Maps of the Middle East illustrate Kuwait as a small country in the region. But what the country lacks in geographic size, it makes up in economic impact. Kuwait is a high income economy backed by the world's sixth largest oil reserves, and the Kuwaiti dinar is the highest valued currency in the world. Local industries include the production of petroleum, petrochemicals, cement, shipbuilding and repair, water desalination, food processing, and construction materials. Imports to Kuwait include food, construction materials, vehicles and parts, and clothing.
The following feature highlights important intellectual property developments and news that unfolded recently in Kuwait, which coincided with plans to diversify the Kuwaiti economy away from oil, attract more investment, and boost private sector participation in the economy.
One of the most important steps that brings Kuwait more and more in line with the international standards was the country’s accession to the Paris Convention. This move is an indication of Kuwait’s desire to further align itself with the international IP community standards in general, beyond its WTO membership and accompanying TRIPS agreement. Priority claim requests in Kuwait became officially admissible in the beginning of 2015. Also, with the Paris Convention membership, Kuwait is now expected to respect Article 6bis. Needless to say, there are no clear regulations or case laws so far that comment specifically on the prerequisites for claiming protection under Article 6bis.
Another recent development is the introduction of e-filing by the Trademark Office in Kuwait as of January 2, 2018. New applications will be allotted an e-number by the TMO, which includes the year of filing (example 321/2018). Besides serving as the filing number, the e-number will also be the registration number, should the trademark application mature into registration. Prior to e-filing, applications were allotted a six-digit number.
On the patents front, the Patent Office in Kuwait announced that, in collaboration with the Gulf Cooperation Council Patent Office, they have completed the formality examination for all pending Kuwaiti patent applications. The Office further announced that they intend to begin performing substantive examination on patent applications filed in 2008 and later…the examining authority is expected to be the GCCPO.
As a recap on patents in Kuwait, in April 2016, we reported that the Kuwaiti Patent Office has adopted the GCC patent law and regulations as its national law and regulations. Following this announcement, we reported that the Kuwaiti Patent Office stopped accepting new patent applications, advising patentees seeking protection in Kuwait to pursue protection via the regional GCC patent system. At the time, the fate of all pending patent applications was uncertain. Then, in July 2016, we reported that Kuwait has acceded to the PCT, which entered into force on September 9, 2016. This created a new uncertainty since the GCC Patent Office itself has not acceded to the PCT.
In the latest development, an indication that the authorities wish to comply with international agreements, the patent office unofficially announced that they have begun accepting PCT national stage entries designating Kuwait. The procedures and guidelines for the prosecution of these applications are still to be defined, however, this is indeed great news for patentees looking to extend patent protection into Kuwait. With this final move, it is now possible to designate all six GCC member countries, namely: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE upon filing of an International application, thus benefiting from the additional grace period for entering in any or all of these countries. As indicated above, it is not possible to benefit from this additional grace period for a regional GCC patent application.