Domain Name Restrictions in Oman and the GCC

I wrote a column for Muscat Daily a while ago on the new arbitrary restrictions imposed on the registration of Omani (.om) domain names, but after I wrote this column I discovered that these restrictions are not completely arbitrary as the TRA has specified in the Omani Domain Name Regulations of 2012 a list of categories of prohibited domain names that may not be registered in Oman on technical, legal, moral, or social grounds. Even though this list has been around since 2012, I do not believe that it was actually enforced in the same way it is done now because I was able to register my domain name (riyadh.om) in 2015 without any issues. According to the Omani Domain Name Regulations, my domain name falls under a prohibited category because it also happens to be the name of a geographical location, and the registration of the names of capital cities is now not possible through any of the accredited registrars (such as Omantel). For example, amman.om, cairo.om, and doha.om are all unavailable for registration, not because someone has already registered them, but because they are restricted names. This can be verified using the .om WHOIS service.
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Patents Granted in Oman in 2016

There are three ways to acquire patent protection in Oman. You can either go to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) and file a patent application there, or you can go to Saudi and apply for a GCC level patent, or you can use the international system for patent registration provided by the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). A few times every year, MOCI publishes in the Official Gazette the patent applications that it receives domestically or through the PCT. I took a look at these patent announcements that MOCI published in 2016 to see how many patents are filed and granted in Oman and to see how their inventors are.

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Registration of Copyright Works in Oman in 2016

Unlike patents and trade marks, copyright works do not need to be registered to acquire protection in Oman. However, the government still provides a mechanism for registration to those who wish to do so. This does not grant those who register with any special legal rights, but, in theory at least, it can provide additional evidence in case the ownership or the existence of a work is contested. Once or twice a year, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) publishes in the Official Gazette the details of the works that have been deposited for copyright registration. In 2016, MOCI published only one list in Official Gazette issue no 1158. I took a look at this list to see how many works were registered this year, by who, and for what kind of works.

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Copyright History in Oman

Unlike many other countries in the Arab world, Oman was never colonized by neither of England or France and did not inherent copyright law from a colonizing regime. There is no record of any movement by the authors or the creative industries in Oman calling for a the establishment of a copyright law. Therefore copyright law is relatively a recent legal development in Oman that took place as a result of pressure from the international community.

The first intellectual property legislation in Oman was issued in 1987 and covered only trademarks, agencies, and trade secrets. This legislation came as part of the natural progress of the legal commercial infrastructure and was required for the smooth operation of the everyday business in the country. Copyright law (Royal Decree No 47/1996) on the other hand became a recognized form of intellectual property almost 10 years after the the first intellectual property law in Oman in 1996 making Oman was one of the last countries in the Gulf to enact copyright legislation. This legislation came as part of Oman’s efforts towards its integration in the international community as it passed the first copyright law in July, then joined WIPO a couple of months later in September of the same year and ratified the Berne Convention in 1998.

The 1996 Omani copyright law granted automatic protection to all forms of literary, scientific, artistic, and cultural works including computer programs for a general period of the lifetime of the author plus 50 years after his death. The law also included criminal offenses such the payment of fines and imprisonment for copyright infringement in certain circumstances.

In preparation for its membership to the WTO in the year 2000, Oman decided to revise all of its intellectual property laws including copyright. This led to the enactment of the Copyright and Neighboring Rights Law of 2000 (Royal Decree No 37/2000) which added protection for performers, broadcasters, and producers of sound recordings among other things.

In 2006, Oman became the fourth Arab country to sign a free trade agreement with the United States and this required it to revise its intellectual property rights again. This led to the enactment of the third and current copyright law in 2008 (Royal Decree No 65/2008). This law remains as one of the latest Arabic copyright legislations and illustrates a very protective copyright model that grants protection for technological protection measures and digital rights managements and provides sophisticated mechanisms for combating border control piracy, court interim measures, and criminal sanctions against copyright infringement.