The news that Qatar has acceded to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), with effect from August 3 2011, appears to give rise to an unusual situation of progress without movement.
In one sense, the fact that Qatar is joining the PCT is genuine progress. Rights holders with an interest in the country may look forward to making use of the international system offered by the PCT in order to obtain protection more efficiently and effectively than is available under the current system.
However, the situation on the ground (from both a legislative and a practical perspective) is very different. The reality appears to be that the introduction of the PCT will give rise to no immediate change in practice.
Qatar introduced its Patent Law in 2006 (under Decree 30/2006). The law envisaged a patent office being set up within the Ministry of Economy, with filing and examination procedures (including claims for international priority) being dealt with under executive bylaws issued by the responsible minister.
However, since 2006 no bylaws have been issued and, to date, no patent office has been established. Accordingly, as it stands, it is not possible to file a patent application in Qatar. The fact that Qatar is soon to be a member of the PCT does not change this position.
Until a patent office has been established in Qatar and bylaws have been implemented that allow for priority to be claimed under the PCT, the filing and prosecution of national Qatar patents will remain impossible.
Many rights holders therefore seek to obtain protection for their technology in Qatar by filing for patents with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Patent Office. The GCC is an economic bloc of six countries, comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The GCC Patent Law and accompanying regulations were introduced in 1992, with the GCC Patent Office becoming operational in 1998. Under the law, patents granted by the office apply across all GCC states, but the enforcement of such patents is the responsibility of each individual state.
Qatar ratified the GCC Patent Law and Regulations in 1996 (with amendments to the law and regulations ratified in 2003). The ratifying legislation specifically gave force of law in Qatar to the system operated by the GCC Patent Office. However, this legislation stops short of providing any more detail as to how patents granted by the office apply in Qatar and how they may be enforced.
Specifically, in contrast to the system envisaged by the GCC Patent Law and Regulations, the ratifying legislation in Qatar does not deal with the enforcement of GCC patents. As a result, there is no clear regime for enforcing GCC patents in Qatar.
There are reports that the Ministry of Justice has been drafting the bylaws required in order to give effect to the provisions of both the Qatar Patent Law and the PCT, and there have been discussions regarding the formation of a Qatar Patent Office.
With this in mind, it is hoped that the news of Qatar joining the PCT may mark the start of a larger and more positive story, resulting in a clear regime for securing and enforcing patent rights in Qatar.
In the meantime, the only option remaining for those seeking to secure patent protection in Qatar is to file for protection through the GCC Patent Office, notwithstanding the potential enforcement difficulties of this option.
For further information on this topic please contact Rob Deans at Clyde & Co by telephone (+971 4 331 1102), fax (+971 4 331 9920) or email ([email protected]).