Georgia - Protecting Intellectual PropertyGeorgia - Protecting IP
Although Georgia has signed all relevant treaties and enacted legislation in compliance with its international obligations, as a practical matter, protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights remains problematic. See Chapter 6 for more information on intellectual property (IP) enforcement. However, the government has taken several steps to introduce better practices. In addition, the EU-Georgia AA signed in 2014 mandates improved performance in this regard. Companies that intend to invest or trade in Georgia might be affected by intellectual property rights issues and are invited to discuss the matter with the Political and Economic Section of the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi.
Several general principles are important for effective management of intellectual property (“IP”) rights in Georgia. First, it is important to have an overall strategy to protect your IP. Second, IP may be protected differently in Georgia than in the United States. Third, rights must be registered and enforced in Georgia, under local laws. For example, U.S. trademark and patent registrations will not protect you in Georgia. There is no such thing as an “international copyright” that will automatically protect an author’s writings throughout the entire world. Protection against unauthorized use in a particular country depends on the national laws of that country. However, most countries do offer copyright protection to foreign works in accordance with international agreements.
Granting patents registrations is based on a first-to-file system (or first-to-invent, depending on the country basis). Similarly, registering trademarks is based on a first-to-file (or first-to-use, depending on the country), so you should consider how to obtain patent and trademark protection before introducing your products or services to the Georgia market. It is vital that companies understand that intellectual property is primarily a private right and that the U.S. government cannot enforce rights for private individuals in Georgia. It is the responsibility of the rights' holders to register, protect, and enforce their rights where relevant, retaining their own counsel and advisors. Companies may wish to seek advice from local attorneys or IP consultants who are experts in Georgia law. The U.S. Commercial Service can provide a list of local lawyers upon request.
While the U.S. government stands ready to assist, there is little we can do if the rights’ holders have not taken these fundamental steps necessary to securing and enforcing their IP in a timely fashion. Moreover, in many countries, rights holders who delay enforcing their rights on a mistaken belief that the U.S. government can provide a political resolution to a legal problem may find that their rights have been eroded or abrogated due to legal doctrines such as statutes of limitations, laches, estoppel, or unreasonable delay in prosecuting a law suit. In no instance should U.S. government advice be seen as a substitute for the responsibility of a rights holder to promptly pursue its case.
It is always advisable to conduct due diligence on potential partners. A good partner is an important ally in protecting IP rights. Consider carefully, however, whether to permit your partner to register your IP rights on your behalf. Doing so may create a risk that your partner will list itself as the IP owner and fail to transfer the rights should the partnership end. Keep an eye on your cost structure and reduce the margins (and the incentive) of would-be bad actors. Projects and sales in Georgia require constant attention. Work with legal counsel familiar with Georgia’s laws to create a solid contract that includes non-compete clauses, and confidentiality/non-disclosure provisions.
It is also recommended that small and medium-size companies understand the importance of working together with trade associations and organizations to support efforts to protect IP and stop counterfeiting. There are a number of these organizations, both Georgia or U.S.-based. These include:
- The U.S. Chamber and local American Chambers of Commerce
- National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
- International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA)
- International Trademark Association (INTA)
- The Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy
- International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC)
- Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)
- Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO)
Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.