Saudi Arabia has ratified the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works of 1886, revised in Paris on 24th July 1971 and the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property of 1883, both with effect from 11th March 2004. Three government authorities have authority to protect and enforce intellectual property rights: the Ministry of Commerce and Industry for trademarks, the Ministry of Culture and Information for copyright, and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology for patents.
Trademarks are governed by the Trademarks Regulation, Royal Decree No. M/21 of 28th Jumada Awal 1423 Hejra corresponding to 8th August 2002 Gregorian, and its Implementing Rules of the same year. Applications for registration must be made to the Trademarks Office of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry which applies the ‘Nice Classification’ in accordance with the Agreement Concerning the International Classification of Goods and Services for the Purposes of the Registration of Marks of 1957.
Applications must contain the following particulars:
01. A copy of the trademark required to be registered.
02. Name, title, address, nationality and trade name of the applicant (if any). If the applicant is a juristic person, the name, address of the head office and nationality must be stated.
03. Where the application is submitted by an attorney, his name, title and address must be stated.
04. Description of the trademark required to be registered.
05. The products or services in respect of which the trademark is required to be registered, and the classification thereof.
06. Signature of the applicant or the attorney thereof.
07. Ten representations of the trademark identical to the trademark sample shown in the application for registration.
08. A copy of the power of attorney together with the original for verifying purposes must be attached where the application was submitted by an attorney of the person concerned.
09. Evidence of payment of application fees as stipulated in the Trademarks Regulation.
It is not permitted to register in Saudi Arabia, by other than its rightful owner, a trademark that is similar to an internationally known mark. Registration of a trademark allows holders protection for ten years from the date of application, renewable for similar periods. Any renewal must be specifically applied for before the end of the last year of expiry of the registration, and the procedure for renewal is the same as the one for the initial registration of the trademark. Service marks are included in the definition of trademarks. A trademark is deemed owned by the person who effects the registration. Once the registration is effected in the trademarks register, the party who has registered the trademark shall be considered the owner thereof to the exclusion of others.
A trademark can be licensed, pledged or transferred by the rightful owner. The trademark may be deleted or cancelled if it is not used for five consecutive years. Penalties for infringement of a valid trademark include imprisonment for a period of not more than one year and a fine of not less than SR50,000 and not more than SR1,000,000. Any civil or criminal disputes arising from the infringement are settled by the Board of Grievances.
There are at present two overlapping patents systems in Saudi Arabia. The GCC Patents of Inventions Regulation of 2001, which is an amendment of an earlier statute of 1992, was approved in Saudi Arabia by Royal Decree No. M/28 of 2001. This permits the registration of patents with effect throughout the GCC countries. The GCC Patent Office is based in Riyadh.
Under Saudi Arabian law, patents are governed by the Layout Designs of Integrated Circuits, Plant Varieties, and Industrial Models Regulation, Royal Decree No. M/27 of 20th Jumada Awal 1425 Hejra corresponding to 17th July 2005 Gregorian, which gives effect to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property under Saudi Arabian domestic law.
A protection document is granted by the General Directorate of Patents at King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, which gives full protection within the Kingdom to an invention, a layout design of an integrated circuit, a plant variety, or an industrial design. The protection document grants the owner the right to commercially exploit the subject matter of protection.
Applications for a protection document must be filed at the Directorate in the Arabic language, and must include:
01. Names and addresses of the applicant(s) and inventor(s);
02. Name and address of the local agent and the authorization, if the applicant resides outside the Kingdom;
03. A brief title of the subject matter of the application, an original copy and certified copies of the complete specification and certified copies of other relevant details thereof like examination and research reports;
04. Priority and disclosure information including previous filings; and
05. Evidence of payment of the filing fee at a designated bank, stipulated by the Directorate.
The protection document is the personal right of the owner and he may transfer or assign it or grant a contractual licence to others to commercially exploit the subject matter of protection. Protection is granted to the owner for a duration of 20 years for an invention, 10 years for an industrial design and a layout design of an integrated circuit, and 20 to 25 years for a new plant variety. The above periods are renewable, for an annual fee.
The Copyright Regulation, Royal Decree No. M/41 of 2nd Rajab 1424 Hejra corresponding to 30th August 2003 Gregorian and its Implementing Rules, Resolution of the Minister of Commerce and Industry No. M/W/1788/1 of 10th Rabi Thani 1425 Hejra corresponding to 30th May 2004 Gregorian, define copyright protection to include architectural designs, speeches, theatrical, musical, photographic and cinematographic works, as well as works for radio and television, maps, video tapes and computer software. Copyright protection is not subject to any registration or renewal. The Regulation gives the author financial and moral rights, to print or publish the work, to make amendments or to delete his work, to withdraw it from circulation, and to assign it as he wishes.
In general the duration of protection afforded to different types of Copyright works is as follows:
01. The period of protection of copyright for the author of a work shall be for the duration of his life and for a period of fifty years following his death.
02. The period of protection for works where the author is a corporate entity, or if the author’s name is unknown, shall be fifty years from the date of the first publication of the work.
03. The protection period for sound works, audio-visual works, films, collective works and computer programs is fifty years from the date of the first show or publication of the work, regardless of republication.
04. The protection period for applied art (handcrafted or manufactured) and photographs shall be twenty-five years from the date of publication.
05. The protection period for broadcasting organizations shall be twenty years from the date of the first transmission of program or broadcast materials.
A special Copyright Violations Committee under the authority of the Ministry of Culture and Information presides over copyright infringement issues and it has broad powers to punish the infringer of a valid copyright including a fine of up to SR250,000 in the case of first time offenders, and this can be raised to SR500,000 if there is repeated infringement. The Committee may issue injunctions in certain cases and also order imprisonment of an offender. Any decision of the Violations Committee can be appealed by filing a claim with the Board of Grievances.
*This Saudi Arabian Law Overview is not intended to be legal advice, and cannot be relied on as a substitute for legal advice. We make no representation that the contents of this Saudi Arabian Law Overview are or will remain accurate or current.
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