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In 1981, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was established in Abu Dhabi by six founding members: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. According to Article 4 of the GCC Charter, the basic objectives of the GCC were to effect coordination, integration and interconnection between GCC member states in order to:  (1) achieve unity; (2) deepen and strengthen relations, links and areas of cooperation between the peoples in the six founding countries in various fields; (3) formulate similar regulations in various fields including those related to economic and financial affairs, commerce, customs and communications, education and culture; (4) stimulate scientific and technological progress in the fields of industry, mining, agriculture, water and animal resources; (5) establish scientific research; and (6) establish joint ventures and encourage cooperation by the private sector for the good of the people in each of the six founding countries.

In December 1992, the GCC Supreme Council, during its 13th session, approved the GCC Patent Office Patent Regulation and the Statute of the GCC Patent Office (GCCPO), thereby establishing the GCC Patent Office.  As a result, the GCCPO opened in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and started receiving patent applications as of October 3, 1998 and has been issuing patents ever since.

On January 6, 2021, following several decisions that were issued by the 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 GCCPO announced that as of January 6, 2021, it was no longer accepting new patent application filings.  As a result, Applicants wishing to file a patent application in any of the six founding member countries should either:  (1) file a patent application via the Paris Convention in each founding 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 founding member countries.

The sudden nature of the GCCPO’s announcement raises the question as to what happens to patent applications that are currently pending at GCCPO.  Based on our current understanding, we expect that the GCCPO will continue to process these applications.  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 view of this announcement.

Additionally, we are also awaiting updates and guidance from each of the national patent offices as to their capability and capacity to assume the burden of processing, publishing, examining and issuing the anticipated increase in national filings resulting from this decision. Whereas the GCCPO used to issue patents between 5-7 years from filing, some countries, namely Kuwait, have yet to issue their first patent.

Please continue to watch BRICS & Beyond for updates on the processing of pending applications and issued patents in the GCC.

This post was written by Lisa Mueller and Namir Sioufi of Saba IP.


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