Businesses are going to surprisingly great lengths in order to protect their marks in the increasingly competitive Arab market. Certainly, brands owners should now be fully aware of all trademark issues specific to the Arab region. Heading this list would be the classification system in each country and the extent to which this classification is in line with the international standards defined by the Nice agreement. Owners should also be informed of the explicit requirements that are a characteristic of the relatively conservative countries, such as the GCC countries, seeing that the local laws are mostly governed by the doctrines of the Shari’a law (the body of Islamic religious law).

Nice Edition and Membership

The TMO of most Arab countries follow the Nice classification, even if the country is not a member of the Nice Agreement. The 10th edition is adopted across the board except for Djibouti (8th), Gaza (8th), Iraq (7th), Kuwait (8th), Libya (8th), Qatar (7th), Sudan (8th), West Bank (8th) and Yemen (8th). In Iraq, a further local sub-classification is put into place. The class-headings are simply sub-classified in an alphabetical order.  The headings in class 30  for example are designated the letters “a” to “t”.

Class Headings Claim

In Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco and UAE, an applicant can claim the whole class without specifying the particular goods/services. The TMO will in principle not object to the use of any of the class headings as being indefinite. There are some few notable exceptions to the class headings definition.  Specifically, in Qatar, headings are admissible except for classes 1, 4 to 7, 10 to 14, 16 to 22, 29, and 31. Saudi Arabia and Libya have another limitation. Applicants can claim headings, provided that the headings are specified. An application with the specification “all goods/services in the class” will be rejected on formal grounds. Countries that do not admit class headings are Jordan, Oman and Sudan. The actual language of the goods or services specified in the registration will define the parameters of the scope of protection of a registration.

Specific Restrictions / Procedures

Some TMOs impose a set of restrictions that are in compliance with the local laws. In Gaza, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, UAE and Yemen, class 33 and alcoholic goods in class 32 cannot be registered. Further restrictions are imposed in class 29 in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia when it comes to the registration of marks claiming “pork meat”. Even more, applications specifying “Christmas related products” are inadmissible in Saudi Arabia and Libya.  

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