corrupt or subject to political pressure. During ongoing crisis, Ortega-Murillo regime loyalists illegally took over privately owned lands, with implicit and explicit support from municipal and national government officials. Some land seizures were politically targeted and directed against the political opposition. Under the first Ortega-led government in the 1980s, the expropriation of 28,000 foreign-owned and Nicaraguan-owned properties created a significant number of real estate claims and counterclaims. Property registries suffer from years of poor recordkeeping, making it difficult to establish a title history. In 2019, the Supreme Court modified property registry rules to prohibit most access to these records. Mortgages and liens exist, but the recording system is not reliable.

Investors should conduct extensive due diligence and use extreme caution before investing in real property. Unscrupulous individuals have engaged in protracted confrontations with U.S. investors to wrest control of prime properties, particularly in tourist areas. Judges and municipal authorities are known to collude with such individuals, and a cottage industry supplies false titles and other documents. In the Autonomous Caribbean Regions, communal land cannot be legally purchased; however, a known scheme involves individuals selling communal land with apparently legal documentation before communal authorities strip buyers of their property.

Those interested in purchasing property in Nicaragua should seek experienced legal counsel early in the process. The Capital Markets Law (2006/587) provides a legal framework for securitization of movable and real property. There are no specific restrictions regarding foreign or non-resident investors aside from certain border and other properties considered important to national security.

Given the state of the public records registry, it is not possible to determine what percentage of land does not have clear title. There is no defined government effort to resolve this. Squatters can obtain ownership of unoccupied property, particularly if they have government backing.

Nicaragua established standards for the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) through CAFTA-DR implementing legislation, which is consistent with U.S. and international IPR standards. Enforcement of IPR law is limited. Infringement on rights and theft – particularly media piracy and trademark violations – are common. The United States has expressed 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.

Nicaragua does not publicly report on seizures of counterfeit goods. Nicaragua is not listed in the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 Report or its Review of Notorious Markets for Piracy and Counterfeiting.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see the World Intellectual Property Organization’s country profile for Nicaragua .

Niger

5. Protection of Property Rights

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. Tax policies for foreign ownership of residential and commercial land was established by the 2018 national budget law. There is no understood proportion of land that has a clear title. Property records are unreliable and often under dispute. There is currently no effort by the government to register land titles independent of active transactions.

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 2020 Doing Business survey conducted in 2019, registering property in Niger requires four procedures, takes 13 days and costs 7.4 percent of the property value. Globally, Niger stands at 115 in the ranking of 190 economies on the ease of registering property. In 2014, Niger made transferring property easier by reducing registration fees.

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. Enforcement of IP is weak due to limited capacity.

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

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 2020 Report, Nigeria ranked 183 out of the 190 countries surveyed for registering property, a decline of one point over its 2019 ranking.  Property registration in Lagos required an average of 12 steps over 105 days at a cost of 11.1% of the property value while in Kano registering property averages 11 steps over 47 days at a cost of 11.8% of the property value. 

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, or the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory for lands located in the federal capital, as state governments have jurisdiction over land ownership.  Authorities have often compelled owners to demolish buildings deemed to be in contravention of building codes or urban masterplans, including government buildings, commercial buildings, residences, and churches, even in the face of court injunctions.  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.  Proof of ownership in the absence of land titles may be established through traditional history of ownership, proving possession over a sufficient length of time, and showing sustained enjoyment of the land.  The government may acquire land for an overriding public purpose which may be excised to an individual or entity if the land has not been committed.

Enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) in Nigeria faces challenges in three areas: (1) limited capacity within the judicial and law enforcement systems, (2) weak regulatory and statutory regimes, (3) and poor funding and resource allocation.  Nigeria’s legal and institutional infrastructure for protecting IPR remains in need of further development, even though laws on the books can enforce most IPR.  The areas in which the legislation is deficient include online piracy, geographical indications, and animal breeders’ rights.  In 2021, Nigeria enacted a new law giving plant breeders IPR over new and improved seeds for increased crop production.  Draft copyright bills, one sponsored by a Senator and the other approved by the Federal Executive Council, were harmonized into one earlier this year.   The harmonized bill defines technological protection measures (known as TPMs), remuneration rights, and broadcasting.  It also provides anti-piracy penalties and prohibits the circumvention of TPMs as well as the falsification, alteration, or removal of electronic rights management information (RMI). 

The International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC) has long noted that the Copyright Act should be amended to provide stiffer penalties for violators.  Statutory penalties for copyright offenses remain relatively low and rights-holders note that offenses are typically met with non-deterrent, modest fines.  The harmonized bill proposes stricter penalties for IPR infractions.  However, a firm timeline for passage of a new copyright law remains elusive.

Existing copyright protection in Nigeria is governed by the Copyright Act Chapter C28, Laws of the Federation 2004, which provides an adequate basis for enforcing copyright and combating piracy.  The Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), an agency supervised by the Ministry of Justice, administers the Act.  Nigeria is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and in 2017 it ratified two WIPO treaties that it signed in 1997:  the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT), as well as the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances, and the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for persons who are Blind, Visually impaired persons, or otherwise Print disabled.  These treaties address important digital communication, broadcast, and online infringement issues that have become increasingly relevant in the globalized economy. The pending Copyright Bill of 2021 would domesticate the ratified treaties.  The NCC has primary responsibility for copyright enforcement but is understaffed and underfunded relative to the magnitude of the copyright challenges in Nigeria.  Nevertheless, the NCC continues to carry out enforcement actions on a regular basis.

Violations of IPRs continue to be widespread.  Anti-counterfeiting groups such as the IACC report that the Nigerian police work to combat counterfeiting and readily engage with trademark owners but lacks the capacity to fully enforce these laws.  Authorized penalties for counterfeiting and trademark infringements remain relatively low and rightsholders note that offenses are typically met with non-deterrent, modest fines.  A Senator has introduced legislation, the Trademarks Bill 2019, which remains pending and may address some of these issues.  Depending on the scale and type of counterfeiting involved, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) would be responsible for enforcing counterfeiting and trademark infringement offenses. 

The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) has general authority to seize and destroy contraband.  If NCS suspects unauthorized importation of copyright protected works, it will require the presumed copyright owner to issue a notice for NCS to treat such works as infringing.  The implementing procedures for this practice have not been developed as it 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 delivery of the consignment of fake goods for purposes of further investigation because the NCC has the statutory responsibility to investigate and prosecute copyright violations.  The NCC bears the costs of moving and storing infringing goods.  If, after investigations, any persons are identified with the infringing materials, a decision to prosecute may be made.  Where no persons are identified or could be traced, the NCC may obtain an order of court to enable it to destroy such works.  The NCC works in cooperation with rights owners’ associations and stakeholders in the copyright industries on such matters.  Similarly, NAFDAC and FCCPC work in cooperation with rights owners’ associations and stakeholders in the counterfeiting and trademark industries.  

Nigeria 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 the WIPO country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/.

North Macedonia

5. Protection of Property Rights

Laws protect ownership of both movable and real property, but implementation of these laws remains inconsistent. Mortgages and liens are regularly utilized, 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 continue to impede business and investment. However, the government has improved the cadaster system by fully digitalizing all investment and holdings records, which has increased the security and speed of real estate transactions.

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 for 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 a foreign company registers a local company in any form (subsidiary, local partner, or joint venture representation office), 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 the 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.

Responsibility for safeguarding intellectual property rights (IPR) is distributed among numerous institutions. The State Office of Industrial Property governs patents, trademarks, service marks, designs, models, and samples. A 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 and 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, which previously organized interagency raids to seize counterfeit products, usually focused on small sellers in open-air markets and mostly targeted trademark infringements. The body has been inactive for the past three years.

As North Macedonia awaits a date to begin EU accession negotiations, it continues to harmonize its IPR laws and regulations with EU standards, but still needs to demonstrate adequate enforcement of those laws. The European Commission’s 2021 report on North Macedonia noted progress in raising awareness in the fight against counterfeiting, smuggling, and the importation of counterfeit goods, as well as an increase in seized goods. The EU report noted the creation of an information platform for law enforcement institutions to exchange data on IPR, but said it needs to be fully functional in order to create a credible enforcement record and gather reliable statistics on the institutional handling of IPR infringements. The EU also noted the need for further improvement of the legal framework on IPR, notably the collective rights management system, by aligning with the Collective Rights Management Directive, and industrial property rights, by aligning with the Enforcement Directive and the Trade Secrets Directive.

The new draft National Intellectual Property Strategy and Action Plan 2022-2026 was prepared in December 2021 and is pending adoption by the Government. The Strategy proposes transfer of competences for all tasks related to the protection of copyright and all related rights from the Ministry of Culture to the State Office of Industrial Property, incorporating all IPR segments into one regulatory institution. The strategy also anticipates better coordination with other government agencies on the mapping and cataloging of autochthonous agricultural products.

While North Macedonia has many laws in place to protect IPR, infringement is frequent, and the court system should be improved. Prosecutors and judges for both civil and criminal cases are aware of IPR but lack adequate experience due to the small number of IPR cases. There are no specialized courts to handle IPR cases. Many rights holders do not pursue legal action since IPR violators usually lack the financial resources to pay damages. Courts are sometimes reluctant to find accused IPR violators guilty due to stiff mandatory minimum sentences for small-time distributors of counterfeit goods. The penalties for IPR infringement range from 30 to 60 days closure of businesses, monetary fines of up to €5,000 ($5,492), 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 included in the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 Report or the Notorious Market List.

