Reforms

Ukraine’s aspirations for intellectual property protection: what you should know

On 12 June, the EU Delegation to Ukraine released a statement to express disappointment by Ukraine’s slow progress in reforming laws on intellectual property rights. “18 months after the EU-Ukraine DCFTA came into force, most of the legislation needed to reform this sector, in line with Ukraine’s commitments in the DCFTA, has still not been submitted to the Verkhovna Rada by the government,” EU Delegation underlined. According to the statement, this lack of progress is “causing irreparable damage to the legitimate interests of thousands of local and international right holders.”

EU demands that Ukrainian MPs should draft a pack of 4 laws (on Collective Management Organisations (CMOs); on the new IP office; on inventions and utility models; and on copyright and related rights) before September. Moreover, EU expects that these laws “will be based on the EU experts’ drafts.”

This message from the EU Delegation followed the annual dialogue on intellectual property laws between Ukraine and the EU. Oleksandr Mamunya, Ukrainian patent and trademark attorney, and attorney-at-law who practices in the areas of intellectual property and litigation, stressed that Ukrainian delegation was not represented by high-ranking officials this year. “The highest one was the deputy economic development minister, and even he left after around one hour into the meeting,” Mamunya noted. In his opinion, this clearly shows that Ukrainian government does not consider intellectual property issue to be very important.

This is not the first attempt of the EU to draw Ukraine’s attention to intellectual property issue. Nicolas Burge, the Head of Trade and Economic Section at the EU Delegation to Ukraine, stressed in his interview for UNIAN news agency on 1 February that there is little respect to intellectual property to be expected from Ukrainian citizens when even authorities do not support the legislation in this sphere. He also noted that respect to intellectual property is a part of EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, therefore there are mechanisms to ensure changes — other than sanctions.

Moreover, Ukraine often appears in international piracy ratings. For instance, Ukraine was designated Priority Foreign Country in 2013 in United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report.

Mamunya names several causes of slow progress in reforming laws on intellectual property rights in Ukraine. In his opinion, the biggest problem is that government does not employ experts in intellectual property sphere for senior positions. The expert argues that there are very few specialists in this sphere in the whole country who could potentially manage it in the government, and public service does not look attractive to them. As a result, no one in Ukrainian government is able to implement high-quality intellectual property reform, he says.

Furthermore, Ukrainian government does not clearly see the potential of intellectual property, according to Mamunya. “Officials do not really get the connection between intellectual property laws and quality of life, as well as investment climate,” he noted.

Another problem is Ukraine’s judiciary system. “Enforcement of intellectual property laws can only be secured by well-functioning courts,” Mamunya stressed.

He also named attitudes of Ukrainian society among the problems. People are not ready to pay for intellectual property.  Therefore, piracy flourishes in Ukraine. According to the latest researches, 82% of all installed software in the country is pirated, Ukraine Today reported last year. For many years Ukraine has been placed on the American Priority Watch list, among the top 10 states for copyright violations. The biggest problem is that Ukrainians do not get yet that illegal download is a crime.

Nevertheless, it would be completely unfair to say that Ukraine has made no progress in this sphere whatsoever. For instance, Ukrainian government has recently adopted Law on Cinematography which introduces better controls to prevent illegal content being shown on websites based in Ukraine. The said law and some other legislative initiatives have been brought to the Parliament by a number of progressive members of the parliament who have expertise and certain background in intellectual property.However, such initiatives are few so far.

Another hopeful signs for decrease of digital piracy are closure of ex.ua website and band of Vkontakte social networks. Both have been huge bays for illegal content. Moreover, streaming services like Netflix of Apple Music were introduced in Ukraine. Additionally, several information campaigns were launched to raise society’s awareness of the worth of digital content.

Prepared by Vitalii Rybak based upon interview with Oleksandr Mamunya, partner at AEQUO, for UkraineWorld group (ukraineworld.org)

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