The development of intellectual property rights in Montenegro started when Montenegro became independent in 2006 and since the Intellectual Property Office of Montenegro – which deals with industrial property rights – started operations in 2008.
Before the independence of Montenegro, and during the period of the Serbian and Montenegrin Union, there was significant trade in counterfeit, pirated, and other illegal goods, which infringed on intellectual property rights and significantly damaged national budgets, placing those with legal businesses in an unfavorable position and reducing foreign investment.
Montenegro has, in the time since, made great advances in the field of intellectual property protection.
In accordance with a Decision of the Government of Montenegro intellectual property rights granted by the Office of the former State Union of Serbia & Montenegro or by the Intellectual Property Office of Serbia are deemed automatically recognized in Montenegro. This means that intellectual property rights valid and properly recorded at the IP Office of Serbia & Montenegro before June 3, 2006, or at the IP Office of Serbia after that date but before May 28, 2008, are valid in Montenegro.
The harmonization of the different intellectual protection systems in the EU and throughout the world is a key factor in promoting innovation and investment, and for that reason it is important that Montenegro is working to bring its legislation in line with relevant EU regulations.
Montenegro’s new Patent Law of 2015 (as amended in 2017) aims to harmonize national patent legislation with the EU and relevant international treaties. The main innovation in this law is the provisions relating to the substantive examination of a patent application. The Patent Law of 2008 abolished substantive examination of inventions and requires only that a formal examination be carried out, but the new Patent Law corrects this by requiring the right owner to submit proof of patentability before the ninth year of its validity, conforming with EU regulations.
Montenegro has amended its trademark law to harmonize it with regulations of the EU as well. These amendments bring more transparency and clarity to various procedures – and, importantly, specify the fines for trademark infringement. Individuals can now be punished with fines of between EUR 250 and EUR 1,500, individual entrepreneurs could face fines from EUR 500 to EUR 3,000, and other legal entities could face fines of between EUR 2,000 and EUR 10,000.
These fines are critical, as in the past many infringers have simply continued using others’ trademarks without any authorization. Accordingly, we hope that the adoption of provisions relating to fines for trademark infringement will discourage the infringement which has been plaguing the country.
Although IP regulations are developing in the proper manner and in accordance with EU regulations, it is equally important to raise the awareness of the public about the significance of protecting intellectual property rights. In the last five years many companies have worked to bring the public a step closer to understanding intellectual property rights.
Effective protection of intellectual property rights is in the national interest, as it strengthens the economy, protects consumers’ rights, and attracts new investors.
In particular we point out that it is necessary for right-holders to bring claims before administrative authorities to their protect IP rights from infringement, which means, for example, that as a precondition for undertaking customs measures companies must protect what they have created and what constitutes their intellectual property, and to submit applications to protect their intellectual property rights to the Customs Administration in Montenegro.
The lack of attention to the protection of intellectual property rights has negative consequences on business entities and other organizations.
Taking into consideration that the protection of intellectual property rights is an area the EU is paying particular attention to, competent authorities should continuously undertake activities on enforcement measures to protect intellectual property rights following right-holders’ applications, and sometimes ex officio, and in compliance with the IP laws. In this way they support the development of this field in Montenegro – which is already on an incomparably higher level compared to the situation in this field before the independence of the country.
By Sasa Vujacic, Managing Partner, Vujacic
This Article was originally published in Issue 4.5 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.