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.
Amendments to 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.
Intellectual Property Rights
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).
(WPPT), and the UPOV Convention 1991 for the protection of New Varieties of Plants (PV).