The politics of intellectual property in Cyprus: an introduction

Political situation
Underlying influences

Before trying to understand IP law in Cyprus, it is important that foreign practitioners have some appreciation of the political elements that shape the operation of all laws in Cyprus and which have a particular effect on the protection of intellectual property.

Political situation
The Republic of Cyprus is a divided country: the north of the island is occupied by Turkey, which invaded in 1974. This situation affects the way in which IP rights are protected in Cyprus in two ways.

First, although the Cypriot government is recognised by the international community (except Turkey) as the lawful government of the whole country, it is unable to exercise actual control over the northern, occupied part of the island. This situation has been recognised by the European Union; Cyprus’s treaty of accession provides that although the whole country is part of the European Union, the application of the acquis communautaire in the occupied territory is suspended for the time being. As a result, the government is unable to enforce legal measures against any IP infringements (eg, the circulation of counterfeit goods) that take place in the occupied territory.

Second, importations of infringing goods into the government-controlled part of the island are facilitated by the so-called ‘ceasefire line’, the line of demarcation between the occupied territory and the territory under the authority of the lawful government. Despite military supervision, this remains a porous border where the transit of counterfeit goods is more difficult to control than is the case with an official frontier. Moreover, the de facto character of the ceasefire line has a secondary consequence: the movement of goods through the checkpoints established along the line cannot be considered as importation within or exportation from Cypriot territory. As a result, EU Regulation 1383/2003, which is a valuable tool in combating and preventing the importation and circulation of infringing goods, is not applicable.

The European Union has tried to address this by enacting Council Regulation 866/2004 and Commission Regulation 1480/2004. These apply to goods crossing the ceasefire line and oblige the Republic of Cyprus to ensure that any pirated or counterfeit goods are prohibited in the territory under its control. Government actions against counterfeit goods crossing the ceasefire line are based directly on the obligations set out in these regulations.

Underlying influences
IP law in Cyprus has been shaped by two main influences: one relating to the island’s colonial past and the other defining its present.

First, the Republic of Cyprus is a former British colony. As a consequence, the Cypriot legal system has many similarities to the English system and can be said to belong to the common law tradition. This has various consequences, especially in relation to copyright and the treatment of confidential information.

The entry of Cyprus to the European Union is the second influence on the way in which IP law is applied. Efforts towards IP harmonisation have increased across the European Union in the last few years and this has had a significant impact on IP legislation in Cyprus.

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