The decision for approving the revised GCC trademark law in Saudi Arabia was recently published in the country. By way of background, GCC trademark law was ratified in 2006 and was subsequently approved by the Saudi government in 2007. However, back then, the governments of Oman and Bahrain could not approve the draft in view of their US Free Trade Agreements obligations. As a result, the GCC Trade Cooperation Committee had to assemble more than once over the course of the past few years to address the concerns raised by Bahrain and Oman. The draft GCC trademark law was then further revised following the discussions that took place.
The purpose of the GCC Trademark Law is to replace the local trademarks laws of each of the GCC member states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) and, thereby, creating unified implementing regulations for trademark protection in all states. However, the GCC Trademark Law is not expected to offer for a unified filing system as the case is with the GCC Patent Law. Trademark applications will continue to be filed separately in each GCC member state for protection. The GCC Law will enter into force once the implementing regulations are issued, which is not expected anytime soon.
The 50-article Law outlines the general directives and rulings governing trademark registration, renewal, assignment, and cancellation procedures in the GCC countries. The main features of the Trademark Law as approved by the GCC Supreme Council are as follows:
1. The definition of a trademark has been broadened to include sound and smell marks.
2. A trademark may be individual or collective.
3. A separate application is required for each class.
4. Claim of priority, based on an earlier-filed foreign application, is possible.
5. Trademark applications accepted by the Registrar will be published for opposition purposes. Oppositions must be filed within 60 days from publication date.
6. Trademark registrations are valid for 10 years from filing date and are renewable for like periods. There is a grace period of six months for late renewals.
7. A trademark is vulnerable to cancellation by any interested party if there has been no effective use of the mark for a period of five consecutive years after registration.
8. The Law shall recognize famous trademarks that are well-known in the GCC member states and shall ensure protection thereof even if the marks are not registered.
9. The Law gives the right to trademark owners to initiate civil and criminal actions against any infringing party. Penalties include a maximum of five year imprisonment and payment of fines of up to US $ 270,000.
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