Companies should consider several general principles for effective management of intellectual property rights (IPR) in BiH. It is important for companies to have a comprehensive IPR protection strategy. IPR is protected differently in BiH than in the United States and rights must be registered and enforced according to local law. U.S. trademark and patent registrations do not protect IPR in BiH.
Bosnia’s IPR framework consists of seven laws, adopted and put into force by the BiH Parliament in 2010. This legislation is compliant with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and EU legislation. BiH belongs to over 20 international treaties related to IPR and, in 2009, ratified the 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty. Although existing legislation provides a basic level of protection, BiH’s civil and criminal enforcement remains weak.
Jurisdiction over IPR investigations is split between customs officials, entity inspectorates, and state and entity law enforcement agencies, and no institution has specialized IPR investigation teams. IPR crimes are prosecuted primarily at the state level. Cases in which companies are indicted often involve fairly low-level violators. More significant cases have sometimes languished for years with little action from prosecutors or judges.
The entity governments have been using licensed software for a number of years. The state-level government came into compliance in 2009, a significant step forward in the government’s commitment to IPR protection. Some of the Cantonal governments continue using unlicensed software. Some officials still lack understanding of the importance of IPR.
In BiH’s private sector, awareness of IPR, particularly the importance of copyright protection, remains low, though the emergence of a local software development industry is helping to raise awareness. Curbing business software piracy could significantly improve the local economy by creating new jobs and generating tax revenue. The failure to recognize the importance of preventing copyright infringement makes software producers and official distributors less competitive and the establishment of a legitimate market more difficult. Businesses in BiH lose an estimated $15 million annually from the sale of counterfeit software, CDs, and DVDs. According to the Business Software Alliance (BSA), the rate of illegal software installed on personal computers in Bosnia and Herzegovina currently remains at 66 percent, which is the regional average.
Registration of patents and trademarks is on a first-in-time, first-in-right basis, so businesses should consider applying for trademark and patent protection prior to introducing their products or services in the BiH market. The U.S. government generally cannot enforce rights for private individuals in BiH. Companies may wish to seek advice from local attorneys who are experts in IPR law.
Collective copyright protection also remains a challenge in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Association of Composers and Musical Authors is the only licensed collective management organization for music authors in BiH. It faces enforcement challenges, and both members and users remain skeptical and unfamiliar with collective copyright management protection. There is currently no established local representative to collect and distribute royalties for visual artists, filmmakers, and literary authors.
The U.S. Government, in conjunction with local partners, has made IPR awareness within the enforcement community a priority through training and public awareness programs. The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) recently conducted a judicial training on intellectual property rights in the Republika Srpska. DOC supports other capacity building for judiciary in intellectual property, including assistance with writing and publishing a judicial bench book and promoting the international arbitration regime in Bosnia.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is not included in the USTR’s Special 301 report.
For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at or contact ITA’s Office of Intellectual Property Rights Director, Stevan Mitchell at Stevan.Mitchell@trade.gov
For additional information, visit the U.S. Department of State Investment Climate Statements.