North Macedonia is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and party to a number 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.

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

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.

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 (WTO). Norway’s IPR statutes cover the major areas referred to in the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

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).

Oman

5. Protection of Property Rights 

Oman does not recognize or enforce securitized interests in property, both moveable and real. Mortgages and liens exist in the country.  Foreign nationals are generally not able to own real estate in Oman, other than residential property in so-called “integrated tourism complexes” — zoned areas that permit foreign nationals to own property on a freehold basis.  The Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning (MHUP) allows foreign nationals to purchase units in multi-storied commercial and residential buildings under the usufruct system, with limitations. Individuals record their interest in property with the Land Registry at the MHUP.  The legal system, in general, facilitates the acquisition and disposition of property rights.

Certain lands are reserved for tribal use and ownership, but no clear definitions or regulations governing these lands prevail.  These tribes legally own the land, as opposed to the government owning the land, and they therefore control access and any commercial activities on it.

According to the World Bank, it takes 18 days on average to register property in Oman, and the cost of the registration process as a percentage of the property value (six percent) is on par with elsewhere the region.  In 2019, the World Bank ranked Oman 57th in the world for registering property.

Oman has a relatively robust legal and regulatory framework for intellectual property rights (IPR) protection. Oman is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

U.S. stakeholders have reported difficulty encouraging appropriate agencies, including the Consumer Protection Authority (CPA), the Public Prosecution, Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion (MOCIIP), and the Royal Oman Police, to take IPR enforcement action.  Confusion sometimes exists over which government agencies are responsible for investigating different types of IPR violations.

CPA officials have told U.S. officials that they do not accept responsibility for complaints arising from brand-owners; rather, they only act on consumer complaints.  Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs officials have also confirmed that the Law of Copyrights and Neighboring Rights (Royal Decree No. 65/2008) stipulates that the MOCIIP shall be responsible for IPR enforcement at the retail level, including for inspections and seizures.

Under its obligations as a signatory to the 2009 U.S.-Oman FTA (FTA), Oman offers IPR protection for copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, geographical indications, and patents.  FTA-related revisions to IPR protection in Oman are strengthened by Oman’s passage of World Trade Organization-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 Bern conventions on trademarks and intellectual property protection.  Oman has signed the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.  Oman is a signatory to the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants.

Trademark laws in Oman are compliant with Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs).  MOCIIP registers trademarks and notes them in the Official Gazette.  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 for a foreign-copyrighted work, the rights holder must register the work with the Omani government by depositing a copy of it with the government and paying a fee.  Trademarks are valid for 10 years while patents are generally protected for 20 years.  Literary works, software and audiovisual content receive protection 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 .

Ministry of Commerce and Industry – National Intellectual Property Office

Eng. Khalid Al Hinai
Director of the National Intellectual Property Office
Tel: +968 2482 8126
Email: khdhinai@moci.gov.om 

Oman Chamber of Commerce & Industry
Dr. Al Fadhil bin Abbas al-Hinai, CEO
Tel: +968-2479- 9146
Fax: +968-2479-1713
E-mail: salehm@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 Abu Dhabi
U.S. Department of Commerce
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
Jacob Ewerdt
Tel: +1 (202) 395-9564
E-mail: Jacob.P.Ewerdt@ustr.eop.gov
Web: http://www.ustr.gov 

U.S. Department of Commerce – International Trade Administration
International Trade Specialist
Drew Pederson
Tel: +1-202-482-0879
E-Mail: Drew.Pederson@trade.gov
Web: http://www.trade.gov

Pakistan

5. Protection of Property Rights

Although Pakistan’s legal system includes the enforcement of property rights and both local and foreign owner interests, it offers incomplete protection for the acquisition and disposition of real property. There is no data with respect to the percentage of land with clear title, and land title problems are common. Except for the agricultural sector, where foreign ownership is limited to 60 percent, no specific regulations regarding the leasing of land 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.

Mortgages and liens exist, but there are no reliable recording systems. The absence of a centralized system to record mortgages and lien frequently create legal issues for determining property rights.

The 1979 Industrial Property Order safeguards industrial property in Pakistan against government use of eminent domain without sufficient 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 protections exist for the legal purchase of land, land titles – even for unoccupied land – remain a challenge. Improvements to land titling have been made by the Punjab, Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial governments, which have dedicated significant resources to digitizing land records. In the newly merged tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, land rights are held collectively by the tribes, not privately by individuals, and there are functionally no ownership records. However, the provincial government is currently undertaking a long-term land registration process in the newly merged districts for tribally owned land.

In urban centers, undocumented possession of unoccupied land (squatting) is widespread. If an owner can prove that the land was acquired through legitimate means, government agencies are generally supportive of taking possession of their property.

The Government of Pakistan has identified protecting intellectual property (IP) rights as a reform priority and has taken concrete steps over the last two decades to strengthen its IP regime. In 2005, Pakistan created the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) to consolidate government control over trademarks, patents, and copyrights. IPO’s mission also includes coordinating and monitoring the enforcement and protection of IPR through law enforcement agencies. Enforcement agencies include the local police, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), customs officials at the FBR, the CCP, the SECP, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP), and the Print and Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA).

IPO’s creation consolidated policymaking, but confusion surrounding enforcement agencies’ roles still constrains IP enforcement and IP rights holders struggle to elicit action against infringements. Although IPO established ten enforcement coordination committees to improve IP enforcement, and has signed MOUs with the FBR, CCP, Collective Management Office, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, and SECP to share information, coordination is insufficient and cumbersome. Weak penalties and agency redundancies allow counterfeiters to evade punishment, and rights holders are often unclear on the correct forum in which to file a complaint.

The IPO as an institution has historically suffered from leadership turnover, limited resources, and a lack of government attention. Since 2016, the Government of Pakistan has taken steps to improve the IPO’s effectiveness, starting with bringing IPO under the administrative responsibility of the Ministry of Commerce. The IPO Act 2012 stipulates a three-year term, 14-person policy board with at least five seats dedicated to the private sector. Section 8(2) of the IPO Act also stipulates, “the board shall meet not less than two times in a calendar year.” However, the IPO Policy Board only met just once in 2021 after holding no meetings in 2020. The board members completed their three-year tenure in June 2021. In February 2022, the Ministry of Commerce nominated a new chairman and the other positions on the 14-person policy board. IPO is severely under-resourced in human capital; only 50 percent of its approved staffing positions are filled. Filling the remaining positions has been on hold since 2019, pending Ministry of Law approval of IPO’s rules and new hiring procedures.

The IPO is also responsible for raising public awareness of IPR issues in collaboration with the private sector. COVID-19 has slowed IPO momentum in this area. In 2021, the IPO held just 15 webinars and virtual interactions, down from more than 100 in-person seminars in 2019 (pre-pandemic). A significant portion of IPO’s events focused on Pakistan’s new Geographical Indication (GI) Law. Academics and private attorneys who follow IPR issues say the creation of the IPO has enhanced public awareness, albeit slowly. While difficult to quantify, contacts have also observed increased local demand for IPR protections, including from small businesses and startups. Many Pakistani educational institutions rarely include IPR in their curricula and lack an established culture of commercializing innovations or garnering respect for IP. However, over the past several years, over 65 Offices of Research, Innovation, and Commercialization (ORICs) have been established and received technical assistance regarding identifying, evaluating, protecting, and commercializing university-developed IP. In addition, the International Islamic University now includes an IPR-specific course in its curriculum and Lahore University of Management Sciences has IPR courses included in its MBA program’s curriculum. IPO officials have expressed interest in collaborating further with Pakistani universities to raise IPR awareness. IPO has been working with the Higher Education Commission to offer IPR curricula at other universities but has achieved limited traction. Private and public sector contacts highlighted that the educational system is a “missing link” in IPR awareness and enforcement. In collaboration with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Technology Innovation Support Centers have been established at 47 different universities in Pakistan.

In 2016, Pakistan established three specialized IP tribunals: one in Karachi covering the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan; one in Lahore covering Punjab; and one in Islamabad covering Islamabad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Gilgit-Baltistan. IPO had initiated a plan to create additional tribunals in 2019, however, the proposal is awaiting approval from the Ministry of Law. These tribunals have not been a priority in terms of assigning judges. They have experienced high turnover, as judges do not find IP tribunals an attractive posting, and the assigned judges do not receive any specialized technical training in IP law. Mission Pakistan, in coordination with the Department of Commerce’s Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), has provided technical assistance to IP tribunal judges since 2016. However, the high turnover of IP tribunal judges has limited the effectiveness of these capacity-building programs. Moreover, higher court justices, who often lack expertise in IP law, often overrule IP tribunal decisions by issuing injunctions overriding IP tribunal enforcement orders. Since the inception of the IP tribunals, no significant ruling by an IP tribunal has been implemented nor ultimately enforced.

