The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has recognised the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's ("KSA") progress in the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights by removing KSA 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. USTR concluded that during 2009, KSA made further progress in improving its overall IPR enforcement efforts particularly in relation to:

  • Adequate protection for patented pharmaceutical products
  • Deterrent level penalties for violations of Saudi copyright law
  • Action to reduce the use of unauthorised copies of software within the Saudi government

The KSA 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 KSA government reported to the US government that it had conducted 2000 raids, inspected 5000 outlets and seized 3.83 million infringing copies.¹

"Saudi Arabia has made significant progress in improving protection for intellectual property rights during the past year," said Ambassador Ron Kirk. "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."²

This move is significant as a clear endorsement of the KSA 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. KSA 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.³

This augurs well for KSA'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 modernise courts and train judges.

Special 301 Report

The "Special 301" Report is an annual review of the global state of intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and enforcement, conducted by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). USTR is the US's watchdog in the protection of US IP worldwide.

This Report reflects the US Administration's resolve to encourage and maintain effective IPR protection and enforcement worldwide in ensuring that US IP is well protected.

It is powerful as a vehicle in encouraging US trading partners to ensure that the IP rights of US entities are effectively protected in the IP regime of the trading partner and is used to engage its trading partners in the negotiation, implementation, and monitoring of intellectual property provisions of trade agreements between the countries.

Key Economic Facts

As the world's largest oil exporter and the largest economy in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is a global trade power.

Saudi Arabia is the United States' 9th largest trading partner in goods, trading a total of US$67 billion in 2008. The United States and Saudi Arabia entered into a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in 2004, which established a formal dialogue to promote increased trade and investment between the two countries.

Saudi Arabia is a World Trade Organisation (WTO) member.

1 International Intellectual Property Alliance 2010 Special 301:Saudi Arabia Report
2 USTR 2010 Press Release
3 International Intellectual Property Alliance 2010 Special 301:Saudi Arabia Report

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