Economy

Challenges for Corporate Intellectual Property Rights in GCC

Marmore Team

07 October 2015

With the growing conversion of intellectual ideas and human creativity into commercial business, the need to protect human efforts at least for a specified period of time increased. The increasing problems of piracy, commercialization and cross border trade pressed the need for national and international protection of human efforts commonly referred to as Intellectual Property Rights. The countries in the GCC region have taken efforts for the protection of Intellectual property rights (IPR). However, development of a common legal framework, its implementation and enforcement are major challenges relating to the protection of IPR in GCC. Though the IPR laws are common for all the GCC countries, the registration procedure and legal laws for complaints differ from one country to another. This makes the process of obtaining IPR and legal procedure to claim damage for infringement of rights very complex and time consuming. The complexity in procedures and time and cost involved are major deterrents for the people in the GCC region to apply for patents, trademarks and copyrights.

Table 1: Patents Granted, Country-wise (2010-2014)

Country20102011201220132014Total(till 2014)
UAE913211960198
KSA58611732392941,149
Kuwait14243386101384
Qatar1002024
Oman0102121
Bahrain1132112
Israel(MENA Leader)1,9172,1082,5983,1523,61732,095
USA (World Leader)121,178121,257134,194147,666158,7132,874,103

Source: US Patent and Trademarks Office

Unprecedented Delays

The delays in issue of patents are very high in GCC countries. In few GCC countries, it takes even 2 years to register and obtain a patent or a trademark.  The differences in procedures followed within the GCC countries for issue and complaints redressal add to the delays.  Authority’s reluctance to award damages in most of the GCC countries lead to lengthy litigation procedures and discourages GCC nationals from registering for IPRs.

Legal Tangles in IPR laws in GCC

GCC patents law (1987) and GCC Trademarks Law (2006) govern the policies related to the issuance of patents and trademarks in the GCC region. There is no unified law for the registration of Copyrights in the GCC region. Though legal framework exists, they are either weakly designed or implemented. The filing procedure under the patents law is common with all other legal procedure related to grant of patents, fight against infringements remaining country specific. Kuwait and Qatar do not have systems for the proper examining of filings for patents. In regards to Trademark, UAE is the only country in the GCC region to have taken steps for the recordation of trademarks at customs level. UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have announced the approval of Trademark law with the status of the other member states still unknown.

The delays and complexity in the enforcement of rights, the insufficient damage awarded in case of infringement and minimal help to the IPR holders from the enforcing agencies have contributed negatively to the establishment of sound and healthy IPR practices in the GCC region.

Public Disbelief in IPR in GCC

Lack of transparency and low level of information available in the GCC nations about the patents and trademarks have made it very difficult for individuals, businesses and foreign companies to understand Intellectual Property Rights available in their area of interest in the GCC region. The lack of strong measures to enforce trademarks and patents, the belief that patents are sorts of monopoly in the society and the high fee structures in the GCC region have led to the people’s disbelief about IPRs in the GCC region. Lack of specialised jurisdiction for hearing IPR related cases make GCC a less preferred destination to apply for IPR and fight for infringements. The number of patents and trademarks applied in GCC countries remains low, with the exception of the UAE and Saudi Arabia in case of patents. Trademarks registrations in the Middle East region has increased by c.600% in the past 2 decades. However, a huge number of trademarks still remain unregistered.

Table 2: Patents Applied in the GCC countries, 2010-2013

ResidentsNon-Residents
Country20102011201220132010201120122013
UAE2620182,7562,6042,4642,556
KSA288347491643643440
Qatar3958323
Bahrain133139161167
Kuwait
Oman

Source: World Bank

Table 3: Trademarks Applied in the GCC countries, 2010-2013

ResidentsNon-Residents
Country20102011201220132010201120122013
UAE3,2084,1305,29312,85112,66813,454
KSA
Qatar6564857976,3876,2887,182
Bahrain2693104292,0416,9416,7167,570
Kuwait
Oman1,9112,1892,1482,319

Source: World Bank

Other challenges pertaining to the system of operations, lack of unified laws among GCC countries and very low level of awareness in case of copyrights are deterrents for the increase in IPR registrations in the GCC region. For instance, the GCC patent system is not under the patent Cooperation Treaty due to which filings are accepted only with 12 month priority period. The necessity to register trademarks individually within the GCC countries requires the registrants to tackle the administrative bottlenecks as well as increases the cost. The delay in enacting the unified GCC Trademark law due to the sanctioning delays from GCC Commercial Cooperation Committee has caused problems in the implementation.

GCC countries do not have a unified law for the protection of copyrights as in the case of patents and trademarks. Copyrights and its awareness are comparatively lower than Patents and Trademarks in the GCC. The level of awareness is especially lower in countries like Oman and Kuwait.  The law in the GCC countries related to the copyrights is not clear as for patents and trademarks. GCC countries are required to work more in unison for the creation of a unified framework by encouraging the registration and protection of copyrights in the region.

Conclusion

Being a signatory to many conventions for the protection of Intellectual Property Rights, GCC countries have made considerable progress in the protection of IPR in the past 10 years. However, difficulties in obtaining patents, trademarks and copyrights in the GCC region are major hurdles faced and discourage people from registering for obtaining IPR. Awareness about Intellectual property rights in the GCC, both in business and academia is very low. Efforts such as campaigns, seminars and workshops must be conducted to increase the awareness about IPRs in the region. Oman for instance has taken steps for the creation of awareness in the country through seminars with the help of World Intellectual Rights Property Organization (WIPO). The increasing youth entrepreneurs in the GCC region who are tech-savvy will understand the importance of IPR protection. Hence awareness creation will help to encourage the next generation businesses in GCC to protect the Intellectual property.

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