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 the country include food, construction materials, vehicles and parts, and clothing.

The following features the important intellectual property developments and news that unfolded over the past year 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 which was taken last year bringing 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 important development on the trademark front was the significant increase in official fees across the board that was implemented in the country on January 4, 2016. This is expected to couple with major changes in the way trademark applications are going to be handled and processed. For example, a line item was introduced in the new official fee schedule allowing for special requests that can be admitted at the TMO to expedite the examination of a trademark application which was certainly not the case in the past. This will probably allow for further standardization of the registration procedure by controlling the backlog of work to the extent possible.

On the patent front, the Kuwaiti Patent Office decided early 2015 to begin performing substantive examination on patent applications filed in 2008 and later – another sign of the authority’s commitment to improve the IP framework of the country. Although the applications will be examined in-house, the Patent Office has still not issued any new regulations relating to fees or procedures, beyond that upon receipt of an examination report, there will be a six months period to submit a response. To this date, patent applications are only allotted a filing number and filing date as long as the formal requirements are met. We expect more to unfold in the few months to come.

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