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 communities, in 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.
The World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Index ranked Kosovo 37 out of 190 economies for ease of registering property. 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. The Kosovo public generally perceives current KPCVA leadership to be unqualified and corrupt.
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.
While Article 121.2 of the Constitution states foreign nationals and organizations may acquire ownership rights over real estate in accordance with conditions established by law or international agreement, Kosovo has no specific legislation establishing relevant conditions. 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.
Intellectual Property Rights
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.