Property ownership is governed by the Law on Protection of Private Property and Guarantees of the Owner’s Rights. Uzbekistani and foreign entities may own or lease buildings, but not the underlying land. Mortgages are available for local individuals only, but not for legal entities. There are no mortgage lien securities in Uzbekistan.
The new Law on Privatization of Non-agricultural Land Plots (ZRU-522, August 13, 2019) allows private land ownership for plots that do not fall under the definition of agricultural land by the Land Code of Uzbekistan. Land ownership is granted only to entities and individuals who are residents of Uzbekistan. Foreign citizens and entities do not have land property rights in Uzbekistan. Effective March 1, 2020, Uzbekistan residents can privatize:
- Land plots of entities, on which their buildings, structures and industrial infrastructure facilities are located, as well as the land extensions necessary for their business activities;
- Land plots provided to citizens for individual housing construction and maintenance;
- Unoccupied land plots;
- Land plots allocated to the Urban Development Fund under the Ministry of Economy and Industry.
The following types of land cannot be privatized:
- Land plots located in territories that are not covered by officially documented layout plans.
- Land plots that contain mineral deposits or state property of strategic importance. The list of such land plots shall be specified by appropriate legislation.
- Land plots reserved for environmental, recreational, and historical-cultural purposes, state owned land and water resources, and public areas of cities and towns (e.g. squares, streets, roads, boulevards).
- Land plots affected by hazardous substances or susceptible to biogenic contamination.
- Land plots provided to residents of special economic zones.
However, according to Article 55 of Uzbekistan’s Constitution, the land, its subsoil, waters, flora and fauna and other natural resources are national wealth, subject to rational use and are protected by the state. The Land Code also states that the land is state property (Article 16). Contradictions in the legislation are still to be resolved.
The World Bank ranked Uzbekistan 72nd in the world in the Registering Property category of its 2020 Doing Business Report. More details can be reviewed here: https://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/exploreeconomies/uzbekistan#DB_rp
Land privatization is a new concept for Uzbekistan. All agricultural land in Uzbekistan is still owned by the state. As of March 1, 2020, a new law on privatization allows for the privatization of non-agricultural land plots.
Legislation governing the acquisition and disposition of immoveable property (buildings and facilities) poses relatively few problems for foreign investors and is similar to laws in other CIS countries. Immoveable property ownership is generally respected by local and central authorities. District governments have departments responsible for managing commercial real estate issues, ranging from valuations to sale and purchase of immoveable property. Legally purchased but unoccupied immoveable property can be nationalized for several reasons, including by an enforcement process of a court decision, seizure for past due debts on utility or communal services, debts for property taxes, and, in some cases, for security considerations. Unauthorized takeover of unoccupied immoveable property by other private owners (squatters) is not a common practice in Uzbekistan. Usually, authorities inspect the legitimacy of immoveable property ownership at least once every year.
Intellectual Property Rights
While the concept of registering intellectual property (IP) is still new to Uzbekistan, the GOU recognizes intellectual property rights (IPR) as critical to its economic goals. As Uzbekistan prepares for accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), its leaders have further reiterated the importance of IPR protections. In 2018 and 2019, Uzbekistan completed accession to the Geneva Phonograms Convention and two WIPO Internet Treaties. Responsibility for IPR issues lies with the formerly independent Uzbekistan Agency for Intellectual Property (AIP), which was subsumed under the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) (AIP, http://www.ima.uz/ ) in February 2019.
Uzbekistan’s Customs Code, entered into force April 2016, allows rights holders to control the importation of intellectual property goods. The Code introduced a special customs record procedure, which is based on a database of legal producers and their distributors. Uzbekistan also introduced several amendments to its IPR law, as well as amendments to civil and criminal codes meant to enforce stricter punishment for IPR violations.
Uzbekistan’s patent protections are generally sufficient, but enforcement remains one of the biggest challenges. Foreign companies face obstacles proving IP violations and receiving compensation for losses sustained due to violations. IP violators are rarely obligated to cease infringing activities or pay meaningful penalties. AIP lacks any kind of enforcement power, as does the MOJ. Enforcement is weak across different kinds of IP. Copyright cases are almost never brought before the Antimonopoly Committee (the body responsible for responding to IP complaints) because companies makes the decision that the cost of fighting copyright violations outweighs the benefits. Trademark cases often take years to settle in the courts, driving up costs and consuming time and resources. For companies who cannot meet the demands of a multiyear court battle it becomes cost prohibitive to pursue action to protect their IP.
While Uzbekistan took important steps in recent years to address longstanding issues pertaining to IPR, there remain serious deficiencies in trademark and copyright protections, judicial processes related to IPR, and enforcement of actions against IPR violations and violators.
In December 2018, President Mirziyoyev signed a bill into law for Uzbekistan to accede to the Geneva Phonograms Convention. The GOU forwarded signed copies of the law to WIPO and the UN, thus completing the formal ratification of these conventions. In February 2019, the President approved adoption of two bills into the law for Uzbekistan to accede to the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty (“Internet Treaties”). The GOU is working on amendments to national legislation to bring it in line with the requirements of the IPR Treaties. These measures represent the necessary short-term actions for Uzbekistan to maintain its benefits under the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). The full list of IPR-related international agreements/treaties that Uzbekistan has acceded to is available here: https://wipolex.wipo.int/en/legislation/profile/UZ .
In April 2018, the GOU provided greater authority to a new inspectorate under the Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications to monitor compliance and enforce copyright protections on the internet. The GOU is also establishing a system of licensing for companies that sell software legally, in order to stem the flow of pirated software to the marketplace, as described in GOU Resolution #72 of 2012 (https://www.lex.uz/acts/1982899).
There are no publicly available reports on seizures of counterfeit goods in 2020. In 2020, the AIP recorded 111 cases of trademark violations and many cases of trading counterfeit goods, including about 540 cases of selling counterfeit alcohol. The agency also recorded production and sale of counterfeit Head & Shoulders products (a brand owned by Procter & Gamble) and Mars candy bars. The Board of Appeal had reviewed cases of five American companies (Colgate-Palmolive Company, Under Armour Inc., Delta Hotels by Marriott, Apple Inc., and Emerson) and issued rulings in their favor.
Under current Uzbekistani law, the court considers copyright infringement cases only after the copyright holder submits a claim of damages. Similarly, for imported products, customs officials do not have an ex-officio function, and the onus is on the rights holder to initiate an action against a suspected infringer. The Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) has the authority to both penalize violators and order them to desist from producing, marketing, or selling infringing goods, but few cases ever make it to the PGO. The burden of proving an IP violation is so high that most cases never leave the Antimonopoly Committee or the administrative court system. While these cases are stalled in the court system, infringing companies may continue to operate without restrictions.
Uzbekistan has been on the Watch List of the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report since 2000. The political will to improve IPR protection seems to exist at the highest levels of the government, but effective enforcement policies are still not in place. Although Uzbekistan has taken some important first steps to address concerns raised in previous USTR’s reports, the country will have to demonstrate measurable and sustained progress before removal from the Special 301 Watch List.Uzbekistan is not, listed in USTR’s notorious market report.
For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .