Comment: Protecting intellectual property together

Ukraine will strengthen the economy by reforming its intel­lectual property system as envisaged by the EU-Ukraine Associ­ation Agreement

Intel­lectual Property Rights (IPR) are not high on the agenda of today’s Ukraine Reform Conference in Copen­hagen. Right­fully, anticor­ruption and rule of law are given priority. However one should hope that Ukraine will strive to implement the reforms in the IPR sector before their inter­nally set deadlines. It would provide additional securities for potential investors, and an improving economy is something Ukraine is in dire need of. Civil society has an important role to play in popular­izing the concept of IPR protection within the population, as we found out within the IEP project “Civic School for Sound EU Practice”.

The Deep and Compre­hensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) within the EU-Ukraine Associ­ation Agreement contains an entire chapter on intel­lectual property rights (IPR) with provi­sions aimed at harmo­nizing Ukraine’s legis­lation with the EU acquis in this field.

Since the agreement came into force prelim­inary in January 2016 and officially in September 2017, Ukraine has taken first steps to improve its IPR legis­lation. A new law on cinematog­raphy was passed and the cyber­crime unit of the National Police of Ukraine was trained to better tackle online copyright infringe­ments. In May 2018, crucial legis­lation on management of ownership rights of copyright holders and related rights was approved by the parliament. It should improve the long-criti­cized ineffec­tiveness of collective management organ­i­sa­tions (CMO) in the country, though its proper imple­men­tation needs to be closely monitored.  Despite these first steps, there are still a number of draft laws stuck in the legislative process of the Verkhovna Rada.

Beyond the legislative changes, Ukraine is also working on setting up relevant insti­tu­tions. The competent authority on IPR is the Ministry for Economic Devel­opment and Trade. In 2017, legis­lation to create a specialized Intel­lectual Property High Court was passed, which should become opera­tional in the second half of 2018, though judges specialised in IPR are still scarce. Another newly created body is the Intel­lectual Property Council that became opera­tional in June 2018 and should allow repre­sen­ta­tives of executive author­ities, business and civil society to coordinate the reform process.

Though progress is visible, Ukraine’s IPR reform pace is slow and its national action plan envisages the deadline for the legal harmon­i­sation of the DCFTA “Intel­lectual Property” chapter only by the end of 2023. This does not go unnoticed with Ukraine’s partners. In February 2018, the European Commission moved Ukraine from Priority list 3 to 2 for sluggish reforms in the IPR field. Ukraine also remains on the Priority Watch List of the current US Special 301 report. This trend can be changed if the awareness of possible profits for Ukrainian economy helps keep the reform course steady.

Martin Stein and Grzegorz Szymanowski