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IP protection in the UAE, Saudi lauded

The United States Trade Representative (USTR) removed the country from the US intellectual property protection (IPP) Watch List. Saudi is moving in that direction

The USTR reviewed more than 100 trading partners for this year’s report US companies need a predictable way to get patents in the UAE and the region Centralizing handling of IP affairs is a key step for Saudi towards developing a cohesive IP strategy

The United Arab Emirates has welcomed the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) decision to remove the country from the US intellectual property protection (IPP) Watch List.

In its 2021 Special 301 Report, the USTR outlined a set of key achievements made by the UAE in the field of IPP during the past period, leading to its success in coming off the watch list.

The most important of which are: the Ministry of Health and Prevention resolving concerns with IP protection of pharmaceutical products (Decree 321), and the UAE making progress on long-standing IP enforcement concerns, particularly through increased efforts by Dubai Customs.

Also, greater transparency was enacted through the publication of IP enforcement procedures by multiple enforcement authorities, including publication of annual IP enforcement statistics by Federal Customs, as well as the efforts by the Ajman Department of Economic Development to significantly reduce the availability of counterfeit goods at the Ajman China Mall.

The USTR reviewed more than 100 trading partners for this year’s report, placing 32 on the Priority Watch List or Watch List.

Commenting on the announcement, Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh, Minister of State, said, “The UAE is committed to implementing robust IPP regulatory standards, including having an infringement and enforcement framework that upholds these standards.

“We firmly believe that the process of creating and commercializing IP enriches society and drives economic growth.”

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US acclaim for the UAE progress

Officials from the U.S. Department of Commerce reviewed UAE’s progress in protecting intellectual property during a Discover America webinar co-hosted by the US-UAE Business Council. 

Peter Mehravari, U.S. Intellectual Property Attache for the Middle East and North Africa described the UAE’s listing as a “wake-up call” to everyone involved and noted “incredible developments” in the country’s crackdown on counterfeit goods, and its importance for tightening an intellectual property enforcement regime.  

Peter also noted some promising signs related to Collective Management Organizations (CMOs). He remarked that music licensing is “critical” not just for ensuring compensation for U.S. artists, but also for supporting local U.A.E. artists and building a local music scene. He added that Expo2020 is putting in place a requirement that all music at the venue is properly licensed, which he sees as an important “win for the industry” and a baseline for further progress.

It was also mentioned that US companies need a predictable way to get patents in the UAE and the region.

Peter flagged trade secrets as an area of future focus, noting that the UAE government is preparing a new patent law that seeks to better protect trade secrets. He stressed the importance of this for high-tech, aerospace, energy, and defense companies in the UAE. He also underscored the significance of this for SMEs.

Saudi IP efforts

The Saudi sovereign wealth fund has announced a number of major investments in U.S. companies, including both Uber and electric car maker Lucid Motors.

A recent article notes “the Saudi government established the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property (SAIP) to be Saudi Arabia’s competent authority for intellectual property. SAIP is considered a one-stop shop for all matters relating to the protection, regulation, and enforcement of intellectual property rights in Saudi Arabia.” 

Centralizing handling of IP affairs is a key step for Saudi towards developing a cohesive IP strategy, both in terms of developing an internal IP knowledge base and infrastructure, as well as with respect to forging ties with other IP offices worldwide.

The Saudis have also engaged in a robust IP piracy crackdown effort, leading to the shutdown of over 350 pirate sites thus far in 2021. Similarly, it was announced that the UAE was taken off an IP watchlist, due to its efforts on the anti-counterfeiting front.

The Saudis also “organized the IP20+ Global Intellectual Property Challenges Forum, convening the heads of IP offices in G20 countries.” An event of that importance heralds a clear turning point in Saudi attention to IP issues. 

The US had – on April 29, 2020 – placed 10 countries, including some of its major trading partners like India, Saudi, and China, on the ‘Priority Watch List’, alleging that enforcement of intellectual properties have deteriorated or remained at inadequate levels.