Pakistan’s IPR legal framework remains inadequate. Pakistan’s IP legal framework consists of 40-year-old subordinate IP laws on copyright, patents, and trademarks alongside the 2012 IPO Act. The IPO Act provides the overall legal basis for IP licensing and enforcement while subordinate laws apply to specific IP fields, but inconsistencies in the laws make IP enforcement difficult. Since 2000, Pakistan has made piecemeal updates to IPR laws in an incomplete bid to bring consistency to IPR treatment within the legal system. With the help of Mission Pakistan, CLDP, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), IPO is updating Pakistan’s IPR laws to minimize inconsistencies and improve enforcement, but progress has been slow. As of January 2022, three new draft amendments – one each on trademark, patent, and copyright – were at various stages of review. IPO is also revising patent legislation to incorporate clauses that would allow Pakistan to eventually accede to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT); the IPO plans to submit the revised version to the Commerce Ministry for further approvals by mid-2022. On the draft copyright amendment, as of January 2022 the IPO was collecting private sector feedback with a goal to submit the amendment to the of Commerce Ministry by the end of 2022

On May 24, 2021, Pakistan acceded to the Madrid Protocol on Trademarks, and as of mid-January 2022, Pakistan received more than 600 applications under the protocol. The IPO also expressed its intention to accede to the Marrakesh Treaty, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), as well as the WIPO Copyright Treaty and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty. No substantive progress has been made to date to prepare Pakistan for accession to these treaties.

Mission Pakistan continues to support capacity building and awareness efforts through ongoing programming with a variety of Pakistani entities. In 2021, USPTO and CLDP continued to include IPR engagement virtually as part of their technical assistance programming in Pakistan. In 2021, examples of such programming included a USPTO-CLDP virtual program on counterfeit medicines (with three multi-phase modules already completed and a fourth being planned in 2022). USPTO and CLDP also provided Trademark Examination Training to increase the knowledge and skills of IPO’s examiners.

Pakistan is currently on the Office of the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report Watch List.

Pakistan does not track and report on its seizures of counterfeit goods.

Resources for Intellectual Property Rights Holders:

John Cabeca
Intellectual Property Counselor for South Asia
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Foreign Commercial Service
email: john.cabeca@trade.gov
website: https://www.uspto.gov/ip-policy/ip-attache-program
tel: +91-11-2347-2000

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/.

Palau

5. Protection of Property Rights

Other than the foreign-ownership restrictions for certain business sectors, there are no restrictions on private entities to engage in all forms of remunerative activity.

Establishing secure land title may be complicated due to the complexity of the traditional land ownership system and occasional over-lapping claims. Banks offer mortgages, and the recording system is reliable. The Land Court has primary responsibility to adjudicate disputes over land ownership. Non-Palauans may not purchase land, although they are able to lease for up to 99 years. Non-citizen investors must negotiate lease agreements directly with private owners or the state government.

Palau is not a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the WTO, or any other organization or convention protecting intellectual property right. In general, Palau does not strictly enforce intellectual property rights.

Embassy Contact
Mission Deputy
+680-587-2920

Panama

5. Protection of Property Rights

Mortgages and liens are widely used in both rural and urban areas and the recording system is reliable. There are no specific regulations regarding land leasing or acquisition by foreign and/or non-resident investors.

A large portion of land in Panama, especially 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 2020 report ( http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/panama ) notes that Panama is ranked 87 out of 190 countries on the Registering Property indicator and ranks 141st in enforcing contracts. Panama enacted Law 80 (2009) to address the lack of titled land in certain parts of the country; however, the law does not address deficiencies in government administration or the judicial system. In 2010, the National Assembly approved the creation of the National Land Management Authority (ANATI) to administer land titling; however, investors have complained about ANATI’s capabilities and lengthy adjudication timelines. ANATI has attempted to clean up some titling issues and sought international assistance to modernize.

The judicial system’s capacity to resolve contractual and property disputes is generally considered weak and susceptible to corruption, as illustrated by the most recent World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2019 ( http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_TheGlobalCompetitivenessReport2019.pdf ), which ranks Panama’s judicial independence as 129 out of 141 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 a licensed real estate broker is strongly recommended.

If legally purchased property is unoccupied, property ownership can revert to other owners (squatters) after 15 years of living on or working the land, although the parties must go to court to resolve ownership.

Panama has an adequate and effective domestic legal framework to protect and enforce intellectual property rights (IPR). The legal structure is strong and enforcement is generally good. Although theft and infringement on rights occur, they are not so common as to include Panama on the Special 301 Watch List or Priority Watch List. There were no new IPR laws or regulations proposed or enacted in the past year, although Customs is in the process of modifying its contraband legislation. The U.S.-Panama TPA improved standards for the protection and enforcement of a broad range of IPR, including 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. To implement the requirements of the TPA, Panama passed Law 62 of 2012 on industrial property and Law 64 of 2012 on 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 20 years of patent protection from the date of filing, or 15 years from the filing of 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, simplified 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 counterfeit 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), the Customs Administration (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 exclusive jurisdiction of 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 IPR as a predicate offense for money laundering, and Law 14 establishes a 5 to 12-year prison term.

Various Panamanian entities track and report on seizures of counterfeit goods, but there is no single repository or website that consolidates this information. Panama’s Public Ministry has a Specialized Prosecutors Office dedicated to IPR violations, but there have so far been relatively few criminal prosecutions for IPR violations. Panama executes search warrants on businesses that trade in counterfeit goods, but such items are usually seized administratively without criminal prosecutions.

Panama is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report. One online market on the Notorious Markets List is reportedly operated from Panama.

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 point of contact:

Colombia Primola
Economic Specialist
PrimolaCE@state.gov 

Local lawyers list: https://pa.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/

Papua New Guinea

5. Protection of Property Rights

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 IPA through the Intellectual Property Office of PNG (IPOPNG) administers the Trademarks Act, Chapter 385, Copyright and Neighboring 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 exists in law, and minimal infringements appear to occur.

PNG primarily tracks seizures of counterfeit good through media reports, as no formal publication process exists. PNG does prosecute IPR violations. 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

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. The latest figures published by the National Rural and Land Development Institute (INDERT, in Spanish) indicate there is 47.5 percent more titled land in Paraguay than physically exists, while other private organizations suggest 70 percent of privately owned land has some sort of problem related to the property title and its registration process. Correct property title registration is a major problem, particularly in the interior of the country. In some cases, acquiring title documents for land can take two years or more. The World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business report ranks Paraguay 80 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.

In 2008, the Truth and Justice Commission (CVJ), an organization created by Law 225/03 to investigate human rights violations committed during the dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner, presented a report, which revealed that in the Eastern Region of Paraguay almost 8 million hectares of ill-gotten lands were illegally awarded during 1954-2003. Accounting the Chaco Region, it is estimated that this figure would increase to 20 million hectares.

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.

Congress has proposed bills in the past to improve regulation of properties and establish a new National Directorate of Public Registries with the intention of facilitating the adequate registration of land ownership and create a special Congressional Commission to correct underlying problems with property titles; however, the bills remain in the Congress. After the previous head of INDERT was removed from the position due to accusations of bribery in October 2020, the new leadership has made noticeable efforts to regularize property title registration in various regions of the interior of the country and has considerably increased the number of regularized property titles and revenues collected by the institution.

Paraguay has been on the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report Watch List since 2019, due in part to Paraguay’s unfulfilled commitments under a 2015-2020 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on intellectual property rights between the United States and Paraguay. The USTR and Paraguayan government will transition and update these commitments in an Intellectual Property Workplan that will be managed under the U.S.-Paraguay Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) mechanism.

Ciudad del Este has been named in either the USTR Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy or the Special 301 Report for over 20 years. The border crossing at Ciudad del Este, and the city itself, 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. The National Directorate of Intellectual Property (DINAPI, in Spanish) reported 440 seizures of counterfeit goods in 2021 with an estimated retail price of USD 3.4 million. This represented a $0.1 million increase from 2020. In terms of law enforcement related to IPR, Judicial Branch contacts reported that Asuncion had 613 referrals, 87 investigations, 19 indictments, secured eight convictions for IP crimes in the greater Asuncion area (up from two in 2020), and reported the destruction of counterfeit goods with an estimated value of $2.2 million in 2021; Ciudad del Este had 126 referrals, six investigations, no indictments, and no conviction. In some instances, authorities worked together to investigate cases and pursue legal actions, but overall weak information-sharing and interagency coordination continued to hamper IPR enforcement efforts.

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. Paraguay signed and ratified September 17, 2020 the Treaty of Nice, which establishes a classification of goods and services for the purposes of registering trademarks and service marks, and the Locarno Agreement, which establishes a classification for industrial designs.  WIPO officially received on May 31, 2021 Paraguay’s instrument of accession to the Nice Agreement and Locarno Agreement.

In December 2019, DINAPI officially announced the establishment of an Interagency Coordination Center (ICC), responsible for providing a unified government response to intellectual property rights violations. The ICC has convened five times since its inception.

