GCC Moves Closer to a Unified Trade Mark Law

By: Eduardo Gonzalez

This year saw three states—Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Qatar—ratify the revised version of the Trade Mark Law of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initially published in 2006. The revised draft was released in February 2014 after being placed on hold in 2006 to renegotiate some of its provisions and its success in 2015 will depend on the three remaining states following suite.

The GCC Trade Mark Law is intended to apply to all six of the GCC states and seeks to provide a unifying law, rather than a unitary system, to protect the area’s trademarks. Instead of providing a standardized system for each state to abide by, the revised Law provides a “single set of provisions which will apply uniformly across all GCC states with respect to the registrability, registration and enforcement of trademark rights.” Although each state will need to model its own process, thereby requiring registration of a mark in each state to benefit from protection throughout the GCC region, the general principles to obtain a valid trademark will remain the same. Some of the key provisions include: the codified definition of what can be considered a trade mark, multi-filing provisions, examination and opposition processes, protection of well known marks, infringement claims, exclusivity provisions, and parallel imports. See also, GCC Trademark Law Coming Soon. These provisions will make litigation much more streamline and ensure that an owner of a mark is able to fully enjoy investment in their brand.

The Law itself is not self-enacting, however, and only three states have taken steps to ensure the law is given legislative weight. While the remaining states are expected to adopt the Law soon, the reality of Trade Mark Law in the GCC depends on each state taking legislative action to implement the unifying provisions. Passage of the GCC Trade Mark Law will no doubt improve the experience of many budding entrepreneurs, making their branding process more competitive, efficient, and predictable. Much of this success will be determined by interpretation and practical application; in order for the Law to make a real difference, the provisions will need to be treated in ways that promote the purpose of trademarks—to protect the source and the consumer of a commercial brand.

One immediate application for uniform trademark laws is to protect the efforts of a business owner to build their reputation in a market. In this way a consumer is also protected from inaccuracies in the information they receive from the goods they purchase. If, for example, a competing company were using brand similar to a successful venture in order to attract their rival’s customers in one part of the GCC, the senior user—the first person to register or use the logo—would be able to stop the company from continuing to unfairly benefit. While infringement cases are much more complicated than that, the message remains the same: a more unified system of recognizing and obtaining valid trademarks is a step towards protecting both consumers and entrepreneurs. Without a unified method of identifying valid trade marks—especially in an area experiencing a significant boom in their economy—you might well run into a scenario where a business owner in one state claims rights over a unique sound that is excluded from the definition of a trade mark in another state, thereby causing a contradiction in practice. And as a consumer, it is important to have the opportunity to rely on the brand’s honesty; as foreign investment continues to grow in the digital-tech age, there will be an increased pressure to monitor and evaluate intellectual property protections and other laws that promote responsible innovation in the GCC.

Disclaimer: These materials have been prepared by Amin Consulting LLC for informational purposes only and are not legal advice.  The material posted on this web site is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship, and readers should not act upon it without seeking professional counsel.

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