In early March 2003, the president of Ukraine signed into law the long-awaited new Civil and Commercial Codes, passed by the Parliament of Ukraine on January 16 2003. The new Civil Code replaces the effective 1963 Civil Code of the Ukrainian SSR, while the commercial code is essentially a new concept for Ukrainian legislation. Both codes will come into effect on January 1 2004.
The new Civil Code fills six books, including whole volumes dedicated to ownership and other proprietary rights, intellectual property and contracts. It will apply only to those rights and obligations arising or continuing after its effective date.
The new Commercial Code regulates a wide range of matters related to commercial activity, setting forth the legal foundation for such activity and establishing provisions on commercial entities, assets, contracts and related liabilities. The Code also regulates foreign economic activity and special regimes of commercial activity.
In particular, the new codes appear to provide greater protection of property rights. The Civil Code in effect consolidates into one volume all the legislation adopted by the Parliament over the past 10 years with respect to intellectual property rights and introduces for the first time protection for geographic names of goods the composition of electronic chips, and commercial secrets. The new code also takes express account of Ukraine's new land code, effective January of this year, which provides for foreign private ownership of non-agricultural land plots.
However, of some concern and the focus of much recent media attention has been the considerable overlap of subject matter covered by the two codes. The treatment of certain commercial relationships, for example, those relating to contractual matters, reveals significant discrepancies in definitions and available remedies. It is hoped that such inconsistencies will be resolved before the Codes take effect in January 2004, so as to prevent potential manipulation.