World IP Day: Saudi Arabia’s Vision for a Green Future

Published: June 1, 2020

Rob Deans Clyde & Co LLP Dubia, United Arab Emirates INTA Bulletins Committee - Middle East and Africa Subcommittee

What happens when World IP Day (which we all know is on April 26) falls on a Sunday? One answer for INTA was to co-host an event with the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property (SAIP).

With Sunday being a working day in the Middle East, the logic of organizing a World IP Day event in Saudi Arabia made perfect sense. However, other factors had to be taken into account, not least of which was that April 26 marked the first working day of the holy month of Ramadan in 2020. In addition, Saudi Arabia had been operating under a strict 24-hour curfew in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was only partially lifted on April 26.

The webinar featured Hesham Alarifi, Executive Director of IP Policy at SAIP, along with Rasha Al Ardah (Al Tamimi, UAE) and Sarkis Simonian (Simonian IP, USA). Tat-Tienne Louembe of INTA moderated the roundtable discussion.

In line with the World IP Day theme for 2020, “Innovate for a Green Future,” Mr. Alarifi provided a summary of the Saudi vision for 2030. This vision includes a drive towards a reduced reliance on oil for energy through the introduction of green energy technologies (with a specific target of 58 gigawatts to be produced through green energy sources by 2030). 

Mr. Alarifi described Saudi Arabia’s progress to date through the introduction of hybrid technologies, and its plans for the future, including 35 mega-projects for the production of energy through green technologies. Mr. Alarifi then explained how these initiatives are relevant to the intellectual property (IP) environment in Saudi Arabia by setting out how Saudi Arabia has collaborated with the World Intellectual Property Organization in order to facilitate the transfer of technologies so as to enable these projects to be implemented.

Looking specifically at IP issues, Mr. Alarifi explained that SAIP (pronounced “Sype”) was established one and a half years ago. This required the operation of individual IP offices in Saudi Arabia to be transitioned from different ministries to SAIP. This has been a huge project and a great deal of progress has been made within a short period.

Mr. Simonian highlighted the initiatives of the Saudi Trademark Office (TMO) in putting its processes online, while Ms. Al Ardah noted various improvements at SAIP, including increased proactivity from SAIP and faster timelines for examinations. Mr. Alarifi explained that the TMO has further plans, which include making the TMO’s database available online for searching, although this will take time. 

In response to questions, Mr. Alarifi explained that Saudi Arabia is reviewing its regulations relating to trade secrets with amendments to these regulations in the pipeline. SAIP is working together with other entities, including the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Patent Office (which, although based in Saudi Arabia, operates outside the authority of SAIP, with a GCC-wide remit), in order to incentivize, support, and facilitate the protection of IP rights for innovators and the public.
In important news for practitioners, SAIP is drafting regulations relating to IP agents in Saudi Arabia, Mr. Alarifi said. Specifically, the regulations will lead to the certification of IP agents, with the purpose of developing the market for IP agents in Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Alarifi anticipated that the new regulations will be published later in 2020, and are likely to include a one-year grace period for compliance. IP agents in Saudi Arabia should therefore be prepared for this licensing system to be introduced.

A specific question from Mr. Simonian related to the practice of the TMO to allow applicants either to seek protection for the class heading or to select individual specifications from a list maintained by the TMO. He suggested that this practice be adapted to allow applicants to cover items on a “free-form” basis. Mr. Alarifi agreed to pass this suggestion on to the TMO.

In response to a question about the protection of nontraditional trademarks in Saudi Arabia, particularly 3D marks, Mr. Alarifi explained that a review of the protection of 3D marks in line with the GCC Trademark Law (which has been adopted in Saudi Arabia) will commence shortly. 

Ms. Al Ardah referred to the work INTA has undertaken in this area, including the preparation of guidelines for the examination of nontraditional trademarks. Mr. Alarifi welcomed INTA’s input and requested a copy of the relevant guidelines.

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of items in the INTA Bulletin, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest.

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