In July 2020, a group of Paraguayan Lower House legislators presented a draft bill to establish a temporary suspension of royalty payments for patented, genetically modified soy seeds until the end of 2021, ostensibly to provide relief to farmers during the COVID-19 crisis.  The bill’s opponents argued this proposed legislation violates IPR guarantees in Paraguay’s Constitution, the 1630/2000 Patent Law on Inventions, international treaties such as TRIPS, UPOV, and trade agreements negotiated and concluded (MERCOSUR-EU and MERCOSUR-EFTA).   In October 2020, the Lower House voted to approve the draft bill. The Senate rejected the bill in April 2021, and the Lower House officially accepted this rejection in July 2021. Congress reached this decision after representatives from DINAPI, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Service for Plant and Seed Quality and Health Agency, and private sector unions complained the bill would violate international agreements and affect legal security and the intellectual property rights acquired on biotechnology invention patents, potentially jeopardizing future investments in the country.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local intellectual property (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
+ 55 (21) 3823-2499

Deputy Political and Economic Counselor
U.S. Embassy Asuncion
+ 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: https://py.usembassy.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/274/attorneys.pdf

Peru

5. Protection of Property Rights

Peru enforces property rights and interests.  Mortgages and liens exist, and the recording system is reliable, performed by SUNARP, the National Superintendency of Public Records. Foreigners and/or non-resident investors cannot own land within 50 km of a border.

Peru is listed on the Watch List in the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR’s) 2021 Special 301 Report. According to the report, Peru has yet to fully address several of the most important and longstanding recommendations from previous Watch List appearances, including fulfilling its intellectual property (IP) obligations under the United States-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement (PTPA), namely Articles 16.11.8 and 16.11.29(b)(ix) regarding statutory damages and Internet Service Provider (ISP) safe harbor protections, respectively.

Nevertheless, the Government of Peru has increased its enforcement activity over the past five years and generally offers strong regulatory intellectual property rights (IPR) protections. Peru’s legal framework provides for easy registration of trademarks, and inventors have been able to patent their inventions since 1994. Peruvian law does not provide pipeline protection for patents or protection from parallel imports. Peru’s Copyright Law is generally consistent with the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS), and it provides the same protections for U.S. companies as Peruvian companies in all IPR categories under the PTPA and other international commitments such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Peru’s intellectual property and competition authority INDECOPI is a reliable partner for the U.S. government, the private sector, and civil society, and it has made good faith efforts to decrease the trademark and patent registration backlog and filing time. Although INDECOPI is the GOP agency charged with promoting and defending intellectual property rights, IPR enforcement also involves other GOP agencies and offices, including: the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Fiscalía), 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’s) Directorate General for Medicines (DIGEMID).

In 2021, the GOP approved regulations for a System of Guaranteed Protections for Traditional Specialties (TSG) and Geographical Indications (GIs), which cover various food and food preparations, such as prepared dishes, beer, chocolate and derived products, pastry, bakery, and pastry products, drinks based on plant extracts, alcoholic beverages and/or cocktails, and cheese and dairy products. The GOP also published a Supreme Decree in 2021 regulating access to genetic resources and by-products, including rules on fair and equitable sharing of benefits in access contracts, as well as the obligation to file with INDECOPI the authorization or access contract in patents, industrial designs, plant breeder’s certificates and other intellectual property applications that use genetic resources or by-products with Peruvian origin.

For additional information on Peru’s intellectual property regime, including national laws and points of contact, please see WIPO’s country profile for Peru at: https://www.wipo.int/directory/en/details.jsp?country_code=PE .

Poland

5. Protection of Property Rights

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), the function of which 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 2021, Warsaw city authorities continued implementing a 2015 law dubbed the Small Reprivatization Act.  This law aimed to stop the problem of speculators purchasing Warsaw property claims for low values from the original owners or their heirs and then applying for a perpetual usufruct or compensation as the new legal owner.

NGOs and advocacy groups expressed serious concerns that the 2015 law fell short of providing just compensation to former owners who lost property as a result of the nationalization of properties by the communist-era government, and also properties taken during the Holocaust era. Legal experts expressed concern that the law limited the ability of petitioners to reclaim property unjustly taken from their lawful owners. The World Jewish Restitution Organization asserted that the time limits included in the law were insufficient for potential claimants, particularly Holocaust survivors and their heirs, to meet difficult documentary requirements.

Critics state the law might extinguish potential claims by private individuals of properties seized during World War II or the communist era, if no one comes forward to pursue a restitution claim within the time limit.  Any potential claimants who come forward within six months after publication of the affected property by the City of Warsaw will have an additional three months to establish their claim.  The city began publishing lists in 2017 and continued to do so during 2021.  The city’s website contains further information on these cases and the process to pursue a claim:

https://bip.warszawa.pl/Menu_podmiotowe/biura_urzedu/SD/ogloszenia/default.htm 

In 2021, the government significantly altered legal and administrative procedures for private property restitution and compensation. On June 24, Parliament adopted a revision to the Code of Administrative Procedure that significantly restricted the ability of individuals to seek the return of private property seized under Nazi occupation or during the Communist era. The law made it impossible to challenge any administrative decision issued more than 30 years prior and ended any pending administrative challenges to those decisions. The legislation limited the primary process by which claimants can seek restitution or compensation for expropriated property, according to NGOs and lawyers specializing in the issue. Individuals who already successfully challenged administrative decisions were still able to seek return of their property or compensation in the courts. The president signed the legislation into law on August 14, and the law entered into force on September 16. It is sometimes difficult to establish clear title to properties.  There are no comprehensive estimates of land without clear title in Poland.

The 2016 Agricultural Land Law banned the sale of state-owned farmland under the administration of the National Center for Support of Agriculture (NCSA) for five years.  Long-term state-owned farmland leases are available for farmers looking to expand their operations up to 300 hectares.  Foreign investors can (and do) lease agricultural land.  The 2016 Agricultural Land Law also imposed restrictions on sales of privately-owned farmland, giving the NCSA preemptive right of purchase.  In June 2019, the Polish Parliament amended the Agricultural Land Law to loosen land sale requirements.  The amendment increased the size of private agricultural land, from 0.3 to 1.0 hectare that could be sold without the approval of the NCSA.  The new owner is not allowed to sell the land for five years. The Law on Forest Land similarly prevents Polish and foreign investors from purchasing privately-held forests and gives state-owned entities (Lasy Panstwowe) preemptive right to buy privately-held forest land.

The 2011 amendment to the law of Management of Farmland Administered by NCSA and 2016 Agricultural Land Law adversely affected tenants with long-term state-owned land leases.  Several entities, including U.S. companies, faced the prospect of returning some currently leased land to the Polish government over the coming years.  Three of these entities appealed to the Ombudsman, who requested the Constitutional Tribunal (CT) to verify the law’s compliance with the constitution, but the cases were dismissed by the CT in the fall of 2020.  On March 17, 2021, a law amending the 2016 Agricultural Land Law was adopted.  The amendment extended the ban on selling state-owned farmland under the administration of the NCSA for another five years, until May 1, 2026.  The 2021 amendment did not change the land lease situation for larger operators, who remain ineligible to have their land leases extended unless 30 percent of the land under lease had been returned.  Additionally, eligible renters can apply for the prolongation of the lease contracts, but for larger farmers, under 2020 Order of the Director General of NCSA, they can be extended up to eight years.

Polish intellectual property rights (IPR) law is more strict than European Commission directives require.  Poland is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and a 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. Enforcement is improving across all sectors of Poland’s IPR regime.

2021 saw a sudden drop in piracy statistics in Poland, compared to other EU countries. According to Blu Media Study’s “Poles’ Finances in Times of the 2021 Pandemic,” as many as six out of ten Poles use online subscription services. Poles use services that provide access to movies and series (39 percent of participants) most often, and to music (15 percent), games and online journalism (11 percent each) less frequently. Pirated series in Poland in 2021 were dominated by productions from platforms that were inaccessible to Polish consumers.

A popular Polish cyberlocker platform is included on the 2021 Notorious Markets List. Poland does not appear in the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 Report.

In cases of IPR violations, Polish law requires a rights holder to start the prosecution process.  In Poland, authors’ and creators’ organizations and associations track violations and share these with prosecutors.  Rights holders express concern that penalties for digital IPR infringement are not high enough to deter violators.

In August 2021, the Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Poland published assumptions to the draft of the new Act on Industrial Property Law, which would replace the current Act of 30 June 2000 – Industrial Property Law. Below are the main assumptions to the draft of the new act:

  • Utility models – the bill provides for the introduction of provisions streamlining and speeding up the application procedure, by replacing the current examination system with a registration system. It means that (similarly as with trademarks and industrial designs) the Polish Patent Office would no longer by default examine the substantive conditions for granting a protection right to a utility model but would focus only on the formal aspects of the application. This amendment aims to speed up the examination of applications for registration and shorten the time from an average 24 months to about 12 months.
  • Industrial designs – the definition of an industrial design and the conditions for obtaining protection have been changed, so that the national regulations are fully harmonized with Directive 98/71/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 October 1998 on the legal protection of designs.
  • Trademarks – the bill provides for shortening the period of filing opposition to two months from the date of publication of information about the application, dropping the current mandatory two-month settlement period for the parties during the opposition proceedings (the so-called cooling-off period), and abolition of the joint protection right.
  • Geographical indications – the bill provides for a new procedure of registration of these rights. The proposed provisions would apply only to non-agricultural products.
  • Trade secrets – to solve the problem of unlawful acquisition of information, the bill provides for the introduction of a so-called deposit, corresponding to the provisions of Directive (EU) 2016/943 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2016 on the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information (trade secrets) against their unlawful acquisition, use and disclosure. A deposit, containing technical and technological information constituting a trade secret, may make it easier to prove the priority of the existence of information constituting a trade secret and the subject matter of that information.
  • Official fees – the bill provides for systematization of the regulations on the fee collection structure and record keeping, eliminating doubts as to the amount of and eligibility for the payment of fees. The draft act also introduces a new solution, according to which when filing applications for at least three different objects of industrial property within three months, the fee for the application for each of them may be reduced by 30 percent. The proposed solution offers greater support to innovators who are at the stage of building their portfolio of intellectual property rights with a commercialization aim.

