Special 301 Report of 2018: Kuwait, Saudi, and the UAE

The Office of the United States Trade Representative just issued the Special 301 Report for 2018 – an annual report by the government of the United States that identifies claimed shortcomings of intellectual property laws of foreign countries. This year’s report continues to list Kuwait on the ‘Priority Watch List’ and adds Saudi and the UAE to the ‘Watch List’.

2018 Special 301 – Kuwait

Even though Kuwait has issued a brand new copyright law in 2016, the United States is not still satisfied with this law in regard to ‘the term of protection; limitations on the amount of work reproduced; enforcement, remedies, and damages; and definitions’. According to this report, ‘Kuwait is in the process of drafting amendments to the Law’.

2018 Special 301 – Saudi

The United States is not happy with the extent to which Saudi grants ‘marketing approvals to domestic companies to produce generic versions of pharmaceutical products that are under patent protection either in Saudi Arabia or in the GCC’. There is also apparently a ‘continued use of unlicensed software by the government’.

2018 Special 301 – UAE

In the UAE, the United States has ‘concerns about combatting the sale and transshipment of counterfeit goods’, especially those relating to physical counterfeit markets in the UAE and the lack of IP enforcement mechanisms within free trade zones. The United States also demands that UAE starts granting ‘the necessary operating licenses to establish [collecting management organisations (CMOs)] to allow copyright licensing and royalty payments’. According to this report, trademark filing fees in UAE ‘are the highest in the world and considered cost-prohibitive to protecting trademarks in the UAE’. Finally, the report complains about UAE officials allowing ‘domestic manufacture of generic versions of pharmaceutical products still under patent protection in the United States’, and has questions about ‘whether the UAE intends to continue to recognize patents granted by the GCC Patent Office’.

While Kuwait has been listed in every single edition of the Special 301 Report, this is the first time the UAE is ever included in it. The last time Saudi was listed is 2009 – almost a decade ago.

This report has no legal power of its own, but it is used by the United States to lobby countries around the world to change their laws to make them more protective of IP rights owned by American corporations.

Photo credits: “Kuwait City” by Meshal Alawadhi – CC BY-NC 2.0

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.
Continue reading Domain Name Restrictions in Oman and the GCC

The First Copyright Law in the Arab World

The first copyright law to exist in Arab countries came at the time when the Ottoman Empire was in control of major parts of what makes up the Arab world including Libya, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, and Saudi.

The first official Ottoman copyright law was passed in the form a regulation in 1850 called “Encumen-I Danis Nizamnamesi” (More info on this masters thesis). This regulation was later followed by a proper copyright act in 1910 which remained in force until 1951. Even though this was a modern and sophisticated law for its time, there is no evidence that this law was ever enforced in the capital of the Ottoman Empire, let alone any of the remote territories of the Empire (This ebook on Turkish  IP law talks more about this). However, a lot of literature still acknowledges its application, at least theoretically, to former territories within the Ottoman Empire such as Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine.

The Ottoman Copyright Law of 1910 was passed after the creation of the Berne Convention and its Berlin revision, but it was not compatible with its provisions, naturally because the Ottoman Empire was not a member of the convention. Nonetheless, the Ottoman Copyright Law of 1910 was still a modern copyright for its time as it was modeled after the German Copyright Law of 1901. The Ottoman Copyright Law granted protection for literary and pictorial works, engravings, sculptures, maps, musical works and notes, as well as lectures. The law covered the rights for copying and performing and allowed exceptions such as those for political speeches, judicial proceedings, and criticism. The law required formalities, registration, and deposit. The protection was generally for the life of the author plus 30 years after his death with the exception of charts and maps which lasted for 18 years after the death of the author and translations which lasted for 15 years after the death of the translator. In addition to the provisions of the Copyright Law itself, the Ottoman Criminal Act also created specific offenses against copyright infringement.

The following papers provide additional info on this largely forgotten law:

  • Birnhack M. “Hebrew Authors and English Copyright Law in Mandate Palestine” (February 11, 2010). Theoretical Inquiries in Law, Vol. 12, No. 1, 2011. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1551425
  • Zemer L., ‘Copyright Departures: The Fall of the Last Imperial Copyright Dominion and the Case of Fair Use’ , 60 DePaul L. Rev. 1051 (2011) Available at: http://via.library.depaul.edu/law-review/vol60/iss4/5
  • Surmeli, Gungor (2011), ‘The Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in Turkey in the EU Accession Process: A Perceptoin Analysis of the Police Officers Dealingw ith IPR Crimes”, Durham theses, Durham University. Available at Durham E-Theses Online:  http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/1397/ .