During its 9th regular session on March 28, the Senate of the Oliy Majlis (an upper house of the Uzbek Parliament) approved several major changes in the Constitution and some legislative acts. As the most of the changes were proposed by the country's President Shavkat Mirziyoev, it is highly unlikely that any of these changes will be blocked at the signing stage. The most notable novelties include:
Courts and the judiciary. The changes introduced in the Constitution presume the merger of the Supreme Court and the Higher Economic Courts into a single supreme judicial body – the Supreme Court with relevant judicial boards supervising and adjudicating civil, criminal, commercial, and administrative cases.
Administrative courts are established across the country for considering administrative and tort law claims. The measure is aimed at unloading the criminal justice system. The existing commercial courts are reorganised into economic courts with a more branched system of district courts.
The changes in the Constitution and the approved Law on the Supreme Judicial Council provide for creation of the respective 21-member Council responsible for selection and appointment of judges and, thus, acquiring some powers previously held by the existed Attestation Commission and the President. The Council is vested with the authority to ensure independency of the judiciary and to propose reforms for improving the quality of adjudicating.
Some changes introduced in the Law on Courts modify the procedure for appointment of judges.
Foreign Investment. The Senate approved a change into the Law on Foreign Investment allowing manufacturing enterprises with foreign investment to apply the rates of taxes and other mandatory payments that were in force at the date of their state registration for 5 years from it. The privilege does not apply to customs fees as well as land, subsoil, and water taxes.
Trademarks and exhaustion of IP rights. The rights to a trademark as registered with the Agency for Intellectual Property may now be annulled at the request of a third party if the trademark is not used for more than 5 years without a valid reason. The concept of "usage" embraces printing on package, advertising and marketing, use in documents related to circulation of related goods and in a domain name.
Article on national exhaustion of trademark rights is introduced into the Civil Code and may have a significant impact on Uzbek law perception of parallel import. The concept of 'national exhaustion' suggests that a foreign trademark holder importing goods or services into Uzbekistan may not claim a violation of his IP rights so long as he has sold his products to local companies and agreed to the distribution within the country i.e. his IP rights are exhausted at the national level after the sale of related goods to local distributors. Based on the same principle, the import of goods or services without the consent of the trademark holder into Uzbekistan by a third party is now likely to be interpreted as a severe violation of IP rights i.e. parallel import by an unauthorized third party is now prohibited.
The concept of counterfeit will now be defined in the Law on Trademarks. A newly added provision states that goods, packaging, and labels with an illegally used trademark or a confusingly similar trademark are counterfeit. The introduction of the definition streamlines the application of previously adopted laws and by-laws where the term has been eventually used.
Competition and advertisement. The Law on Competition has been complemented with the provisions expending the list of actions constituting inappropriate competitive behavior. In line with the amendments above, it now clearly prohibited to sell goods using third parties' IP illegally or using confusingly similar IP objects as well as to imitate competing products' design, packaging, trademark, color, name, advertising materials, or labels.
It is further clarified what represents an inappropriate comparison in advertisement. According to the added provision, such a comparison is a comparison that creates the impression of superiority of advertiser's products over competing products without specifying methods of comparison having objective justification. It should be noted that previously the lack of definition of such kind allowed the competition authority to interpret the concept of inappropriate comparison quite broadly without referring to any established methodology of finding the violation.
Licenses and approvals. In the case of amalgamation of companies (under Uzbek law, a merger where two companies merge into a new entity), it is now easier to get the extension of licenses and permits held by merging companies i.e. they are not invalidated automatically as it was before.
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