5. Protection of Property Rights
The Saudi legal system protects and facilitates acquisition and disposition of all property, consistent with the Islamic practice of upholding private property rights. Non-Saudi corporate entities are allowed to purchase real estate in Saudi Arabia in accordance with the foreign-investment code. Other foreign-owned corporate and personal property is protected by law. Saudi Arabia has a system of recording security interests, and plans to modernize its land registry system. Saudi Arabia ranked 19th out of 190 countries for ease of registering property in the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report.
In 2017, the Saudi Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs, and Housing implemented an annual vacant land tax of 2.5 percent of the assessed value on vacant lands in urban centers in an attempt to spur development. Additionally, in January 2018, in an effort to increase Saudis’ access to finance and stimulate the mortgage and housing markets, Saudi Arabia’s central bank lifted the maximum loan-to-value rate for mortgages for first-time homebuyers to 90 percent from 85 percent, and increased interest payment subsidies for first-time buyers. This further liberalized stringent down-payment requirements that prevailed up to 2016, when the central bank raised the maximum loan-to-value rate from 70 percent to 85 percent.
Intellectual Property Rights
Saudi Arabia has been on the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report “Priority Watch List” since 2019. In the U.S. Chamber International IP Index 2021 report, Saudi Arabia ranked 37th out of 53 countries surveyed.
In 2018, Saudi Arabia established the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property (SAIP) to regulate, support, develop, sponsor, protect, enforce, and upgrade IP fields in accordance with the best international practices. In 2020, SAIP worked to consolidate IP protection competence, including creating a government-wide IPR respect program, establishing a specialized IP court, launching online and in-market enforcement programs, continuing market raids against counterfeit and pirated goods, and conducting significant pro-IPR awareness campaigns. SAIP has cooperated with USTR and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), including the signing of a Cooperation Arrangement in October 2018 between SAIP and USPTO. Saudi Arabia Customs Authority has significantly enhanced its IP enforcement efforts and capacity, seized and destroyed 2 million counterfeit items across all ports during 2020 in coordination with SAIP, partnered closely with trademark and copyright owners, and systematically notified right holders of suspected shipments.
Since 2016, the Saudi Arabia Food and Drug Authority (SFDA), which the Minister of Health oversees, has granted marketing approval for pharmaceuticals to domestic companies relying on another company’s undisclosed test or other data for products despite the protection provided by Saudi regulations.
The United States government also continues to remain concerned about reportedly high levels of online piracy in Saudi Arabia, particularly through illicit streaming devices (ISDs), which right holders report are widely available and generally unregulated in Saudi Arabia. Industry reported in December 2020 that 32.6 percent of the 510,000 worldwide users of livehd7, a popular streaming website that violates IP laws, were from Saudi Arabia. However, in August 2019, beoutQ, a Saudi-based rampant satellite and online piracy service, ceased operations. In June 2020, the SAIP announced that it had disabled access to 231 websites that had been disseminating infringing content.
U.S. software firms report that the Saudi government continues to use unlicensed and “under-licensed” (in which an insufficient number of licenses is procured for the total number of users) software on government computer systems in violation of their copyrights. Other concerns include the lack of seizure and destruction of counterfeit goods in enforcement actions, and limits on the ability to enter facilities suspected of involvement in the sale or manufacture of counterfeit goods, including facilities located in residential areas.
In 2020, SAIP launched a copyright enforcement campaign in 2020 in Riyadh, Mecca, Jeddah, Dammam, and al-Ahsa. During the campaign, SAIP inspected 359 shops and seized 9,137 counterfeit and illicit items in marketplaces. In collaboration with the Ministry of Media, SAIP confiscated and destroyed over 3.5 million counterfeit and illicit items in 2020, including CDs, computers, and TV receivers.
Resources for Rights Holders
Embassy point of contact:
Economic Officer+966 11 488-3800 Ext. 4097
Regional IPR Attaché:
Pete C. Mehravari
U.S. Intellectual Property Attaché for Middle East and North Africa
U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi | U.S. Department of Commerce
Office: +965 2259-1455 | Cell: +965 9758-9223 | WhatsApp: +1 404-429-9986