Qatar Welcomes WTO's Ruling against Saudi Violations of Intellectual Property Rights

Published On: June 17, 2020 09:09 PM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

DOHA, June 17: The Ministry of Commerce and Industry of Qatar has welcomed Tuesday's ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO) finding that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has breached Intellectual Property Rights by refusing to take action against beoutQ piracy channel.

The WTO's ruling found that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has breached its obligations under the WTO Agreement on Trade related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights ("TRIPS Agreement") and failed to protect intellectual property (IP) rights by refusing to take action against, and instead actively promoting, sophisticated Saudi based broadcast pirate "beoutQ". The WTO Panel has called on Saudi Arabia to stop its abuse of IP rights and "bring its measures into conformity" with WTO law.

This is the first time in the seventy-three-year history of the WTO and its predecessor (the GATT) that a Panel has rejected a respondent's attempt to invoke the national security exception as a defense.

The WTO Panel found that Saudi Arabia's failure to take criminal action against beoutQ was so disconnected from any legitimate security interest that it could not meet even "a minimum requirement of plausibility in relation to the proffered essential security interests".

Reacting to the Panel Report, Minister of Commerce and Industry Ali bin Ahmed Al Kuwari said in a statement to Qatar News Agency: "Qatar, and international rights holders, have scored a resounding victory today. We expect Saudi Arabia, especially since it is hosting the upcoming G20, to respect this decisive ruling and end the theft and piracy of IP rights at once. They can start by heeding the WTO's ruling and conducting a fair, timely, and transparent legal proceeding against the perpetrators in order to stop this abuse posthaste."The ruling came after the State of Qatar filed a formal complaint against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body.

The Panel's analysis shows how, by allowing beoutQ's theft and piracy to spread unchecked for several years, Saudi Arabia has actively violated its obligations under the TRIPS Agreement to protect the IP rights of Qatari nationals and of high-profile sports and entertainment rights holders from other trading partners, including the United States, the European Union, and the United Kingdom.

Under this ruling, Saudi Arabia must now heed the WTO Panel's call to stop its abuse of valuable IP rights, and "bring its measures into conformity with its obligations under the TRIPS Agreement". While the dispute before the WTO Panel focused on IP-related violations, the Panel's findings also highlighted Saudi Arabia's human rights violations directed at Qataris.

The Panel found that Saudi Arabia "expelled Qatari residents and visitors in Saudi territories" with only two weeks' notice—for no reason other than that they were Qatari—and imposed restrictions preventing Qataris from travelling to, or transiting through, Saudi territory. Moreover, the Panel highlighted that these discriminatory measures were mandated by the Saudi government, finding "the existence of the general anti sympathy measures that directly or indirectly fostered a climate of anti-sympathy against Qatar and Qatari nationals". It is worth noting that Qatar has initiated several other legal proceedings before the WTO, and other international courts and tribunals, in respect of unlawful actions taken by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt, since June 2017.

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