The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the largest IP centres in the region, being home to the Gulf Co-operation Council’s Patent Office, as well as the national Saudi IP offices.
There has been significant growth in “hard IP” in Saudi Arabia with international rights holders looking to the country and, increasingly, with local technology being created and protected in the Kingdom through initiatives by entities such as the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). Also through the country’s recent accession to the Patent Co-operation Treaty it is an important time in an important market for rights holders.
Patents are protected in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia under Law of Patents, Layout-Designs of Integrated Circuits, Plant Varieties, and Industrial Designs (promulgated by Royal Decree No. M/27 of 29/5/1425H (July 17, 2004)) (the Patent Law). The Patent Law provides for the protection of patents, plant varieties, industrial designs, layout designs of integrated circuits but not utility models.
Patents can be registered at the General Directorate of Patents at King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology (KACST).
An invention in Saudi Arabia can be protected by way of a patent filed:
- at KACST either as a stand-alone direct application or via the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT);
- with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Patent Office either as a stand-alone direct application or within a 12 month priority period which is provided for under the GCC Patent Law. The GCC Patent Office registers patents covering the six member states of the GCC being the Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain.
Saudi Arabia has implemented national legislation ratifying the GCC Patent Law. However, this legislation does not deal with the enforcement of GCC patents in Saudi Arabia, despite the GCC Patent Law providing that enforcement issues are a matter for national legislation. As a result, there is no clear regime for enforcing patents granted by the GCC Patent Office in Saudi Arabia.
A question commonly asked is surrounding software and patents. In Saudi Arabia, computer programs as such are not patentable although, if the relevant criteria are met, software may be protected as a copyright work. In addition, computer-related inventions (as opposed to software alone) are potentially patentable in Saudi Arabia.
Patents in Saudi Arabia must be filed in Arabic. It is not possible to file the Arabic translation late - it must be available at the time of filing the application. To this end, our ‘top tip’ for filing patents in Saudi Arabia is to ensure that patent translations are undertaken early (at least a month before the filing date), so that there is sufficient time to prepare a quality translation.