The news that Qatar has acceded to the Patent Convention Treaty (the PCT), with effect from 3 August 2011, appears to give rise to an unusual situation of progress without movement.
In one sense, the fact that Qatar is joining the PCT is genuine progress. Rights owners with an interest in Qatar may look forward to making use of the international system offered by the PCT in order to obtain protection in Qatar more efficiently and effectively than is available under the current system.
However, the situation on the ground in Qatar (from both a legislative and a practical perspective) is very different. The reality appears to be that the introduction of the PCT in Qatar will not give rise to any immediate change in practice.
Qatar patents - The legislative and practical position
Qatar introduced a Patent Law in 2006 pursuant to Decree No. 30 of 2006. The Qatar Patent Law envisaged a patent office being set up within the Ministry of Economy, with filing and examination procedures (including claims for international priority) being dealt with pursuant to executive bylaws to be issued by the responsible Minster.
However, since 2006, no bylaws have been issued and, to date, no patent office has been established in Qatar. Accordingly, as it stands, it is not possible to file a patent application in Qatar.
The fact that Qatar is soon to be a member of the PCT does not change this position in any way. Until a patent office has been established in Qatar and bylaws have been implemented which allow for priority to be claimed under the PCT, the position in Qatar will remain the same. It will not be possible to file and prosecute a national Qatar patent.
GCC patents – The alternative
Many rights owners seek to obtain protection for their technology in Qatar by filing for patents with the GCC Patent Office. The GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) is an economic bloc of six countries comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The GCC Patent Law and accompanying Regulations were introduced in 1992, with the GCC Patent Office becoming operational in 1998. The GCC Patent Law operates on the premise that patents granted by the GCC Patent Office apply in all GCC states, with enforcement of GCC patents being the responsibility of each individual GCC state.
Qatar ratified the GCC Patent Law and Regulations in 1996 (with amendments to the Law and Regulations being ratified by Qatar in 2003). The ratifying legislation specifically gave force of law in Qatar to the system operated by the GCC Patent Office. However, this legislation stops short of providing any more detail as to how patents granted by the GCC Patent Office actually apply in Qatar and how they may be enforced.
Specifically, in contrast to the system envisaged by the GCC Patent Law and Regulations, the ratifying legislation in Qatar does not deal with the enforcement of GCC patents. As a result, there is no clear regime for enforcing patents granted by the GCC Patent Office in Qatar.
There are reports that the Ministry of Justice in Qatar has been drafting the bylaws required in order to give effect to the provisions of the Qatar Patent Law and the PCT, and there have been discussions regarding the formation of a Qatar Patent Office.
With this in mind, it is hoped that the news of Qatar joining the PCT may mark the start a larger and more positive story, resulting in a clear regime for securing and enforcing patent rights in Qatar.
In the meantime, the only option for those seeking to secure patent protection in Qatar remains to file for protection through the GCC Patent Office, taking into account the potential enforcement difficulties of this option.
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