5. Protection of Property Rights
Non-GCC citizens may own properties only under special conditions that require Cabinet approval. Kuwait ranked 69 out of 190 in Ease of Registering a Property in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 report.
Intellectual Property Rights
Kuwait acceded to the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in 1995 and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Patent Cooperation Treaty in 2016. The government enacted the GCC Trademark Law in 2015 and the Copyright and Related Rights Law in 2016. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) included Kuwait on its 2019 Special 301 Report Priority Watch List, which identifies countries that are trading partners that do not adequately or effectively protect and enforce intellectual property rights (IPR). Kuwait has been on the Priority Watch List for five consecutive years. USTR closed the Out-of-Cycle Review in 2019 for Kuwait without a change in status. Kuwait has not yet brought its copyright regime in line with its international commitments by making the necessary improvements to the regulations implementing its 2016 Copyright and Related Rights Law.
Right holders continue to raise systemic concerns regarding difficulty in having the Ministry of Commerce and Industry’s Consumer Protection Department remove illicit physical goods from the market, as well as the lack of transparency of administrative and criminal enforcement proceedings. The government did not adequately take action to curb the relabeling, repackaging, and sale of counterfeit and pirated goods, including by targeting manufacturers and increasing fines and penalties to deterrent levels. The government did not prioritize the prosecution of criminal behavior in such cases nor reduce the undue delays in the judicial process.
The following descriptions characterize the protection of IPR in Kuwait:
- Trademarks: strong; trademark applications can be filed at the Kuwaiti Trademark Office, organized under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Kuwait applies the GCC trademark law.
- Patents: strong; the Kuwait Patent Office announced that it began accepting Patent Cooperation Treaty compliant national applications in March 2018.
- Copyright: medium; can be protected by the Ministry of Information/National Library of Kuwait. There are efforts underway to amend the new copyright law and join WIPO’s Copyright and Internet Treaties.
The IPR enforcement regime has improved, most notably in the following areas:
- The Ministry of Information (MOI) has conducted raids, seized pirated goods (such as DVDs), and referred cases for prosecution. In addition, it continued blocking Internet domains that allow downloads of pirated copyrighted materials and websites that sell counterfeit goods.
- The Criminal Investigations Department (CID) established a specialized IPR unit to combat counterfeit goods. Brand owners are able to bring complaints directly to this unit for action in cooperation with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. The CID conducted raids and criminal proceedings on a range of pirated and counterfeit physical goods.
- Ministry of Commerce and Industry performed raids and seizures under the direction of the Assistant Undersecretary of Trade Control, but focused more on small retail shops than more important targets like sources and suppliers of counterfeit goods.
- General Administration of Customs officials improved enforcement in part due to their close collaboration with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Kuwait Customs’ Intellectual Property Rights Unit reported approximately three hundred seizures of counterfeit or pirated goods last year, enhanced outreach and communication with brand owners and copyright owners, and no longer permitted the re-export of seized counterfeit goods.
Resources for Rights Holders
Mr. Peter Mehravari
Intellectual Property Attaché for the Middle East & North Africa
U.S. Embassy Kuwait
Tel: +965 2259 1455