Assuming the EU and its member states ultimately ratify the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA see background), Serbia will have to follow suit as it will have become a full part of EU law, said Branka Totić, director of the Serbian Intellectual Property Office.
Totić dismissed fears that ACTA could lead to infringement of citizens rights, privacy and data protection rules, arguing that national implementation and judicial review of cases of suspected copyright violations would guard against this.
“Therefore, I believe that there is no risk,” she said.
More generally, Totić said that Serbia must harmonise its laws with the regulations of the EU by 2013 and reach a level of protection of intellectual property that is similar to that in member states.
She said Serbia’s laws in the field of protection of intellectual property are mostly in line with the EU legislation, but that more has to be done in their implementation.
Unlike the EU members, Serbia does not have specialised courts to deal with intellectual property and court proceedings last about two years, and sentences are often suspended.
“One is of an impression that, although the law envisages strict penalties for the crime of unauthorised use of copyrighted materials and brands, sentences pronounced are lower than for stealing physical, material goods,” she said.
Piracy declining in Serbia
Serbia has a significantly higher rate of illegal software use than the EU, even compared with the members from Central and Eastern Europe, where it is relatively high.
For the first time in three years, Serbia’s software piracy rate has dropped, Totić said. According to estimates of the Serbian Tax Authority, the rate illegal software use, which was 74% in the previous three years, dropped by two or three percentage points in 2011.
“Naturally, this is not satisfactory either, but it is a large move forward. According to some statistics, a one-percentage point reduction of piracy in the field of software leads to the opening of 1,200 new jobs,” she said.
The piracy rate in the EU in 2010 was 35%, according to figures of the Business Software Alliance (BSA), a lobbying group representing numerous information technology companies including Adobe, Apple and Microsoft.
The highest rates of illegal software use in the EU were Bulgaria’s and Romania’s at 65% and 64% respectively.
Seizure of goods
Totić said that the customs authority had particular success in preventing the entry of counterfeit goods onto the Serbian market, while results of controls on the internal market are modest because inspection services are often burdened by other work.
“Last year, 150,000 pieces of pirated and counterfeit goods were confiscated at the border. This is a very large number and testifies to the fact that our customs bodies have done the job well and that 10 years of work have truly yielded results,” Totić said.
She indicated that one problem is the porous character of the border with Kosovo. Kosovo, Totić said, is a channel for the entry of counterfeit and pirated goods from China and Turkey that are sold in Serbia as well as other European countries.
Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo have made even administrative cooperation difficult.