Georgia Needs Better Intellectual Property Protection Skills
12 April, 2012
Georgia Needs Better Intellectual Property Protection Skills

Georgia is recommended to improve its intellectual property protection skills to raise the level of intellectual property protection and encourage local trademarks to get registrations.

 

The study of Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC), a non-governmental watchdog, revealed that the government formally fulfilled the main requirements of European Neighborhood Policy Action Plan 2011 (ENP AP), taking steps toward the improvement of the legislation of intellectual property rights, the development of a copyright association, and raising public awareness but still, the level of

intellectual property protection in Georgia remains low.

One of the priority areas identified in the ENP AP is the protection of intellectual and industrial property rights that falls also in line with the key EU requirements as preconditions for launching negotiations on the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) with Georgia. Official DCFTA talks have already started this year and the first round of negotiations was held by end of this past March and another one is scheduled this month.

Georgian legislation governing intellectual property rights is harmonized with its European equivalent. However, in practice serious problems can be observed in the enforcement of this legislation, notably in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy.

“The legislative structure concerning intellectual property rights largely conforms to the European framework. However, actual precedents of applying that legislation in practice are scarce and the number of civil disputes concerning intellectual property rights which are settled in court is low,” Nino Evgenidze, Executive Director of EPRC, said during the research presentation event on April 5, 2012.

According to her, the main problem is enforcement of the legislation rather than its wording.  Court statistics provide an interesting window into the enforcement of this legislation: number of legal cases in which intellectual property rights violations were named almost doubled in 2011. However, more than half of these cases [44 out of 85] were not officially considered.

The study believes one of the key reasons for the low indicator of court appeals is the low level of competence among judges in this area. Other factors include the absence of case law in the country as well as lack of precedents themselves which could be referred to in court cases. Nor does a simplified practice of expertise [for example, IT expertise] exist as, for instance, it exists in the USA, which would accelerate the court process.

The country does not yet have an institution of mediation. However, in December 2011, a relevant law was adopted to save time and cost for parties involved in disputes on intellectual property issues.

Available crime statistics do not yet allow the tracking of the dynamics of intellectual-property-related crimes for they do not provide itemized data on such types of offenses. This may indicate neglect on the part of law enforcement bodies towards that category of crime. Regarding computer crime [which may also include crimes against intellectual property], only two relevant cases were registered during six months in 2011, according to Interior Ministry data. Those cases, however, involve an illegal penetration into computer networks with the aim of damaging those networks, and not an infringement upon intellectual property (for example, the theft of software) which is quite common business in Georgia practiced by street vendors selling software programs and music discs just for nothing.

“Accordingly, it can be concluded that controlling bodies in Georgia lack an actual will to fight this type of intellectual property crime,” Evgenidze told Georgian Journal.

To address the problems of the enforcement of legislation, the Inter-Agency Coordination Council for Copyright Protection was established in 2010. However, as of 31 December 2011, this Coordination Council had held only one meeting. Under the aegis of the Coordination Council, a copyright protection strategy for the years 2011-2013 was drawn up. This strategic document provides an accurate analysis of existing problems but does not place any special emphasis on the role of the police in this process. The action plan outlined in the document is primarily focused on the implementation of awareness-raising measures but it does not actually discuss activities as launching of police raids to combat trade in pirated products and the like. The absence of concrete, effective enforcement measures and the general nature of the indicators make the EPRC think that the strategy and plan are of a more declarative than of a practical nature.

Meantime in 2010 Georgia topped the list of largest users of pirated software by 93 in 115 countries researched by the Business Software Alliance and IDC Global Software. Even though more recent data are not available, the analysis of the situation in this area in 2011 did not reveal any radical improvements.

However Sakpatenti believes the figure is much lower and the researcher did not take immediate data provided by Georgian side and based the study on approximate information. The questioned organization is supposed to implement another more realistic research under Georgian side’s request that is expected to show much lower figure, Giorgi Jokhadze, a Lawyer with Data Exchange Agency of Ministry of Justice of Georgia, said.

Passivity in the business sector is one more factor that impedes the enforcement of legislation.

“This passivity may be caused, on the one hand, by a lack of information, but on the other hand, it may be the result of the awareness of a lack of government will in this area which causes companies to refrain from undertaking any active legal steps,” Evgenidze elaborates. “In this regard, an interesting point is that international companies are more active in registering trademarks than local ones.”

According to Sakpatenti, by December 2011, a total of 45 380 trademarks had been registered of which 2 960 were Georgian; out of 2038 patents currently in force 1021 patent holders are foreigners and  1017 locals. 251 certificates have been issued for designs at present. The majority of trademarks meantime have been registered by large companies specifically pharmaceutical business.

The data bespeaks of the low level of awareness and activity of local businesses in Georgia and compared to the indicators in many European countries Georgian lags far behind even on the regional level.

For example, Georgia has 825 registered trademarks per year while Armenia has 1568. From there the numbers keep going up: Moldova – 1901, Ukraine – 21 299, Estonia – 5657, Bulgaria – 18 219, Belarus – 5447, Latvia – 5787, Lithuania – 5,287, Romania – 20 593.

The EPRC recommends Georgian authority to demonstrate its will to better protection of intellectual property right through more effective means like using licensed software products at governmental bodies, also more intense police raids as well as by enacting sanctions against illegal traders of pirated products; also to intensify cooperation with holders of intellectual property rights in order to make them more active and registration trademarks more popular.

“When 20% of economy is shadow as official statistics say, encouragement of trademark registration can be a very effective tool to improve this shadow figure,” Evgenidze said.

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