There have been a number of recent developments in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (the KSA) as part of a broader drive to promote the intellectual property landscape and offer increased protection of intellectual property rights. Such developments have included:
- the establishment of the Saudi Intellectual Property Authority (SAIP);
- the introduction of copyright recordal under the new Regulation for Optional Registration of Copyright Works; and
- a recent announcement that the commercial courts will hear copyright and patent related cases.
These developments reaffirms the KSA's (and SAIP's) commitment to raising awareness and knowledge around the importance of intellectual property as part of its Vision 2030.
Establishment of SAIP
Oversight of key intellectual property functions in the KSA was previously (prior to the establishment of SAIP) divided between various governmental bodies: copyright was entrusted to the Ministry of Culture and Information, trademarks with the Ministry of Commerce and Investment and patents with the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology.
SAIP was established in June 20181 and will act as an integrated intellectual property authority in the KSA. It is responsible for supporting the growth of an intellectual property culture, establishing itself as the main intellectual property centre in the region.
SAIP's responsibilities will also extend to that of a regulatory function, with such responsibilities including the enforcement of intellectual property rights, as well as drafting new legislation (including the Copyright Registration Regulation, described further below) with the goal of protecting such rights.
We understand that SAIP has now commenced operations, and has taken responsibility over copyright, trademark and patent registration.
The centralisation of intellectual property rights and regulation under the umbrella of one authority (i.e. SAIP) will no doubt strengthen the intellectual property landscape in the KSA by creating a standalone regulator and enforcer for the different forms of intellectual property rights (rather than key intellectual property functions being spread across various governmental bodies whose regulatory ambit cover a wide array of sectors and not just intellectual property rights).
Issuance of the Regulation for Optional Registration of Copyright Works
SAIP recently issued their Regulation for Optional Registration of Copyright Works (Copyright Registration Regulation), which came into force in late December 20192.
The Copyright Registration Regulation permits the voluntary registration of architectural designs and computer software and applications, which must be submitted electronically via SAIP's electronic portal. While registration under the Copyright Registration Regulation is currently limited to such works, the scope of registrable works may be expanded following the issuance of a decision by the Chief Executive Officer of SAIP and therefore is something that should continue to be monitored.
The KSA is a member of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and has its own Copyright Law3 in place, and registration in itself is not strictly necessary in order for copyright to subsist under law. However, voluntary registration may be beneficial for evidential and enforcement purposes, being prima facie evidence of the existence, date and author/owner of the relevant copyright work. Successful applicants will receive a copyright registration certificate and their copyright work will be recorded in an electronic register maintained by SAIP, enjoying the added protection that a record may only be removed by virtue of a decision issued by the Chief Executive Officer of SAIP or the KSA courts.
Commercial courts to hear copyright and patent related cases
The Supreme Judicial Council recently issued a Circular4 addressed to all courts in the KSA stipulating that commercial courts, as well as commercial departments inside general courts, will now handle copyrights and patent-related cases filed from the 01/06/1441 H (corresponding to 26 January 2020).
Any copyright or patent-related claims filed before this date will still be heard by the Copyright Violation Review Committee and the Committee for Reviewing Patent Disputes.
The Ministry of Justice have evidenced their support of the Supreme Judicial Council's decision by implementing a plan to train judges on copyright systems and how to handle patent disputes inside the commercial court.
These changes follow a broader international trend towards specialisation, broadly aimed at having trained, dedicated judges resolving on intellectual property disputes in a timely and consistent manner, taking into consideration previous decisions, increasing experience and ongoing developments in the intellectual property and technology space.
What businesses should be aware of
Intellectual property can be one of the most valuable assets for a business, and it is important to identify, protect and maintain these assets. The KSA has long recognised the importance of providing intellectual property protection, being a signatory to a number of the key applicable international treaties and passing a number of laws for protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights. These more recent developments further strengthen the intellectual property landscape, and businesses should consider what legal and practical protections may be available to protect its key intellectual property and maximise competitive advantage, and continue to keep a watchful eye on further developments in this space.
1 SAIP was stablished by the Regulation of the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property, promulgated by Cabinet Decision No. 496 dated 14/09/1439H (corresponding to 29 May 2018), effective date as at 24/09/1439 (corresponding to 08 June 2018) (published in Um Al-Qura No. 4730, dated 14/09/1439 (corresponding to 08 June 2018)).
2 Voluntary Registration Regulation for Copyright Works issued by SAIP Board of Directors Decision No. 03/07/2019 dated 07/06/1440 H (corresponding to 13 February 2019), published in Um Al-Qura No. 4793, dated 20/12/1440 H (corresponding to 22 August 2019) and which came into force 120 days from the date of publication in Um Al-Qura.
3 Promulgated by Royal Decree No. M/41 dated 02/06/1424 H (corresponding to 01 August 2003), as amended.
4 Supreme Judicial Council Circular Number 1418/T, dated 21/5/1441 H (corresponding to 17 January 2020).
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.