Three hot topics in the Middle East
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Three hot topics in the Middle East

There are some important changes happening in the Middle East. James Nurton finds out what today’s session will cover.

The new trademark law in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states; the fight against counterfeits and the impact of economic growth on trademark registration—these are the three topics that will be addressed by speakers in today’s regional focus on the Middle East.

The GCC Trademark Law looks finally to be nearing reality, after it was approved last year by Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet. It has also been enacted in Bahrain and Qatar, but the other three member states (see box) also need to enact it before it can come into force.

“People have been talking about the law for more than a year, but now we have more information about what to expect,” says Charles Shaban of AGIP in Jordan, who is moderating today’s session. The new law will mean that all six states will have the same standards and requirements for examination and opposition. They will not, however, be adopting a unified registration system such as that in the EU.

“It’s expected to make protection in the region easier as requirements will be standardized. But the bad news is that it will be more expensive in some countries, as the charges will be made the same,” says Shaban. For example, at the moment there is a big difference between Kuwait, which has relatively low official fees, and the UAE, which is more expensive.

Aisha Salem, the USPTO IP Attaché for the Middle East & North Africa, who has been in the region for two years, will provide an update on the latest developments regarding the law.

Shaban says that, while the unification brought by the law is welcome, the laws themselves in the region are not generally deficient at the moment; the biggest problems are to do with enforcement, particularly in those areas where there are free-trade zones and large volumes of goods in transit.

Omar Obeidat of Al-Tamimi & Company in the UAE will present different approaches to fighting counterfeits, with examples, during today’s session. These include notification, cease-and-desist letters, online filing of forms and Customs actions. “Although it may seem difficult, there are ways that you can get information as the trademark owner,” says Shaban. His view is backed up by rights owners who have visited the region recently and report that police and Customs authorities are willing to help locate counterfeiting sites, shut them down and seize fake goods.

The other side of the enforcement battle is to increase awareness among consumers; in Lebanon recently there was an advertising campaign telling people what number to call if they suspect counterfeit goods are on sale. Rany Sader of Sader & Associates will demonstrate how the campaign worked, as well as addressing other issues.

And if that’s not enough to tempt you along, Shaban also promises that—in line with this year’s Annual Meeting theme—there will be some music from the region. He declined to confirm, though, whether there would also be belly dancing.

RT21 Regional Update: The Latest News from the Middle East. Why is it so Important to Protect IP in the Region? takes place from 11:45 am to 1:00 pm today.

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