24 November 2017Copyright

WTO to hear Qatar’s IP trade row with UAE

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has established a dispute consultation panel to hear Qatar’s complaint against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over a trade blockade which helped to spark a diplomatic crisis.

In June, several countries cut off diplomatic relations with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism.

Qatar filed a complaint with the WTO in August against the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Qatar claimed that the measures adopted by the countries restrict trade in goods and services from Qatar and trade-related IP rights.

“In respect of trade-related aspects of IP rights, the coercive attempts at economic isolation entail interference with IP rights enjoyed by nationals of Qatar. Specifically, these measures include prohibitions or restrictions on displaying and accessing television content over which Qatari nationals hold copyrights and related broadcasting rights,” said the complaint.

Qatar alleged that the UAE had violated articles 3 and 4 of the TRIPS Agreement by making it impossible for Qatari owners of IP rights to “honour their obligations” under licensing agreements and to use those rights in the UAE.

“The UAE appears to have failed to accord to the nationals of Qatar treatment no less favourable than that it accords to its own nationals with regard to the protection of IP,” added the complaint.

In October, Qatar requested the establishment of a dispute panel concerning the measures imposed by the UAE.

But the UAE objected to Qatar’s request, saying that it and eight other countries were “forced to take measures in response to Qatar’s funding of terrorist organisations”.

WTO’s dispute settlement body deferred the establishment of the panel following the objection.

However, on November 22, the WTO established a panel after a second request from Qatar.

According to Reuters, none of the other WTO members spoke up in support of the move.

Qatar’s representative at the WTO’s dispute settlement body reportedly said: “UAE has asserted an absolute unilateral right to be absolved of all of its substantive and procedural WTO obligations vis-à-vis Qatar based purely on its bald assertion that its coercive attempts to isolate Qatar reflect a security concern.”

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