Set to Finalize Laws for Copyright

01 Dec 1999

Qatar is close to finalizing new laws for trademarks, copyright and intellectual property rights (IPR). A two-day seminar was jointly organized by the Commerce Department at the Finance Ministry and WIPO. "A three-member team from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is currently reviewing our final draft for new laws in these areas", the Finance Ministry's director for the Department of Commerce, Abdulaziz Al-Kholeifi stated.

"We are aiming to finalise and submit these laws to the Cabinet in due course", he said. Qatar and eight other Arab countries in the region are members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) which has set a January 2000 deadline for developing countries to finalize all agreements on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPs).

"Consumers will benefit most if Arab states implement the TRIPs agreement before the January 2000 deadline as they will obtain original goods and all counterfeit items will disappear", Mohamed Hussam Lutfi, a professor of civil law at Cairo University and expert with WIPO, said on the final day of a regional seminar on TRIPs held at the Doha Sheraton.

The other Arab countries who are members of WTO include Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Tunisia, Djibouti, Egypt, Morocco and Mauritania.

Lutfi said it was highly unlikely that WTO will extend the deadline for developing countries to finalize all aspects of the TRIPs agreement at its forthcoming ministerial meeting at Seattle. This agreement, covering a wide range of issues among members, obliges all WTO members to comply with industry-based agreements across several product categories, except pharmaceutical and agro-chemicals.

The provisions include formulating specific standard laws for trademarks, geographical indications, industrial designs, patents, layout designs (topographies of integrated circuits), protection of undisclosed information and control of anti-competitive practices in contractual licenses. Members who fail to meet the deadline will face sanctions from WTO.

The new laws once implemented will pave the way for positive transfer of technology from Western and European nations to the region. But an increase in prices during the creation of an open market is one issue which consumers will face. "As more and more high quality products come into an open market from several countries there will be competition and prices will decline, "Lutfi said



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