GCC diplomatic crisis update: Qatar’s new request for consultation with Saudi to address IP violations

Further to a series of posts [here, here, here, here] devoted to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) crisis, Katfriend Riyadh Al-Balushi (PhD candidate at SOAS University of London) is back with an update on the latest developments.

Here’s what Riyadh writes:

The GCC diplomatic crisis has not been resolved until now as the blockade imposed last year by Saudi, the UAE, and Bahrain on Qatar remains effective with no prospect of a solution anywhere in sight. As I have written before, this blockade has implications on a variety of intellectual property issues, with the piracy of beIN Sports being one of the most prominent examples of the extent of damage that this dispute may cause.

Qatar made an attempt at using the WTO dispute resolution mechanism to seek a remedy to address a variety of alleged violations committed by Saudi, the UAE, and Bahrain. These alleged violations include a number of violations of the TRIPS Agreement. In accordance with the WTO dispute resolution mechanism - the DSU (Dispute Settlement Understanding), Qatar made formal requests for consultation with Saudi, Bahrain, and the UAE in July 2017. It escalated its complaint against the UAE by requesting that a dispute resolution panel is established to examine the complaint in October 2017.

Early this month, Qatar made a new request for consultation with Saudi specifically to complain about the alleged violations of the intellectual property rights of Qataris in Saudi. The previous request for consultation from 2017 was a general complaint about the Saudi attempts at ‘the economic isolation of Qatar’, the complaint did not concern a specific incident, and it covered alleged violations of both the GATT and the TRIPS Agreement. There is no public record of Saudi responding to Qatar’s request for consultation from 2017 and this complaint did not progress to a panel stage until now.

The new request for consultation that Qatar submitted on 4 October 2018 is a more specific complaint about Saudi’s alleged failure to provide adequate protection to the intellectual property rights of Qataris with a specific focus on the Saudi measures that impacted beIN Sports. I have written a two-part series (Part 1, Part 2) on how beIN Sports got caught in the crossfire of the GCC diplomatic crisis. Saudi banned beIN Sports from being broadcast or offered in the country, and has allowed a pirate network called beoutQ to operate in Saudi as an illegal alternative to beIN Sports. According to the complaint submitted by Qatar, beoutQ is transmitted via the satellites of Arabsat - the Saudi-based Arab Satellite Communications Organisation. Qatar also claims that beoutQ is “an entity” that is based in Saudi.

Qatar’s complaint against Saudi in 2017 was based on shaky intellectual property legal basis as it argued that Saudi has made it impossible for Qataris to honour their licensing obligations or use their intellectual property rights in a way that violates the national treatment and most-favoured-nation treatment principles. The new complaint from 2018 is based on more sophisticated arguments about the alleged failure of Saudi to protect the intellectual property rights of Qataris and the obstacles that Saudi has put in place to deprive Qataris of their right to protect their intellectual property rights in Saudi. The new complaint alleges the violation of Article 3.1 of the TRIPS Agreement (national treatment principle), Article 4 (most-favoured-nation treatment principle), Article 9 (Compliance with Articles 1-21 of the Berne Convention), Article 14.3 (Protection of broadcasting organisations rights), Article 16.1 (Protection of trademarks), Article 41.1 (ensuring that enforcement procedures are available to permit effective action against any act of infringement), Article 42 (fair and equitable procedures - members must make available civil judicial procedures for enforcement of IP rights), and Article 61 (providing criminal procedures and penalties in cases of wilful trademark counterfeiting and copyright piracy on a commercial scale).

A detailed analysis of this complaint will be undertaken by a WTO panel only if Qatar makes a request to establish a panel after its attempt for consultation with Saudi fails. Qatar has already made a request to establish a panel to examine its complaint against the UAE in October 2017 and the panel for this complaint was composed in September 2018. The complaint against the UAE shares some similar legal arguments to that against Saudi since Qataris are also banned from entering the UAE and are unable to take advantage of the Emirati legal system to enforce their intellectual property rights.

I will be sharing more updates as this dispute progresses.
GCC diplomatic crisis update: Qatar’s new request for consultation with Saudi to address IP violations GCC diplomatic crisis update: Qatar’s new request for consultation with Saudi to address IP violations Reviewed by Eleonora Rosati on Tuesday, October 09, 2018 Rating: 5

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