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Special 301 Watch List: Saudi Arabia Celebrates with Clean Scorecard in 2010

Issued: June 01 2010
The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has recognized the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s progress in the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights by removing the Saudi Arabia from the Special 301 Watch List.

This is a result from the Out-of-Cycle Review (OCR) conducted last year with a focus on specific issues identified in the 2009 Special 301 Report. The USTR concluded that during 2009, the KSA made further progress in improving its overall IPR enforcement efforts particularly in relation to:

1) adequate protection for patented pharmaceutical products,

2) deterrent level penalties for violations of Saudi copyright law, and

3) action to reduce the use of unauthorized copies of software within the Saudi government.

The Saudi government has been vigilant in adopting a zero tolerance policy against street vendor piracy by orchestrating raids against street vendors and retail operations. In October 2009, the Saudi government reported to the US government that it had conducted 2000 raids, inspected 5,000 outlets and seized 3.83 million infringing copies.

“Saudi Arabia has made significant progress in improving protection for intellectual property rights during the past year,” said Ron Kirk, the US Trade Representative. “Over the last several years, Saudi Arabia has stepped up its enforcement actions, strengthened its legal framework, and demonstrated a commitment to fostering innovation and creativity. This is a credit to the hard work done by Saudi Arabia as well as to our close bilateral cooperation.”

This move is significant as a clear endorsement of the Saudi government’s efforts to step up to the IP enforcement plate and as a vote of confidence of the IP regimes in the broader Arabian Gulf countries. Saudi Arabia has the highest piracy rate in the Arabian Gulf for the motion picture, music, recording and entertainment software industries and an unacceptably high piracy rate for the business software and publishing industries.

This augurs well for Saudi Arabia’s ambition to become a modern state with a well developed legal system. It is stepping up its legal system as wide sweeping plans for legal reform were announced this month. Commercial and appeal courts in the main cities would be set up as part of a US$2 billion reform to modernize courts and train judges.

About the Author

Stephen Jiew, Al Tamimi & Company


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