20 November 2018

WTO IP battle escalates between gulf states

Qatar escalates its WTO dispute over alleged Saudi Arabia IP violation and refusal to cooperate over piracy and otehr issues.

Qatar’s ongoing dispute with against Saudi Arabia was taken up another gear at the World Trade Organization, with a WTO filing requesting for adjudication of its complaint that Saudi Arabia had violated its intellectual property rights.

Refusal to meet

The dispute started in October when Qatar accused Saudi Arabia of blocking Qatari-owned broadcaster beIN and refusing to take effective action against the piracy of beIN content by a sophisticated pirate operation called ‘beoutQ.’ The  latest salvo states Saudi Arabia had refused to meet Qatari officials to try to resolve the dispute, as required by WTO rules. Saudi officials have been on record as saying the kingdom is acting to combat piracy and is committed to protecting intellectual property rights. The request for a WTO adjudication panel restated Qatar’s original complaint, and also argued that beoutQ was violating Qatar’s rights as well as those of other countries, whose TV programs could now be watched for free in Saudi Arabia. The filing states, ‘the IPTV applications on beoutQ set-top boxes provide access, in the territory of Saudi Arabia, to hundreds of television channels and thousands of on-demand programs from around the world, without the authorization of the intellectual property right holders.’

Complaints

Saudi Arabia was making it impossible for Qatari nationals to protect their intellectual property rights, giving Qatari nationals less favorable treatment than Saudi and other nationals, and making it unduly difficult for Qataris to seek judicial remedies, Qatar said. The gulf state also criticised ‘Saudi Arabia’s omission to prosecute, as a criminal violation, piracy on a commercial scale, of material in which copyright is owned by, or licensed to, Qatari nationals, and other rights holders from around the world.’ Global sports network beIN Sports is blocked in Saudi Arabia under a boycott the kingdom imposed on Qatar last year.