The planned date of the adoption of the draft of the new legislation was the first quarter of 2022.

On July 1, 2020, intellectual property courts, in the form of Intellectual Property Divisions (IPDs), were introduced in Poland. This role was entrusted to five Regional Courts – Gdansk, Katowice, Lublin, Poznan and Warsaw. Courts of Appeal in Warsaw and Poznan deal with cases at second instance. In accordance with applicable regulations, cases involving greater technical complexity, namely cases concerning computer programs, inventions, utility models, topographies of integrated circuits, plant varieties and business secrets of a technical nature, are in principle dealt with only in Warsaw.

The creation of the intellectual property courts, with their judges specializing in adjudication in the area of intellectual property law, is a step in the right direction, and the experience gained so far from the proceedings before these courts seems to confirm the validity of this decision.

Tax incentives for IPR known collectively as “IP Box” or “Innovation Box,” included in the November 2018 tax amendment, have been applicable since January 2019. See Section 4 – Investment Incentives.

Polish customs tracks seizures of counterfeit goods. In 2021, compared to 2018, 67 percent more goods infringing intellectual property arrived in Poland.  According to the DLA Piper and Amazon report the value of smuggling reached $45 million (PLN 203 million), which was 3.5 times more than a year earlier. Illegal practices are likely to increase due to the war in Ukraine.

General information on copyright in Poland:

https://www.paih.gov.pl/polish_law/intellectual_property_rights 

Polish Patent Office: http://www.uprp.pl/o-urzedzie/Lead03,14,56,1,index,pl,text/ 

Chancellery of the Prime Minister: https://www.gov.pl/cyfryzacja/co-robimy 

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/

Portugal

5. Protection of Property Rights

Portugal reliably enforces property rights and interests. The Portuguese Constitution ensures 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 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 undertaken online at Predial Online . Foreign investors can directly own/purchase property freehold or leasehold, to build industrial and commercial premises or can purchase through a real estate company.

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.

Intellectual property rights (IPR) infringement and theft are uncommon 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 became party to the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) 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 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 IPR court with two judges. In 2019, Portugal brought into force a new industrial property package of legislation, enhancing the protection of a wide range of IPR, including patents, geographical indications, trademarks and designs. See more at https://wipolex.wipo.int/en/members/profile/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: https://www.asae.gov.pt/inspecao-fiscalizacao/resultados-operacionais.aspx  .

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

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

Qatar

5. Protection of Property Rights

A set of laws, ministerial decrees, and resolutions make up the country’s jurisprudence on property rights and ownership. Law 16/2018 designates nine zones where foreign investors, companies, and real estate developers are permitted full property ownership. The law also allows foreign investors the usufructuary right of up to 99 years in 16 other zones. Additionally, foreigners may own villas within residential complexes and retail outlets in specific commercial complexes. The government grants non-Qatari real estate owners residency for as long as they own their properties. Meanwhile, Law 6/2014 regulates real estate development and stipulates that non-Qatari companies should have at least ten years of experience and be headquartered in Qatar to carry out real estate development activities at selected locations.

The Government of Qatar enforces property leasehold rights. Qatar’s Rent Law 4/2008 extends more protections to the lessee while regulating lessors. The government grants several enforceable rights to the lessee, including protection from rent hikes during the lease period and enforcement of the lease contract terms should the lessor transfer ownership. The government protects lessors against tenants’ violations of lease agreements. Qatar’s Leasing Dispute Settlement Committee enforces these regulations. The committee hears and issues binding decisions and requires all lessors to register their lease agreements with this committee.

The Ministry of Municipality 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, and keep all titles and deed records in digital format.

While Qatar’s intellectual property (IP) legal regime is still under development, it is robust and includes a wide range of legislation that protects different types of IP rights. Qatar’s IP legislation consists of the Trademark and Copyright Law (enacted in 2002), the Protection of Trade Secrets and Protection of Layout Design law (2005), the Patent Law (2006), and most recently, the Protection of Industrial Designs and Models law (2020). Qatar has signed many international IP treaties, and Qatari laws and regulations guarantee the implementation of those treaties. These laws grant foreign applicants the same rights as Qataris, provided they are nationals of a state that gives Qatar reciprocal treatment.

Intellectual property owners can apply for IP rights at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI), which is mandated, by Law 20/2014, to enforce IP laws and regulations. An IP Protection Department has been set up with offices focusing on trademarks, copyrights, patents, industrial designs, and innovations within the ministry. The following are the periods of validity for the different types of registered IP:

Patents: Valid for 20 years from the date of filing.

The Ministry of Public Health requires the registration of all imported pharmaceutical products and rejects registration requests for unauthorized copies of products patented in other countries. Qatar also recognizes pre-existing GCC patents on pharmaceutical products.

The GCC Patent Office used to provide an affordable and efficient option for companies seeking intellectual property protection throughout the six GCC member states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE). Effective January 2021, the office stopped accepting new patent filings. The decision now forces companies seeking patent registration in the GCC region to file separate applications in each country, pay six separate fees, and endure a substantial waiting period before their patents are registered in all six states.

Copyrights: Protected for 50 years after the author’s death.

Per Qatari law, failure to register at MOCI will not affect the 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. It abides by their mandates regarding unpublished works. The IP Protection Department works with law enforcement authorities to prosecute unlicensed video and software resellers.

Trademarks: Valid for ten years but can be renewed indefinitely; trademarks unused for five consecutive years are subject to cancellation.

The GCC Customs Union approved a common trademark law; Qatar is taking steps to enact it.

Industrial Designs: Valid for five years from submission date but can be renewed two additional times.

This law covers the visual design rather than an original product’s functional or technical aspects. Law 10/2020 on the Protection of Industrial Designs was enacted in May 2020.

The law on Intellectual Property Border Protection (Law 17/2011) forbids the importation of any products that infringe on any intellectual property rights protected in Qatar and obligates the General Authority of Customs to take measures to prevent the entry of infringing products into Qatar. Given sufficient evidence, the law also permits IP rights holders to block the release of imported products that infringe on their rights. In 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 importation of counterfeit goods.

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. Qatar is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 Report. The existing Penal Code imposes hefty fines on individuals dealing in counterfeit products. It prescribes prison terms for offenders convicted of counterfeiting, imitating, fraudulently affixing, selling products, offering services of a registered trademark, or other IP violations. The General Authority of Customs, the MOCI Consumer Protection and IP Protection Departments, and the Ministry of Interior conduct surveys, search shops, and seize and destroy counterfeit products.

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

Companies and individuals seeking assistance on pursuing IP protections and enforcement claims in Qatar can consult a list of local attorneys posted on the U.S. Embassy Doha website: https://qa.usembassy.gov/legal-assistance/

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, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
+965 2259-1455
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
Jacob Ewerdt
+1-202-395-3866
Jacob.p.ewerdt@ustr.eop.gov
Web: http://www.ustr.gov 

Republic of the Congo

5. Protection of Property Rights

The government enforces property rights and interests, though companies and individuals cite inconsistent enforcement. Mortgages and liens exist. The recording system is generally reliable.

No known specific regulations regarding land lease or acquisition by foreign investors exist.

The government has no definitive registry of untitled land. There are ongoing efforts by the government to push property owners to register land titles.

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

As a member of CEMAC, the ROC participates in the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI). OAPI manages a single copyright system for all member states. Additionally, as a member of the WTO, ROC is obligated to ensure that intellectual property (IP) legislation conforms to WTO norms and standards. The Ministry of Commerce leads issues related to counterfeit products. Local authorities have historically seized and destroyed contraband items, such as counterfeit medical supplies and black-market food products. Determining the extent of IP infringement is challenging because the ROC maintains no formal system of tracking and reporting seizures of counterfeit goods. Additionally, the ROC government reportedly uses unlicensed software on its computers.

The government has not enacted any new IP-related laws or regulations in the past year.

Local authorities have historically seized and destroyed contraband items but determining the extent of IP infringement is challenging because the ROC maintains no formal system of tracking and reporting seizures of counterfeit goods.

ROC is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 Report.

ROC is not listed 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/. 

Romania

5. Protection of Property Rights

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. However, legislation passed in Fall 2020 imposed additional restrictions and limitations on the purchase of agricultural land by foreign investors.

The 2006 legislation that regulates the establishment of specialized mortgage banks also makes possible a secondary mortgage market by regulating mortgage bond issuance mechanisms. Commercial banks, specialized mortgage banks, and non-bank mortgage credit institutions offer mortgage loans. Romania’s mortgage market is now almost entirely private; the state-owned savings bank (CEC Bank) also offers mortgage loans. Since 2000, the Electronic Archives of Security Interests in Movable Property (AEGRM) has overseen 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, the cadaster registry contained 1.9 million hectares of land and 37.7 percent of the estimated real estate assets (buildings) as of March 2020.

