17 August 2020Muireann Bolger

Saudi Arabia bolsters IP enforcement following TRIPS breach

The  Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property (SAIP) 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.

The agreement, signed this month with the  General Authority for Audiovisual Media, aims to establish a general framework for cooperation between the two bodies to achieve the office’s  strategic objectives with regards to IP rights.

The move comes after  Saudi Arabia was forced to defend its IP system following the publication of a critical  WTO report on the Saudi beoutQ piracy TV service on June 16.

The WTO found that Saudi Arabia had  breached the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of IP Rights (TRIPS) by failing to apply criminal sanctions to beoutQ, and said the country’s oversight could not be justified by national security concerns.

The case was brought by the Qatari government, which has long accused the Saudi government of assisting beoutQ in stealing Qatari broadcaster  beIN Media’s sports content.

BeIN argued that it was unable to bring a case in Saudi Arabia because no law firm would represent the Qatari company. The Saudi government claimed this was justified due to the diplomatic crisis between the two Gulf states, a defence accepted by the WTO. Despite the report, Saudi Arabia has continued to defend the integrity of its IP and wider legal systems.

In a statement released in late June, SAIP said: “We continue to hear complaints that access is being blocked to enforcement through the Saudi legal system. Therefore, we want to confirm how simple and transparent our process is for submitting information and claims regarding the protection of IP.”  It also claimed that rights owners need only “send an email to the responsible authorities” in order to highlight an IP violation.

In the statement, the SAIP said it would continue to launch awareness campaigns to “build respect of IP”, as well as “large scale” crackdowns on pirate broadcasting boxes. SAIP has organised an online inspection campaign of websites and platforms that were suspected of violating IP laws, including sites based outside the country, to monitor and analyse for possible breaches.

The sites listed included streaming service websites, encrypted sports channels, websites that offer to download books in PDF form, and unlicensed websites that offer downloading and music streaming services that violate user rights.

WIPR has contacted the SAIP office for more information and a comment.

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3 October 2018   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.
17 June 2020   Saudi Arabia blocked Qatari broadcaster beIN Media from enforcing its IP and enabled pirate sports broadcasts, the World Trade Organization has said.
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