Saudi Arabia gears up on IP

September 2020

By Mr. Yasser Al-Debassi, Executive Director of the Intellectual Property Rights Department, Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property (SAIP), Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Innovation and creativity, and the intellectual property (IP) system that provides the incentives to encourage such human endeavor, lie at the heart of human progress. IP is a significant factor for the future evolution of Saudi Arabia’s economy. The “Saudi Vision 2030,” a reform program that seeks to diversify the national economy and reduce its dependence on oil, sets out a number of objectives, some of which are directly enabled by IP.

Saudi IP legislation dates from 1939, with the adoption of the first Saudi IP law on distinctive marks. Since then, Saudi policymakers have worked to expand and strengthen the national IP system. In 1982, Saudi Arabia joined the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and has since signed up to a number of WIPO-administered international treaties.

Recognizing the strategic importance of IP in enabling the country to fulfill its ambitions, and the central role that IP rights play in stimulating business growth, competitiveness and national economic performance, the Government of Saudi Arabia recently established the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property (SAIP) as the sole competent IP authority in Saudi Arabia.

This important move is fueling progress in building an innovation culture in Saudi Arabia. Efforts by SAIP and other government authorities to create a favorable investment climate and a more diversified and competitive national economy are boosting IP awareness and fostering business growth.

A unified IP authority

Established in 2018, SAIP serves as a “one-stop shop” for all matters relating to the protection, regulation and enforcement of IP rights in Saudi Arabia. SAIP’s mission is to promote local innovation and to improve the competitiveness of the national economy by supporting local businesses in their strategic use of IP.

As an independent IP authority with a global perspective, SAIP is also working to establish itself as a leading IP hub in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. As the competent authority for all matters relating to IP policy and administration in Saudi Arabia, SAIP is responsible for developing the country’s IP strategy and for coordinating its implementation in collaboration with all relevant authorities. SAIP is also responsible for proposing new rules and regulations relating to IP rights to ensure national legislation keeps pace with the rapidly evolving global technological landscape.

In 2018, the Government of Saudi Arabia established the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property (SAIP) as the sole competent authority for IP for the country. It serves as a “one-stop shop” for all matters relating to the protection, regulation and enforcement of IP rights in Saudi Arabia. (Photo: Courtesy of SAIP)

Building a culture of IP

Saudi Arabia is committed to building a culture of IP and to strengthening the enforcement of IP rights in the country. SAIP is actively working to build greater respect for IP rights through a variety of programs that focus on: IP awareness (to create a broad understanding of the benefits of an effective IP system); IP enablement (to encourage more effective use of the IP system); and IP enforcement (to fight IP infringements and abusive use of IP rights).

To this end, a number of practical initiatives have been launched. For example, IP Clinics have been set up to provide small and medium-sized enterprises with the practical advice and guidance they need to develop IP strategies to effectively manage, protect and leverage their innovation-based projects. SAIP is also working with its IP Academy to launch a number of IP education programs, including an IP summer school, a joint IP Masters’ program and an IP trainers’ program.

As an independent IP authority with a global perspective, SAIP is also working to establish itself as a leading IP hub in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

To boost public understanding and awareness of IP, SAIP is rolling out a range of media campaigns across broadcast and social media channels on IP-related themes. For example, its recent “Copyright Enforcement” campaign, which was delivered in cooperation with relevant partners in various regions across the country, sought to raise awareness about the negative social and economic implications of piracy with respect to computer software, satellite broadcasting and print and audio-visual materials. SAIP also runs a range of practical workshops on IP and regularly participates in exhibitions and conferences to promote its work. These initiatives continue to attract broad community engagement.

In implementing its enforcement activities, SAIP is working closely with private sector partners; they play an indispensable role in its IP enforcement activities. To formalize and strengthen the participation of the business community in this work, SAIP recently established the IP Respect Council. The Council brings together private and public sector actors to discuss and exchange views on a variety of IP issues, including the challenges confronting IP owners, opportunities for collaboration, new enforcement initiatives, and policy developments requiring public comment. At its first meeting in January 2020, the Council brought together key players within the international and national pharmaceutical and biologics industries to map the challenges confronting this sector and to identify possible solutions.

Handling IP infringements

To date, SAIP has received over 460 complaints relating to all types of IP violations. Complaints are assessed to determine whether the issues can be settled without litigation or whether they need to be transferred to the specialized IP courts for adjudication.

Concerned parties may contact SAIP via its public webpage or by email. SAIP is committed to addressing all IP issues under Saudi IP law, and encourages all companies to support these efforts by providing specific and actionable information and evidence.

SAIP recently established the IP Respect Council (above) to formalize and strengthen the participation of the business community in its work. (Photo: Courtesy of SAIP)

Saudi Arabia and the international IP framework

In line with its mission to strengthen the nation’s IP system, cultivate an innovation culture and fulfill its ambitions to become an IP leader within the MENA region, SAIP is working to boost Saudi Arabia’s profile within the international IP community. To this end, SAIP is preparing the groundwork for Saudi Arabia to join various WIPO-administered international treaties. For example, Saudi Arabia recently submitted instruments of accession to the Vienna Agreement Establishing an International Classification of Figurative Elements of Marks and the Locarno Agreement Establishing an International Classification for Industrial Designs, respectively. In due course, it also expects to formally join the Nice Agreement Concerning the International Classification of Goods and Services for the Purposes of the Registration of Marks, the Budapest Treaty on the International Recognition of the Deposit of Microorganisms for the Purpose of Patent Procedure and the Strasbourg Agreement Concerning the International Patent Classification. Accession to the Madrid Protocol and the Hague Agreement, respectively, are also under review. These developments will further strengthen Saudi Arabia’s national IP system, bringing it into line with international best practice.

Saudi Arabia is committed to building a culture of IP and to strengthening the enforcement of IP rights in the country.

Similarly, SAIP has extended its cooperation with a range of international affiliates and signed formal cooperation agreements with the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA), the European Patent Office (EPO), the Japan Patent Office (JPO), the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and WIPO. These agreements are designed to facilitate the exchange of IP expertise and to support the further development of the national IP system. These crucial contributions are essential in advancing SAIP’s goal to become a cutting-edge IP authority.

SAIP has also signed patent prosecution highway (PPH) agreements with the USPTO, the JPO and KIPO. Such agreements fast-track patent procedures through the sharing of patent information between participating offices, thereby reducing the workload of patent examiners and improving patent quality.

Plans for the future

In the coming months and years, SAIP will continue to invest in building IP awareness and greater respect for IP rights. A number of initiatives are in the pipeline. These include the appointment and deployment of IP Respect Officers within government agencies. These officers will be at the forefront of efforts to protect and promote IP rights across those agencies. The officers will be trained by SAIP to become the “go-to” person within their respective agencies for all matters relating to IP.

Plans are also afoot to establish an IP National Committee to coordinate all IP enforcement across government. Chaired by SAIP and comprising representatives from a range of government enforcement agencies, the Committee will ensure broad compliance with IP laws and regulations across the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia recognizes the importance of protecting IP rights to enable innovators, creators and innovative businesses, small and large, to leverage the economic value of their intangible assets. By fostering innovation, creativity and business growth in this way, the broader population will benefit from access to a constant flow of new technologies and creative products as well as the advantages of a thriving economy. The recent evolution of Saudi Arabia’s IP landscape promises to yield significant benefits and is an important step towards achieving the objectives set out in the Saudi Vision 2030.

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