Provides advice on IPR protection, including information on the registration of patents and trademarks.
Last Published: 4/17/2016
Afghanistan is working to bring its legislation on patents, trademarks, and copyrights into compliance with WTO standards.  Currently, there is no serious enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights.  Investors should have no expectation of protection.
 
Several general principles are important for effective management of IP rights in Afghanistan.  It is important to have an overall strategy to protect your IP.  Your U.S. trademark and patent registrations will not protect you in Afghanistan.  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 under certain conditions, and these conditions have been greatly simplified by international copyright treaties and conventions.
 
Registration of patents and trademarks is on a first-in-time, first-in-right basis, so you should consider applying for trademark and patent protection even before selling your products or services in the Afghan market.  It is vital that companies understand that intellectual property is primarily a private right and the U.S. government generally cannot enforce rights for private individuals in Afghanistan.  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 Afghan law.  The U.S. Embassy provides a list of local lawyers at this website: http://kabul.usembassy.gov/lol.html.
 
While the U.S. government stands ready to assist, there is little that can be done 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 lawsuit.  In no instance should U.S. government advice be seen as a substitute for the obligation of a rights holder to promptly pursue its case.
 
It is always advisable to conduct due diligence on potential partners.  Negotiate from the position of your partner and give your partner clear incentives to honor the contract.  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 Afghanistan require constant attention.  Work with legal counsel familiar with Afghanistan 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 Afghan and 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)

IP Resources
 
A wealth of information on protecting IP is freely available to U.S. rights holders. Some excellent resources for companies regarding intellectual property include the following:
  • For information about patent, trademark, or copyright issues -- including enforcement issues in the US and other countries -- call the STOP! Hotline: 1-866-999-HALT or register at www.StopFakes.gov.
  • For more information about registering trademarks and patents (both in the U.S. as well as in foreign countries), contact the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) at: 1-800-786-9199.
  • For more information about registering for copyright protection in the United States, contact the U.S. Copyright Office at: 1-202-707-5959.
  • For more information about how to evaluate, protect, and enforce intellectual property rights and how these rights may be important for businesses, a free online training program is available at www.StopFakes.gov. 
  • For U.S. small and medium-size companies, the Department of Commerce offers a "SME IP Advisory Program" available through the American Bar Association that provides one hour of free IP legal advice for companies with concerns in numerous countries including Brazil, China, Egypt, India, and Russia (but not Afghanistan).
  • For information on obtaining and enforcing intellectual property rights and market-specific IP Toolkits visit: www.StopFakes.gov.  This site is linked to the USPTO website for registering trademarks and patents (both in the United States as well as in foreign countries), the U.S. Customs & Border Protection website to record registered trademarks and copyrighted works (to assist customs in blocking imports of IP-infringing products) and allows you to register for Webinars on protecting IP.

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.



Afghanistan Trade Development and Promotion Intellectual Property