Some of the Gulf countries have put in fine performances on protecting intellectual property rights. But not all of the Middle East states are mentioned in the 2018 version of the Intellectual Property Rights Index brought out by US-based Property Rights Alliance, which reflects the challenges that still need overcoming.
The UAE maintained its 21st ranking worldwide, which, interestingly, is where it is placed in the Corruption Perceptions Index issued by Berlin-based Transparency International. Qatar is ranked 25th on intellectual property rights protection, though it did lose three notches. Oman’s ranking has improved by a single position to 38th, though Saudi Arabia’s standing dropped by one to 44th.
Bahrain’s ranking fell from the 42nd position to 45th, while Kuwait remains behind by quite a distance at the 62nd spot.
GCC countries will need to compete and, where possible, outperform others in order to entice and retain businesses and global investors. This requires ongoing updates of business laws with the aim of strengthening all aspects of intellectual property rights.
The IPRI findings focus on the gains to be had from instituting a robust legal and political environment related to these rights, which faces particular challenges in this era of constant advances in technology and proliferation in the means of instant communications.
Certainly, comparisons cannot be avoided in this age of globalisation. Among other things, investors look into functioning of the judicial system when considering places to host their investments. Investors expect more — rather than fewer — rights with changes in business laws.
Undoubtedly, companies have every right to protect their businesses from potential pirates, having invested resources in developing innovative products. Make no mistake, investors have to be convinced that countries are serious enough about allowing business practices such as stealing intellectual rights. Publicly, destroying pirated goods in public is a desirable act, but not for media purposes and occasionally or when needed.
The GCC in general is well-regarded when it comes to protecting such rights. This is demonstrated by the fact that some Gulf countries outperform EU states. Yet, fresh threats keep emerging, thereby requiring revisits of the laws.