Uzbekistan Amends Competition Law Excluding IP-Related Provisions
Uzbekistan has recently adopted amendments to its competition law which will enter into force on October 4, 2023. While the amendments are aimed at reducing anti-competitive and unfair practices, provisions related to the protection of IP rights have been entirely excluded.
Removal of IP Provisions
The previous version of the law included the provisions which prohibited:
Sale of goods with with illegally used IP rights including the illegal use of a designation identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or trade name by placing it on goods, labels or packaging, or otherwise using it in relation to goods that are sold or put into circulation, as well as by using it in a domain name;
Misleading consumers with products that resemble the original products of other companies by imitating their design, shape, names, labels, packaging, colors, trademarks, promotional materials or other elements;
Registration of IP rights in bad faith.
Change of Competent Body
The Anti-Monopoly Committee (AMC) will transition into the Competition Promotion and Consumer Protection Committee (CPCC). Unlike the AMC, the CPCC will have no authority to review and decide on IP-related cases. AMC decisions have represented an important legal basis for seeking trademark invalidation before the courts or for taking legal action against infringers before the Uzbek Intellectual Property Office. It appears that now there are no effective statutory mechanisms or governmental institutions to rely on when dealing with infringements based on unfair competition grounds.
New Law vs. Paris Convention
The amendments are apparently not in line with the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, to which Uzbekistan is party. In accordance with Article 10bis (1) of the Convention, every member of the Union is bound to ensure effective protection against unfair competition. Particularly, section 3 (i) of the same Article states that acts in the course of trade that create confusion as to the goods or the industrial or commercial activities of a competitor are to be prohibited. The amended law no longer complies with this section. However, this issue can perhaps be overcome by citing the principle of prevalence of international treaties embedded in the Constitution of Uzbekistan and the amended competition law itself.
Alternative Ways to Protect IP Rights
Given the limitations of the amended law, facts of infringement may still be based on the grounds of misleading the public as to the nature, the manufacturing process, the characteristics, the purpose or the quantity of goods (Article 10bis (3) (iii) of the Paris Convention). Conducting public surveys, for instance, could be helpful in confirming confusing similarity between counterfeit and original products. In this case, however, IP owners would not be able to base their claims against infringers on the IP rights they own in Uzbekistan, but rather on the actual evidence that infringers are misleading local consumers.
Despite the potential issues mentioned above, Uzbekistan intends to accede to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the near future and if it joins the WTO, it will have to align its legislation with all of the WTO’s agreements, including the Paris Convention.
What is more, in accordance with the recent President’s Decree No.108 dated July 6, 2023, a new resolution aimed specifically at determining unfair competition acts will be adopted and used as a guide when dealing with such cases. Once this bylaw is adopted, it might be used to protect the interests of IPR owners in Uzbekistan.
By: Altinbek Amreev
For more information, please contact Altinbek Amreev at our Uzbekistan office.