3 October 2018Copyright

Qatar takes on Saudi Arabia over IP violations

Qatar’s ministry of economy and commerce has accused Saudi Arabia of violating the IP rights of Qatari citizens, in a recent filing at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The ministry announced, on Monday, October 1, that it had instigated the proceedings, and an official at the WTO has confirmed the filing, according to Reuters.

HE Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohammed Al-Thani, Qatar’s minister of economy and commerce, said that Saudi Arabia has taken actions to prevent Qatari citizens and entities from protecting and defending their IP.

Qatar is seeking a formal consultation at the WTO in relation to the alleged IP violations.

Saudi Arabia has taken a number of economic measures against Qatar since June 2017, when the countries suspended diplomatic relations.

Qatar’s ministry alleged that, since then, Saudi Arabia has violated Qatar’s trade rights and adversely impacted the IP rights of Qatari citizens.

For example, and “of particular concern” to the ministry, Qatari company beIN Media Group has been prohibited from broadcasting its content (including sports and entertainment programmes) within Saudi Arabia.

Following the ban, alleged piracy platform beoutQ started to broadcast beIN’s copyright-protected content in Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia allegedly refused to take effective action to address beoutQ’s alleged IP violations.

In addition to this refusal to take action, Saudi Arabia restricted and frustrated beIN’s ability to pursue a civil complaint against beoutQ in the Saudi courts, the ministry said.

Saudi Arabia allegedly “denounced” beIN’s requests to investigate and prevent the unauthorised broadcast and “promoted” public gatherings where screenings of beoutQ’s unauthorised broadcasts were made.

Saudi Arabia has previously denied allegations that Saudi Arabia is the source of beoutQ.

However, in August, technical evidence compiled by companies including Cisco Systems established “beyond any doubt” that the satellite operator responsible for distributing the pirated content is located in Saudi Arabia.

According to the ministry, Saudi Arabia’s failure to act over beoutQ constitutes a violation of the WTO’s TRIPS Agreement.

Qatar’s minister noted that the violations “reflect Saudi Arabia’s failure to comply with its commitments in terms of protecting copyrights, radio and television broadcasting rights, and trademarks, among other rights, which has caused significant commercial losses for Qatari citizens and entities”.

News of the filing coincides with beIN’s own $1 billion arbitration case against Saudi Arabia.

In a statement released on Monday, October 1, beIN said it had been unlawfully driven out of the Saudi market and subjected to widespread piracy of its sports content. Over the past year, beoutQ has “orchestrated a plague of piracy on world sports and entertainment”, beIN said.

Football governing body FIFA has also taken legal action against the alleged piracy site in Saudi Arabia, after beoutQ streamed World Cup matches in June and July without authorisation.

Tennis governing bodies, including the  US Tennis Association, the  French Tennis Federation and  Tennis Australia, have also publicly condemned and called for the immediate closure of beoutQ.

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More on this story

7 December 2018   Saudi Arabia has said the World Trade Organization (WTO) cannot resolve an IP dispute with Qatar due to national security concerns, according to Reuters.
19 December 2018   The World Trade Organization (WTO) will investigate Qatar’s allegations of IP breaches by Saudi Arabia, to determine whether the kingdom allegedly failed to stop pirated broadcasts of a Qatar-based broadcaster.
17 August 2020   The Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property has signed a deal with the Kingdom’s TV regulator to jointly enforce IP rights in the wake of criticism from the World Trade Organisation.