All questions

Intellectual property

i Brand search

Trademark searches, including company name registrations, are made in the trademark office at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI).

ii Brand protection

The MOCI allows the registration of distinctive marks that are not contrary to shariah (Islamic) law and are not names of geographic locations. In cases of globally recognised brands, only a rightful owner or their authorised representative can register their trademark in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia operates on a 'first-to-file' basis, giving priority and ownership to the first legal person to register the mark.

To register a trademark for a franchise, the owner of the mark or an authorised representative must submit an application that sets out a list of the goods or services and their class, along with a copy of the mark's foreign registration certificate. Each class of goods and services requires a separate application. The MOCI generally decides whether a trademark is granted within 60 days of filing. The MOCI notifies the applicant if it requires changes to be made to the application. The applicant is then given 90 days to amend the application in accordance with the MOCI's instructions.

If approved, trademark protection is granted for a period of 10 years and may be renewed up to six months after the registration expires.

If the trademark application is not approved, the applicant can appeal the MOCI's decision with the MOCI within 60 days of the rejection date. If the MOCI rejects the appeal, then the applicant may appeal to the Board of Grievances, an independent administrative judicial commission, within 30 days of the date of the rejection being issued.

iii Enforcement

The MOCI and the Board of Grievances have enforcement authority over trademark infringement. Upon receiving evidence of possible counterfeiting activity, the MOCI conducts an investigation and passes its findings on to the Board of Grievances. The latter may then bring both civil and criminal claims against alleged perpetrators. If the trademark owner can prove the existence of an imminent need for protection, the Board has the authority to issue injunctions.

iv Data protection, cybercrime, social media and e-commerce

Privacy rights are protected under the Basic Law of Governance, which is essentially Saudi Arabia's constitution. The Basic Law of Governance generally prohibits the confiscation, delay, eavesdropping and surveillance of communications. Breaches of privacy or confidentiality are punishable offences under the Basic Law of Governance, and the non-breaching party may be awarded compensation for damage caused by such unlawful disclosure. Non-economic punitive measures, such as sanctions, may also be imposed on the breaching party.

Saudi Arabia does not have a specific code tailored towards data protection, but data protection is derived from other codes such as the Anti-Cyber Crime Law. The Anti-Cyber Crime Law protects 'information, commands, messages, voices and images' that are or can be 'saved, processed, transmitted or constructed by computers'. Breaches of the Anti-Cyber Crime Law can result in fines of over US$800,000 and prison sentences of up to four years. In the absence of any relevant legislation, courts will apply relevant shariah law principles, which place a high value on privacy.