5. Protection of Property Rights
Guatemala follows the real property registry system. Defects in the titles and ownership gaps in the public record can lead to conflicting claims of land ownership, especially in rural areas. The government stepped up efforts to enforce property rights by helping to provide a clear property title. Nevertheless, when rightful ownership is in dispute, it can be difficult to obtain and subsequently enforce eviction notices.
Mortgages are available to finance homes and businesses. Approximately half of the banks offer mortgage loans with terms as long as 15-20 years for residential real estate. Mortgages and liens are recorded at the real estate property registry. According to the 2020 World Bank’s Doing Business Report, registering property in Guatemala takes 24 days, and it costs 3.6 percent of the property value. In the 2020 report, Guatemala ranked 89 out of 190 countries in the category of Registering Property.
The legal system is readily accessible to foreigners. Foreign investors are advised to seek reliable local counsel early in the investment process.
Intellectual Property Rights
Guatemala has been a member of the WTO since 1995 and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) since 1983. It is also a signatory to the Paris Convention, the Berne Convention, the Rome Convention, the Phonograms Convention, and the Nairobi Treaty. Guatemala has ratified the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty. In June 2006, as part of CAFTA-DR implementation, Guatemala ratified the Patent Cooperation Treaty and the Budapest Treaty on the International Recognition of the Deposit of Microorganisms for the Purposes of Patent Procedure. Also in June 2006, the Guatemalan Congress approved the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV Convention). Implementing legislation that would allow Guatemala to become a party to the convention, however, is still pending. The Guatemalan Congress approved the Trademark Law Treaty (TLT) in February 2016 and the GoG is currently reviewing draft amendments to the Industrial Property Law to incorporate TLT provisions into local law.
Guatemala has a registry for intellectual property. Trademarks, copyrights, patents rights, industrial designs, and other forms of intellectual property must be registered in Guatemala to obtain protection in the country.
Guatemala has a sound IPR legal framework. The Guatemalan Congress passed an industrial property law in August 2000, bringing the country’s intellectual property rights laws into compliance with the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement. Congress modified the legislation in 2003 to provide pharmaceutical test data protection consistent with international practice and again in 2005 to comply with IPR protection requirements in CAFTA-DR. CAFTA-DR provides for improved standards for the protection and enforcement of a broad range of IPR, which are consistent with U.S. standards of protection and enforcement as well as emerging international standards. Congress approved a law to prohibit the production and sale of counterfeit medicine in November 2011. It approved amendments to the Industrial Property Law in June 2013 to allow the registration of geographical indications (GI), as required under the Association Agreement with the European Union. Guatemalan administrative authorities issued rulings on applications to register GIs that appear sound and well-reasoned for compound GI names, but U.S. exporters are concerned that 2014 rulings on single-name GIs in some cases has effectively prohibited new U.S. products in the Guatemalan market from using what appear to be generic or common names when identifying their goods locally.
Piracy of works protected by copyright and infringement of other forms of intellectual property, such as trademarks, including those of some major U.S. food and pharmaceutical brands, remains problematic in Guatemala.
Guatemala remains on the United States Trade Representative Special 301 Report’s Watch List in 2020 and has been on the Watch List for more than 10 years. Despite a generally strong legal framework in place, resource constraints, a lack of political will, and poor coordination among law enforcement agencies have resulted in IPR enforcement that appears inadequate in relation to the scope of the problem in Guatemala. Guatamala is not included in the Notorious Markets List.