WTO okays Qatar request to set up panel in case against Saudi for violating IP rights

The WTO logo is pictured at the entrance to its headquarters in Geneva

The WTO logo is pictured at the entrance to its headquarters in Geneva

The complaint highlighted the various infringements and violations committed by Saudi Arabia against the IP rights of Qatari citizens and companies – including the rights of television broadcasters – and the piracy committed against beIN Media Group LLC. The World Trade Organisation has agreed to Qatar’s request for the establishment of a WTO panel to rule in a case field against Saudi Arabia for violating intellectual property rights of Qatari citizens and companies including the rights of television broadcasters.

This was decided at a WTO meeting for Settlement of Disputes held in Geneva on Tuesday, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MCI) said.The complaint highlighted the various infringements and violations committed by Saudi Arabia against the IP rights of Qatari citizens and companies – including the rights of television broadcasters – and the piracy committed against beIN Media Group LLC. Additionally, the complaint outlined Saudi Arabia’s violation of its obligations to provide protection for IP rights holders under international treaties, as the Saudi authorities have prevented Qatari citizens and entities from exercising their most basic rights before law enforcement authorities in Saudi Arabia, in order to protect and defend their IP rights.

Saleh Abdulla al-Mana, Qatar’s Commercial Attache at WTO in Geneva, said the “scale of Saudi Arabia’s violations is unprecedented, and threatens the international system of IP protection.“KSA has not only violated Qatar’s rights, but also the rights of other WTO member states,” al-Mana added, noting that “these actions represent a flagrant violation of Saudi Arabia’s trade and ethical obligations.The infringements also reflect Saudi Arabia’s failure to honour its obligations to protect IP rights including copyright, radio and television broadcasting rights, as well as trademark rights, he said.

WTO rules are aimed at settling disputes in a peaceful manner, by encouraging member nations to consult among themselves, in order to agree policies in line with international rules, rather than resort directly to litigation, Qatar’s MCI said.According to the Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU) procedures, if a WTO member raises a complaint, parties must enter a 60-day period of consultations in order to resolve the dispute among themselves before resorting to litigation.

However, Saudi Arabia has refused to engage in such consultations, violating the rules of the organisation under the pretext of preserving national security. Legal experts have found no basis for using the pretext of national security to cover up crimes of IP rights piracy, particularly in relation to television broadcasting rights such as beIN SPORTS.Soon after severing diplomatic ties and imposing an illegal blockade on Qatar, Saudi Arabia resorted to piracy through the KSA channel “beoutQ” targeting the BeIN SPORTS group, which is protected by the TRIPS agreement (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights).

It has been established that “beoutQ” started illegally broadcasting beIN SPORTS content within the territory of KSA and beyond. “beoutQ” receivers were also manufactured across Saudi Arabia to enable satellite viewing, and to generate revenues for pirates through the sale of subscriptions at a significant cost.The Saudi-based “beoutQ” channels also pirated hundreds of other channels from around the world without the authorisation of rights holders.

Since the beginning of the crisis between Qatar and the blockading countries, the Office of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to the WTO in Geneva has reviewed all measures taken by the siege nations, who have imposed a blockade on Qatar to isolate the country on the economic and trade levels.The office has also reviewed the compatibility of those measures with WTO agreements, in addition to discussing these violations with WTO committees and representatives of WTO member states during various meetings.

They have also met bilaterally with over 40 delegations at the WTO, including those that have been affected by the piracy acts committed by “beoutQ”.Furthermore, the office of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry is currently working on the case filed by the State of Qatar against the United Arab Emirates regarding the illegal measures committed since June 2017.A panel has been established by the WTO, which is currently reviewing this case in order to issue a binding ruling on it, it said.

Sources and photo-credits: Gulf Times, Reuters