Albanian IP legislation and practice have, in recent years, strengthened the recognition and enforcement of IP rights by harmonizing national laws with EU legislation and by increasing the active role of various public institutions in the process. However, there are some areas that remain in need of improvement, both in legislation and in terms of actions to be taken in practice, as per the conclusions and recommendations included in the latest Progress Report of the European Commission.
In response to these needs, the Albanian Government has begun to draft the new National Strategy on IP for 2016-2020, involving various public and private institutions, both local and international, in the process. This new strategy aims to make the national economy an innovative one, based on knowledge. Parts of this strategy include the enforcement of IP rights, the proper functioning of the judiciary system, and the modernization of enforcement authorities. The strategy also suggests that the IP system should encourage the transfer of technology through its own market, focusing on the sale and purchase of patented technologies. Moreover, it prioritizes public awareness campaigns on the importance of IP and sets a number of objectives related to research and development as well as encouraging scientific research carried out in both the public and private sectors. As a result, certain public funds will be created for the benefit of scientific research institutes by allocating government subsidies for research activities.
Further, based on the requirements and obligations arising from the Albanian-EU accession process, the Albanian IP system has to effectively guarantee the same level of IP rights protection as that which exists in the EU. In this respect, the Albanian Patents and Trade Office (ALPTO) has started drafting a new bill to amend the current IP law, with its main objective being to transform the recommendations of the European Commission into law, fulfill the Albanian Government’s commitments and goals on shortening the procedural terms and increasing the quality of service, solve the issues which arise under the current law, and adapt to the best practices of other international institutions. Other important objectives of the new legislative amendments will focus, inter alia, on simplifying application procedures by enabling online application modalities, introducing an IP financing mechanism by leveraging IP assets (trademarks, design rights, patents, and copyright) in exchange for financing, providing a clearer legal definition of the criteria for identifying well known trademarks, and setting the legal basis for ALPTO licensing of IP experts required during litigation and investigation.
Besides these legislative amendments, the new strategy also aims at introducing some changes into the administrative practice of several public authorities. The main mission of the newly created market supervisory inspectorate, for instance, is to guarantee the safety of products for consumers. In this respect, it shall be also responsible for monitoring the observance of IP rights related to consumer products and services. In addition, the state police and the customs authorities are considered to be the main players in preventing infringement and abuse of IP rights. New special units shall be created within each authority to focus particularly on anti-counterfeiting practices.
Another very important aspect is the lack of experience of judges and prosecutors in IP matters. The strategy revealed that the School of Magistrates program, as currently structured, includes an insufficient number of hours and trainings on IP legislation and practice. Increasing the number of judges properly trained and having the necessary knowledge of IP will not only guarantee the proper enforcement of IP rights but also have a significant impact on the general public and companies regarding the importance of such rights.
The new IP strategy for the next four years is an ambitious project, setting high goals for Albania – yet experts believe that with proper political and public support, the four-year term will suffice. The reforms to be initiated by the Albanian Government on IP matters are expected to have the same importance as other reforms when considering the accession of Albania to the EU.
By Besnik Duraj, Partner, Drakopoulos