Romania has marginally improved implementing digital records of real estate assets, including land. However, the cadaster property registry is far from complete; inaccurate and incomplete information for land ownership continues to challenge private investors ‎and SOEs alike.

Romania was removed from the Watch List of the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 Report in 2022 due to taking significant actions to improve IP protection and enforcement. In January 2022, Romania appointed its first-ever national IP enforcement coordinator, who has been charged with developing a national IP strategy and coordinating interagency efforts. Romania has also taken other actions to improve efforts to investigate and prosecute IP crime. For example, last year, the economic police established a new department dedicated to online piracy cases and also dedicated a minimum of two additional officers per county to IP investigations. Moreover, the General Prosecutor Office’s Intellectual Property Coordination Department resumed coordination of IP working group sessions, holding meetings last year with representatives of different ministries involved in IP as well as private sector representatives. The United States will continue to monitor Romania’s efforts to finalize a national IP strategy, to implement that strategy, and to take specific actions to prioritize IP protection and enforcement.

Romania is a signatory to international IPR-related conventions, including the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), and has enacted legislation protecting patents, trademarks, and copyrights. Romania passed broad IPR protection enforcement provisions as required by the WTO, yet gaps remain in enforcement. Romania signed the Internet Convention to protect online authorship. In January 2020, Romania passed a law to enhance the transparency of collective rights management of copyrights. In July 2020, Romania passed legislation implementing the EU Trademark Directive, and in October 2021, approved draft legislation to implement the EU Copyright Directive. The new legislation introduced a series of changes, including removal of requirements for graphic representation of trademarks and allowing for registration of sound marks, multimedia marks, and holograms. To increase transparency, the law included provisions to clarify dates of completed trademark registration and their entry into force.

Romania is both a transit and destination country for counterfeit goods. The People’s Republic of China is the top country of origin for counterfeit goods. Customs officers can seize counterfeit products ex-officio and destroy them upon inspection and declaration by the rights holder. The government is responsible for paying for the storage and destruction of the counterfeit goods. The National Customs Directorate reported the seizure of 3.79 million items of counterfeited goods in 2021, compared to 0.74 million items in 2020. The value of seized goods decreased from USD 6.84 million in 2019 to USD 3.59 million in 2020, but jumped to USD 12.09 million in 2021. Customs authorities closely coordinate their efforts with the European Commission’s Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights, and other stakeholders to increase transborder cooperation in line with the EU’s IPR action plan.

Romania is a party to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Patent Cooperation Treaty and the Paris Convention. 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 party to the European Patent Convention since 2002. Patent applications 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.

Romania is party to the Madrid Agreement, the Singapore Treaty, and the Trademark Law Treaty. Romania’s trademark and geographical indications law was amended in 2010 to make it fully consistent with equivalent EU legislation at that time. The EU has since adopted the Trademark and Geographic Indications Directive (EU Directive 2436/2015). Romania implemented the law under Law 84/1998, which entered force in July 2020.

Romania is a member of the Berne Convention, the WIPO Copyright Treaty, and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty. The Romanian Copyright Office (ORDA) promotes and monitors copyright legislation. The General Prosecutor’s Office (GPO) provides national coordination of IPR enforcement. Many magistrates still tend to view copyright piracy as a victimless crime, and this attitude has resulted in weak enforcement of copyright law.

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

5. Protection of Property Rights

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 2021 land law, which can be accessed here , foreign investors can acquire real estate, though there is a general limit on land ownership. Freehold is granted only to Rwandan citizens for no more than 2 hectares (5 acres) and to foreigners for properties located in designated Special Economic Zones, or through a Presidential Order for exceptional circumstances of strategic national interests. Through the new land law of 2021, the GOR increased the length of long-term leases (emphyteutic leases) in residential and commercial areas for both citizens and foreigners acquiring land through private means to 99 years. Foreign investors can also acquire land through concessional agreements to use government private land. Such agreements cannot exceed 99 years but can be renewed. 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.

Foreign investors have noted challenges related to the maintenance of their existing leases and some investors fear provisions of the 2021 Land Law will lead to significant investment risks. These investors noted foreigners may face barriers to gaining an investment certificate needed to develop land. Investors also expressed fear that once granted, an investment certificate could be revoked by the government, leading to a loss of assets. Implementation of the law is ongoing.

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 can be difficult for authorities to take action against 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. In 2021, the GOR submitted a new IP law to Parliament 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 here .

Saint Kitts and Nevis

5. Protection of Property Rights

Civil law protects physical property and mortgage claims.  Foreign investors are required to obtain an Alien Landholders License to purchase residential or commercial property.  The cost of these licenses is ten percent of the value of the land, plus fees associated with an attorney or other local service provider.  Cabinet grants these licenses.  Foreign investors are not required to pay the Alien Landholders License Tax in areas designated as special development zones, such as Frigate Bay or certain parts of the Southeast Peninsula.  The Land Registry Act of 2017 was enacted to modernize records, identify property owners, and register clear land titles.

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 is inconsistent.  The Intellectual Property Office of St. Kitts and Nevis (IPOSKN) is responsible for administering all laws related to IPR and overseeing the registration of patents, trademarks, and service marks.  Its website is  https://ipo.gov.kn .

St. Kitts and Nevis 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 establishing the CSME commits all 15 members to implement IPR protection and enforcement.  The CARIFORUM-EU EPA contains the most detailed obligations regarding IPR in any trade agreement to which St. Kitts and Nevis is party.  The CARIFORUM-EU EPA recognizes to the protection and enforcement of IPR. Article 139 of the CARIFORUM-EU 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 [WTO] Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).”

The Customs Department of St. Kitts and Nevis can seize prohibited or counterfeit goods.  However, the courts rule on the forfeiture and disposal of such goods.  Complainants arrange with Customs to secure the goods until a judgment is rendered.  St. Kitts and Nevis is in the process of reviewing its existing laws in relation to the importation of counterfeit and prohibited goods.

St. Kitts and Nevis is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) 2021 Special 301 Report or USTR’s 2020 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

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/ .

Saint Lucia

5. Protection of Property Rights

Civil law protects physical property and mortgage claims.  There are some special license requirements pertaining to acquisition of land, development of buildings, expansion of existing construction, and special standards for various aspects of the tourism industry. Individuals or corporate bodies who are not CARICOM nationals and who seek to acquire land must apply for and obtain an alien landholder’s license as required under the Alien Landholding Act prior to acquisition.

Saint Lucia has two primary provisions governing the protection of intellectual property rights. They are the copyrights act and the trademarks act.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

5. Protection of Property Rights

The Aliens’ Land Holding Act regulates the holding of land and mortgages related to land by individuals who are non-nationals and companies controlled by non-nationals.  Non-nationals must apply for and be granted a license to hold land.  The breach of any condition of the license authorizes forfeiture to the government of the interest held by the non-national.  License conditions may require that land be developed within a specific timeframe.  Non-nationals must use a locally licensed attorney to apply for a land license. The applications are processed through the office of the Prime Minister. If approved, the non-national must file the license at the Registry of the High Court.  The Registry collects all applicable registration fees and stamp duties.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines has a legislative framework protecting intellectual property rights (IPR).  While legal structures governing IPR are adequate, enforcement measures are inconsistent.  The administration of IPR laws is the responsibility of the Office of the Attorney General.  The CIPO administers the registration of patents, trademarks, and service marks.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines is signatory to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.  It is also a member of the UN World Intellectual Property Organization and is a signatory to its treaties.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines is not listed in the U.S. Trade Representative’s 2022 Special 301 Report or in its 2021Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

Article 66 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas establishing the CSME commits all 15 members to implement stronger intellectual property protection and enforcement.  The EPA between CARIFORUM states and the European Community contains the most detailed obligations with respect to intellectual property in any trade agreement to which St. Vincent and the Grenadines 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 Enforcement Division of the Customs and Excise Department spearheads the preventative and enforcement aspects of IPR protection, which includes the detention, seizure, and forfeiture of counterfeit goods.  The Enforcement Division also conducts investigations of customs offenses and administers fines and penalties.

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/ .

Samoa

5. Protection of Property Rights

Leasing of Land: In accordance with the Alienation of Customary Land Act 1965 and the Alienation of Freehold Land Act 1972, land may be leased for up to 30 years renewable once in the case of land leased or licensed for industrial purposes or a hotel and 20 years renewable once in the other cases.

Land holdings and ownership in Samoa fall into three (3) categories:

  1. Customary Land: These lands are not for sale but can be leased out to foreigners as well as locals. All leased lands in this category are registered with the Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment. In case of dispute, ownership is decided by the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration.
  2. Public Land: The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources administers the database of Government land available for lease. Applications for leasing of land should be submitted to the Chairman of the Samoa Land Board.
  3. Freehold Land: Freehold land cannot be sold or leased to someone who is not a citizen of Samoa, except with the proper consent of the Head of State.

Samoa has legislation protecting patents, utility models, designs, and trademarks. Enforcement is moderate.

