Albania - 5-Protection of Property RightsAlbania - Property Rights
Real Estate is registered at the Immovable Property Registration Office (IPRO). The procedures are cumbersome and registrants have complained of corruption in the process. Recent changes to legislation allow a notary public to have access to real estate registers and confirm the legal ownership of property. The process of registering property remains cumbersome and difficult to navigate. For large transactions, it is advisable to hire an attorney to check documents and procedures for property registration.
Property legislation has developed in a piecemeal and uncoordinated way. The reform in the sector has not achieved the consolidation of property rights and the elimination of legal uncertainties. Immovable property rights enforcement is not efficient and is a common source of corruption allegations and lengthy legal procedures. Through international donor assistance, the registration system has improved. The initial property registration process has seen progress, but the finalization of the process has stalled in recent years. Approximately 15 percent of properties nationwide are not yet registered, mostly in urban and high value coastal areas.
Illegal construction is a major impediment to securing property titles. The legalization process to address large-scale illegal construction started in 2006, and is still ongoing. There are an estimated 440,000 illegal buildings in Albania, many have applied or are cases in process for legalization. In an attempt to legalize property and punish illegal construction, the government’s National Urban Construction Inspectorate (INUK) began a campaign of building demolition in late 2013. There were credible reports that the government demolished some homes without due legal process as part of a wider campaign to demolish illegally constructed buildings. Citizens also submitted complaints that INUK ignored citizens’ requests to demolish some illegal buildings while choosing to demolish other buildings about which citizens had not complained.
The civil court system manages property rights disputes. Decisions from civil courts often take many years and authorities often do not enforce court decisions. In 2010, there were amendments to the law on foreign investments, which granted special protection to foreign investors on property disputes. However, the new law on strategic investments aims to fill the gap and provide foreign investors with assistance on a variety of issues including property title. Foreigners and/or foreign entities can purchase commercial land only if the investment is more than three times the value of the land. In the case of farm land, it can only be leased, for 99 years.
According to the 2017 World Bank’s Doing Business Report, Albania performed poorly in the registering property category, ranking 106 out of 190 economies. It takes 19 days and six procedures to register property and the associated costs can reach 10 percent of the total property value.
Intellectual Property Rights
Albania is not and has never been listed on the USTR Special 301 Watch List or Priority Watch List, or Notorious Markets report. However, IPR infringement and theft are common due to weak legal structures and poor enforcement. Counterfeit goods, while decreasing, are present in some local markets ranging from software to garments and machines. Albanian law protects copyrights, patents, trademarks, stamps, marks of origin, and industrial designs, but significant gaps remain between the law’s intent and its enforcement. Regulators are ineffective at collecting fines and prosecutors rarely press charges for IP theft. U.S. companies should consult an attorney experienced in IPR issues and avoid potential risk by establishing solid commercial relationships and drafting strong contracts.
A new IPR law approved by the Parliament on March 31, 2016 entered into effect in November 2016. The law seeks to harmonize domestic legislation with EU law to strengthen IPR enforcement and address shortcomings in existing legislation. The main institutions responsible for IPR enforcement include the Albanian Copyright Office (ACO), Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA), the General Directorate of Patents and Trademarks (GDPT), the General Directorate for Customs, the Tax Inspectorate, the Prosecutor’s Office, police, and courts. The new law also stipulated the establishment of three new IPR bodies: the National Council of Copyrights, which is responsible to monitor the implementation of the law; the Agency for the Collective Administration, in charge of IPR administration; and the Copyrights Department within the Ministry of Culture.
While official figures are not available, Customs does report the quantity of counterfeit goods destroyed annually. In the case of seizure, the rights holder has the burden of proof and must first inspect the goods before any further action takes place. The rights holder is also responsible for the storage and destruction of the counterfeit goods.
Law enforcement on copyrights remains virtually nonexistent and copyright violations are rampant. Most IP-related fines are never collected and the few cases referred to prosecutors by regulatory agencies are rarely enforced. The number of copyright violation cases brought to court remains low. ACO sanctions are not effective and the low fines it levies are rarely collected and do not serve as an adequate deterrent.
Patents and Trademarks
The General Directorate for Patents and Trademarks (GDPT) is responsible to register and administer patents, commercial trademarks and service marks, industrial designs, and geographical indications. The 2008 law on Industrial Property was amended initially in 2014 to reflect EU legislation on this matter. Further amendments were introduced in February 2017 that aim to transform GDPT from a public institution into an autonomous agency to strengthen its human and financial capacities and improve performance. Despite adequate legislation, the GDPT requires further capacity building and additional human resources to be effective. Specifically, examination procedures are lengthy due to a limited number of patent and trademark examiners.
Albania became a contracting party to the WIPO Patent Law Treaty and a full member of the European Patent Organization in 2010. The government became party to the London Agreement on the implementation of Article 65 of the European Convention for Patents in 2013.
For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles.
Resources for Rights Holders
Contact at mission on IP issues:
Jeffrey D. Bowan
Economic and Commercial Officer
Phone: + 355 (0) 4229 3115
American Chamber of Commerce
Address: Rr. Deshmoret e 4 shkurtit, Sky Tower, kati 11 Ap 3 Tirana, Albania
Phone: +355 (0) 4225 9779
Fax: +355 (0) 4223 5350
List of local lawyers.
Albania Economic Development and Investment Law