On January 6, 2021, following several decisions that were issued by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Supreme Council during its 41st meeting on January 5, 2021, an amended GCC Patent Law (Regulation) was approved. In a statement made on its official website, the GCC Patent Office (GCCPO) announced that as of January 6, 2021, it will no longer accept new patent application filings.[1]

Following this unexpected announcement by the GCCPO, any applicants who are interested in filing a new patent application in any of the six member countries, namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, should either: (1) file a patent application via the Paris Convention in each member country within 12 months from the earliest filed priority application; or (2) file a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) application and then enter the national phase in each of one or more of the six above-mentioned member countries.

The sudden and unanticipated nature of the GCCPO’s announcement raises the question as to what will happen to the patent applications that are currently pending at the GCCPO. Based on the current understanding and reading of the situation, it is expected that the GCCPO will continue to process these applications; however there has been no official notification from the authorities concerned at the GCCPO that offers insight at the time of publishing this report.

Nonetheless, we are awaiting further information from the GCCPO as to how the processing of pending applications and granted patents will be handled on an ongoing basis in light of this announcement. Additionally, we are also awaiting updates and guidance from each of the national patent offices of the GCC member states as to their capability and capacity to assume the burden of processing, publishing, examining, and issuing the anticipated increase in national filings that will result from this decision. Whereas the GCCPO used to issue patents between 5 to 7 years from filing, some countries, namely Kuwait, have yet to issue their first patent.

By way of background, the GCC Patent Law was introduced in 1992. The first GCC patent application was filed in 1998 and the Law was amended in 1999. The related Implementing Regulations were issued in 2000.

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[1] https://www.gccpo.org/AboutUs/ShowNews?id=1374