To protect and safeguard intellectual property in Samoa, the Government has passed the following laws:

a) Copyrights Act 1998 – applies to work including books, pamphlets, articles, computer programs, speeches, lectures, musical works, audiovisual, works of architecture etc.

b) Intellectual Property Act 2013 – for the registration and enforcement of rights of owners of Trademarks, Patents, Industrial designs, GI, and Plant varieties.

Samoa is not on USTR’s Special 301 list or 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/. 

Sao Tome and Principe

5. Protection of Property Rights

Based on Article 46 of the Constitution, private property rights are guaranteed by the State. According to Article 13 of the Expropriation Code, authorities must provide fair, adequate, and effective payment at market value in advance before expropriating any private property. The government owns the vast majority of land in the country, most of which is agricultural land granted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fishing, and Rural Development through concessions of land titles under the Land Reform Law. Less than 10 percent of land is held by private owners. Foreigners cannot purchase land, although they can purchase structures. The 2020 World Bank’s Doing Business Report ranked STP 172 out 190 economies in terms of registering properties. The 2018 Notary Law provides the country with a modern and practical legal framework that allows for fast and efficient notarial acts, while ensuring judicial security. U.S. companies have not raised property rights concerns with the Embassy.

U.S. companies have not raised intellectual property (IP) rights concerns with the Embassy. During the past year, no new IP related laws and regulation were enacted, nor are any reform bills pending. All copyright and industrial property rights proceedings are covered by the Directorate of Industry in collaboration with the National Directorate of Culture, under the Secretariat of State for Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, respectively.

STP is listed in the USTR’s Special 301 report but not listed in the notorious market report. STP is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The Regulation on Industrial Property regulates the enforcement of IP, including geographical indications, patents, and trademarks. STP does not 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/ .

Saudi Arabia

5. Protection of Property Rights

The Saudi legal system protects and facilitates acquisition and disposition of all property, consistent with the Islamic practice of upholding private property rights. Non-Saudi corporate entities are allowed to purchase real estate in Saudi Arabia in accordance with the foreign-investment code. Other foreign-owned corporate and personal property is protected by law. Saudi Arabia has a system of recording security interests and plans to modernize its land registry system.

In 2017, the Saudi Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs, and Housing implemented an annual vacant land tax of 2.5 percent of the assessed value on vacant lands in urban centers to spur development. In 2018, in order to increase Saudis’ access to financing and stimulate the mortgage and housing markets, Saudi Arabia’s central bank lifted the maximum loan-to-value rate for mortgages for first-time homebuyers to 90 percent from 85 percent and increased interest payment subsidies for first-time buyers.

Saudi Arabia was removed from the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report Priority Watch List in 2022 due to steps Saudi Authority took to address stakeholder concerns including the publication of its IP enforcement procedures and increased enforcement againt counterfeit and pirated goods and online pirated content.

In 2018, Saudi Arabia established the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property (SAIP) to regulate, support, develop, sponsor, protect, enforce, and upgrade IP fields in accordance with the best international practices. In 2020, SAIP worked to consolidate IP protection competence, including creating a government-wide IPR respect program, establishing a specialized IP court, launching online and in-market enforcement programs, continuing market raids against counterfeit and pirated goods, and conducting significant pro-IPR awareness campaigns. SAIP has cooperated with USTR and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), including the signing of a second Cooperation Arrangement in December 2021 between SAIP and USPTO. In 2021, SAIP made 6,400 field inspection tours in 10 cities, conducted 1,912 online inspection visits, and carried out 282 visits to promote awareness of IPR across Saudi Arabia. In addition, in cooperation with Ministry of Commerce, the General Authority for Audio-Visual Media, the Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority and Public Security, SAIP announced in its 2021 enforcement report confiscation of over 5 million counterfeit products during its inspection campaigns, including pirated DVDs, CDs, books, computers, laptops, hard disks, memory chips, TV satellite boxes, CD-copying devices, copied books, and satellite broadcasting devices. In 2021, SAIP blocked over 2,000 websites for violating intellectual property laws.

SAIP published a first of its kind statement in March 2022 confirming its commitment to regulatory data protection.  In a statement posted on social media, that was also published by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA), SAIP clarified its definition of confidential commercial information, described why this type of IP is important to innovation, confirmed its duty to protect this data against disclosure and unfair commercial use, and outlined proper procedures to take if an incident occurs.  It states, “Any person harmed as a result of violating the provision of the Regulation of Confidential Commercial Information may file a lawsuit before the competent Court to claim compensation for damages sustained.”

In 2022, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development approved the establishment of Saudi Arabia’s first nonprofit intellectual property protection entity, Himayah, to spread societal awareness of intellectual property rights.

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/ .

Senegal

5. Protection of Property Rights

The Senegalese Civil Code provides a framework, based on French law, for enforcing private property rights. The code provides for equality and non-discrimination against foreign-owned businesses. Senegal maintains a property title and a land registration system, but application is uneven outside of urban areas. Establishing ownership rights to real estate can be difficult. Once established, however, ownership is protected by law.

The GOS has undertaken several reforms to make it easier for investors to acquire and register property. It has streamlined procedures and reduced associated costs for property registration and developed new land tenure models intended to facilitate land acquisition by resolving conflicts between traditional and government land ownership. If the new models are widely adopted, the GOS and donors expect they will facilitate land acquisition and investment in the agricultural sector while providing benefits to traditional landowners in local communities.

The GOS generally pays compensation when it takes private property through eminent domain. Senegal’s housing finance market is under-developed, and few long-term mortgage-financing vehicles exist. There is no secondary market for mortgages or other bundled revenue streams. The judiciary is inconsistent when adjudicating property disputes. According to the World Bank, registering property requires an average of 41 days, compared to an average of 51.6 days in sub-Saharan Africa and 23.6 days in OECD countries. Five separate procedures are required.

Senegal maintains an adequate legal framework for protecting intellectual property rights (IPR), but the country has limited institutional capacity to enforce IPR laws. Senegal has been a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) since its inception. Senegal is also a member of the African Organization of Intellectual Property, a grouping of 15 Francophone African countries with a common system for obtaining and maintaining protection for patents, trademarks, and industrial designs. Local statutes recognize reciprocal protection for authors or artists who are nationals of countries adhering to the 1991 Paris Convention on Intellectual Property Rights. Patents may be registered with the Agence Sénégalaise pour la Propriété industrielle et l’Innovation technologique (Senegalese Agency for Industrial Property and Technical Innovation, ASPIT) and are protected for 20 years. An annual charge is levied during this period. Registered trademarks are protected for a period of 20 years. Trademarks may be renewed indefinitely by subsequent registrations. Senegal is a signatory to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. The Senegalese Copyright Office, part of the Ministry of Culture, protects copyrights. Bootlegging of music CDs is common and a source of concern for the local music industry. The Copyright Office has taken actions to combat media piracy, including seizure of counterfeit cassettes, CDs, and DVDs. In 2008, the government established a special police unit to improve enforcement of the country’s anti-piracy and counterfeit laws. The government has limited capacity to combat IPR violations or to seize counterfeit goods. Customs screening for counterfeit goods production is weak and confiscated goods occasionally re-appear in the market. Nevertheless, the GOS has raised awareness of the impact of counterfeit products on the Senegalese marketplace, especially regarding pharmaceuticals, and officers have participated in trainings offered by manufacturers to identify counterfeit products.

Senegal 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 WIPO country profiles .

Serbia

5. Protection of Property Rights

Serbia has an adequate body of laws for the protection of property rights, but enforcement through the judicial system can be very slow. A multitude of factors can complicate property titles: restitution claims, unlicensed and illegal construction, limitation of property rights to rights of use, outright title fraud, and other issues. Investors are cautioned to investigate all property title issues on land intended for investment projects.

During the country’s socialist years, owners of nationalized land became users of the land and acquired rights of use that, until 2003, could not be freely sold or transferred. In 2015, the government adopted a law that allows for property usage rights to be converted into ownership rights with payment of a market-based fee. In 2015, the government implemented new amendments to the Law on Planning and Construction that separated the issuance of permits from conversion issues. These amendments cut the administrative deadline for issuing construction permits for a potential investor to 30 days and introduced a one-stop shop for electronic construction permits.

Serbia’s real-property registration system is based on a municipal cadaster and land books. Serbia has the basis for an organized real-estate cadaster and property-title system. However, legalizing tens of thousands of structures built over the past twenty years without proper licenses is an enormous challenge, as an estimated two million buildings in the country are not registered in the cadaster, of which almost half are residential properties. According to some estimates, one-third of buildings were not built in accordance with legal requirements. In 2015, the government adopted a new Law on Legalization, which simplified the registration process. Since then, however, only slightly more than 230,000 decisions on legalization have been issued. The deadline set by the law for legalization of all buildings constructed without proper permits is November 2023.

Serbia is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and party to all major WIPO treaties, including the Berne Convention, the Paris Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the WIPO Copyright Treaty, and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty. While Serbia is not a member of the WTO, the Serbian government has taken steps to adhere to the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Serbia’s IPR laws include TRIPS-compliant provisions and are enforced by courts and administrative authorities.

Serbia’s IPR legislation is modern and compliant with both EU and international standards. According to the EU’s 2021 Progress Report, Serbia has a good level of preparation in the area of IPR to align with the EU acquis.

