Just as trademark filings and registrations have seen a remarkable rise in the Near East over the past ten to twenty years, we are witnessing a similar phenomenon with patent filings and registrations. This rise in filings is driven by the need for protection in these new emerging markets as well as an improved IP rights and enforcement environment. One country in the region that stands out is Saudi Arabia. In 2013 alone, two major patent-related events have attested to Saudi’s continued commitment to ensuring accessible and robust IP.
In February of 2013, the Saudi health authority, the SFDA, introduced a law under Circular Letter No. 7448 which patches-up the lack of patent linkage regulation in the country. Based on the circular, a generic drug manufacturer (Gx) can only file for a marketing authorization during the final two year period of a patent’s term. It is also incumbent upon the Gx to obtain and submit a letter from each of the Saudi Patent Office (SPO) and the Gulf Cooperation Council Patent Office (GCCPO) disclosing the existence or absence of a relevant patent and its term if one was granted.
In May of 2013, Saudi Arabia acceded to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) and is automatically designated for national entry as of August 3 of the same year. While Saudi is not the first country from the GCC to become a PCT member, it is by far the largest market and economy of the region. From an administrative point of view, this move may cause headaches when it comes to deciding whether to file an application with the GCCPO or the SPO. Form a more practical point of view, a patent granted by the SPO may be better upheld than the same one granted by the GCCPO. Time will tell as regards to this latter given the lack of sufficient case laws and precedence.
We expect to see a drastic increase in patent filings in Saudi Arabia starting in the first quarter of 2015 driven by PCT national entries; however, we would also expect an increase in national filings in the shorter term as the growing local innovators see better opportunities for protecting their rights internationally by first filing in Saudi Arabia.
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