Procedures for registration of industrial property rights and deposit of works and authorship with the Serbian Intellectual Property Office are straightforward and similar to procedures in most European countries. Relevant information is available at: http://www.zis.gov.rs/home.59.html .

Enforcement of IPR remains haphazard but is roughly consistent with levels in neighboring countries. The government has a Permanent Coordination Body for IPR enforcement activities with participation from the tax administration, police, customs, and several state inspection services. Cooperation with the Special Department for High-Technology Crime has resulted in court decisions to impose penalties in test cases against online traders and counterfeits. The Public Procurement Law requires bidders to affirm that they have ownership of any IPR utilized in fulfilling a public procurement contract. Although trade in counterfeit goods – particularly athletic footwear and other clothing – declined in recent years as the government increased enforcement efforts, the overall amount of seized counterfeit and pirated goods increased in 2020. Upon seizure, authorities cannot destroy the goods without formal instructions from the rightsholders, who are billed for the storage and destruction of the counterfeit goods. Rightsholders are encouraged to register their IPR with the Customs Office by filling out an application for surveillance measures.

Inspectorates and customs authorities’ actions against IPR violations are relatively fast. However, enforcement of IPR in the court system often lasts up to two years in the first instance. Proceedings improved after the creation of semi-specialized IPR courts in 2015, according to the Serbia’s non-governmental Foreign Investors’ Council. The Serbian Intellectual Property Office continues to train judges on IPR to enable more timely court decisions.

Digital IPR theft is not common, but many digital brands are not properly protected, and there is a risk of trademark-squatting.

Seychelles

5. Protection of Property Rights

Seychellois courts enforce property rights. Mortgages and liens are enforced, and the land registrar resolves land disputes. All lands in Seychelles are either publicly or privately held. In 2014, the government discontinued selling state land to non-Seychellois.

The Immovable Property Tax Act, which was enacted in December 2019, introduced an annual tax of 0.25 percent on the assessed market value of residential property owned by all foreigners.

The Seychellois government has measures in place to enforce intellectual property rights (IPR), but awareness of IPR is limited and enforcement is weak. Seychelles joined the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in March 2000. The country became a contracting party to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property and the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) in November 2002. The cabinet of ministers approved plans for Seychelles to accede to the Madrid Protocol. Seychelles also signed the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances in June 2012 and ratified the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in October 2014. Additionally, the cabinet of ministers approved Seychelles’ membership in the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) by way of acceding to the Harare Protocol on Patents and Industrial Designs.

The 2014 Copyright Act and the 2014 Industrial Property Act, which are the two major laws regarding intellectual property rights, are currently being reviewed, along with their related regulations, with a view to updating them in line with international standards. The 2014 Customs Management (Border Measures) Regulations provide enforcement measures at the border with respect to counterfeit goods. There is currently no legislation for plant variety protection. As required by WTO principles, Seychelles IP law treats foreign nationals and Seychellois citizens equally. Enforcement of IPR protection laws is limited, as very few international brands and trademarks have local or even regional representatives.

In 2017, the cabinet of ministers established the National Intellectual Property Committee to serve as a coordinating body for consultations with stakeholders on IP matters. The Committee, which falls under the purview of the Trade Division of the Ministry of Finance, National Planning, and Trade, which comprises representatives from government, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector, meets on a monthly basis. The Registrar General’s Office serves as the one-stop-shop for both copyright and intellectual property.

Chapter 13 of the 2014 Customs Management (Border Measures) Regulations provides for enforcement measures at the border with respect to counterfeit and/or pirated goods. Furthermore, the Trade Division has, in consultation with the Customs Division, developed Procedural Guidelines on Border Measures for the Protection of Intellectual Property Rights (https://www.src.gov.sc/resources/Guides/2018/IPRs.pdf ) to counter the import and export of counterfeit and pirated goods. The Seychelles Revenue Commission’s customs officials monitor incoming shipments for counterfeit goods. However, their focus is on counterfeit products that pose a public health risk, such as medications and electrical appliances. Counterfeit apparel, CDs, and DVDs are widely available in Seychellois markets. During 2021, the Customs Division intercepted and seized one consignment of counterfeit goods, mainly counterfeit handbags, shoes, and articles of clothing.

Seychelles is not in the 2022 United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or on the 2022 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/ .

Some Law Firms in Seychelles also handling IPR:*

KAREN DOMINGUE
Room 8, Trinity House
Huteau Lane 41
Victoria, Mahe
Seychelles
+248 422 6243
icsey@sechelles.net

A.G. AMESBURY
Room 104, Premier Building
Victoria, Mahe
Seychelles
+248 423 28 41
a.g.amesburyattorney@gmail.com

*List for convenience only, not intended to imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Sierra Leone

5. Protection of Property Rights

There are two systems of land tenure in Sierra Leone. The Western Area, the former British colony of Sierra Leone, which includes Freetown, operates under a freehold system. In the provincial areas outside the Western Area, the land is governed under a leasehold system where local communities retain ultimate control. Foreigners cannot own land under either system but can lease land for terms of up to 99 years. In leasehold areas, local Paramount Chiefs control the land and may enter joint ventures with investors to develop or use the land in ways that serve the interests of the local communities.

The Constitution protects property rights, but the rule of law is fragile and uneven across the country. In the absence of an effectively functioning legal framework, property rights and contracts are not adequately secure. Mortgages and liens are possible but rare and generally involve high-interest rates and short loan periods. There is no land titling system, and traditional tribal justice systems still supplement the national government’s judiciary, especially in rural areas. In 2020, the World Bank Doing Business Report ranked Sierra Leone 169 in the World Bank ease of registering property. The process takes approximately 56 days with seven procedures and costs about 11 percent of the property’s value.

The Land Administration system currently inhibits successful problem resolution. The survey system is manual, and land survey technologies are outdated and inaccurate. Property management procedures are lengthy, unreliable, expensive, and do not guarantee the protection of the property user and or owner’s rights. In 2017, the cabinet approved a comprehensive national land policy to improve and strengthen land laws and administration within the land tenure systems in the Western Area and the provinces. The policy, which awaits parliamentary action, is intended to enhance the abilities of institutions to acquire land for responsible investment and promote sustainable socio-economic development. While the new policy seeks to gradually formalize land transactions while respecting the customary systems, the 2019–23 Medium-term National Development Plan recognizes that land ownership rights and obligations are necessary to attract foreign investment.

Sierra Leone has been a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) since 1986 and a member of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO), the common intellectual property body for English-speaking African countries, since 1980. As a member of the WTO, Sierra Leone is bound by the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Sierra Leone has not ratified the WIPO Copyright Treaty or the Berne Convention to protect Literary and Artistic Rights.

Despite its recognition of international standards, Sierra Leone’s intellectual property protection is limited. Laws pre-dating the colonial era allowed patents and trademarks registered in the United Kingdom to be extended to Sierra Leone. Efforts to update the country’s legal framework have thus far included the Copyright Act 2011, the Patents and Industrial Design Act 2012, and the Trademark Act 2014. Nonetheless, legal protections remain outdated and incomplete, and government enforcement is minimal due to resource and capacity limitations.

For companies who may wish to seek advice from local attorneys who are experts in Sierra Leonean law, go to  https://sl.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/local-resources-of-u-s-citizens/attorneys/  for a list of local lawyers.

Sierra Leone has not been listed in the U.S. 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/ .

Singapore

5. Protection of Property Rights

Property rights and interests are enforced in Singapore. Residents have access to mortgages and liens, with reliable recording of properties.

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. In 2020, MAS increased the asset encumbrance limit of a locally incorporated bank’s total assets from four percent to 10 percent. The banking industry has made suggestions to allow the use of covered bonds in repossession transactions with the central bank. http://www.mas.gov.sg/regulations/notices/notice-648 

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. Singapore is the global hub for patent filing activity and innovation.

Effective January 1, 2020, all patent applications must be fully examined by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore 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 55 in the world in the 2022 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 2021, the index noted that piracy levels remain high for a developed, high-income economy. 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 2021 Special 301 Report, but Shopee, a Singapore-headquartered e-commerce company, is named in USTR’s 2021 Review of Notorious Markets. On the trade of counterfeit and pirated goods, stakeholders also continue to report dissatisfaction with enforcement in Singapore, including concerns about the lack of coordination between Singapore’s Customs authorities and the Singapore Police Force’s IPR Branch. 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/ .

Slovakia

5. Protection of Property Rights

The mortgage market in Slovakia is growing rapidly and Slovak households are taking up new debt, primarily in the form of mortgages, at the highest rate in the European Union. In 2021, Slovakia enjoyed the third lowest interest rates among the EU countries, which oscillated around 1 percent. A reliable system of record keeping for both mortgages and liens exists. Secured interests in property and contractual rights are recognized and enforced.

Less than 10 percent of the land in Slovakia lacks a clear title, however, there are instances when a property’s owner is unknown.  In such cases, real estate titling can take a significant amount of time to determine.  Legal decisions may take years, limiting the utility of the court system for dispute resolution.

The fragmentation of land ownership and complications in user relations in Slovakia have their roots in Hungarian inheritance law and later in collectivization. Parcels commonly have a very high number of co-owners.  There are currently 8.4 mi