5. Protection of Property Rights
A set of laws, ministerial decrees, and resolutions make up the country’s jurisprudence on property rights and ownership.
Law 16/2018 designates 10 zones in which foreign investors, companies, and real estate developers are permitted full property ownership. The law also allows foreign investors usufructuary right of real estate of up to 99 years in 16 other zones. Additionally, foreigners may own villas within residential complexes, as well as retail outlets in certain commercial complexes. In December 2018, a committee was formed under the Ministry of Justice to regulate foreign real estate ownership and use. According to subsequent regulations announced in March 2019, non-Qatari real estate owners will be granted residency in Qatar for as long as they own their property.
Law 6/2014 regulates real estate development and promulgates that non-Qatari companies should have at least 10 years of experience and headquarters in Qatar to carry out real estate development activities within selected locations.
Property leasehold rights are enforced. Qatar’s Rent Law 4/2008 protects the lessee and regulates the lessor. There are a number of enforceable rights granted to the lessee including protection from rent hikes during the lease period and enforcement of the terms of the lease contract should the lessor transfer ownership. The lessor is also protected from tenants who violate their lease agreements. Qatar’s Leasing Dispute Settlement Committee enforces these regulations. The committee hears and issues binding decisions and all lessors are required by law to register their lease agreements with this committee.
The Ministry of Municipality and Environment oversees the preparation of all records related to the selling, leasing, waiver, and bequeathing of real estate. A reliable electronic database exists to check for encumbrances, including liens, mortgages, and restrictions. In addition, all titles and deed records are kept in digital format.
Qatar was ranked 20th globally for ease of registering property by the World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business Report: http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/qatar#registering-property
Intellectual Property Rights
Qatar’s intellectual property (IP) legal regime, albeit still developing in capacity, is robust and wide-ranging in terms of the number of laws protecting different types of intellectual property rights (IPR). Qatar has signed many international intellectual property treaties, which are implemented through Qatari laws and regulations. Qatar’s IP legislation includes the Trademark and Copyright Law (enacted in 2002), the Protection of Trade Secrets and Protection of Layout Design law (2005), and the Patent Law (2006). These laws grant foreign applicants the same rights as Qataris, provided they are nationals of a state that grants Qatar reciprocal treatment.
Intellectual property owners can apply for IP rights at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, which is mandated (by Law 20/2014) to enforce IP laws and regulations. Within the ministry, an IP Protection Department has been set up with offices focusing on trademarks, copyrights, neighboring rights, patents, industrial designs, and innovations. The following are the periods of validity for the different types of registered intellectual property:
Patents: Valid for 20 years from filing.
- With regard to pharmaceutical products, the Ministry of Public Health requires registration of all products imported into the country and will not register unauthorized copies of products patented in other countries. Qatar also recognizes GCC patents on pharmaceutical products. To obtain patent protection in the GCC, pharmaceutical companies must apply for a GCC patent at the GCC Patent Office. Once granted, protection should extend to all the GCC countries.
Copyrights: Protected for 50 years after the author’s death.
- Per Qatari law, failure to register at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry will not affect protection of the copyright. While the law does not protect unpublished works and does not criminalize end-user piracy, Qatar is party to the Berne and Paris Conventions and abides by their mandates concerning unpublished works. The IP Protection Department works with law enforcement authorities to prosecute resellers of unlicensed video and software.
Trademarks: Valid for 10 years but can be renewed indefinitely, while trademarks unused for five consecutive years are subject to cancellation.
- As part of the GCC Customs Union, inaugurated in 2015, the GCC approved a common trademark law and Qatar is taking steps to enact it.
The law on Intellectual Property Border Protection (Law 17/2011) forbids the import of any products that infringe any IPR protected in Qatar and obliges the General Authority of Customs to take measures to prevent the entrance of infringing products. The law also permits IP rights holders to block the release of imported products that infringe on their rights, given sufficient evidence. In February 2017, the General Authority of Customs launched an electronic system to detect counterfeit goods coming into the country. The system is accredited by the World Customs Organization and has been introduced to limit the imports of counterfeit goods. The General Authority of Customs, the Consumer Protection and IP Protection Departments at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and the Ministry of Interior conduct surveys, search shops, and seize and destroy counterfeit products.
In March 2017, the Cabinet approved a draft law on the protection of industrial designs in an attempt to modernize existing Law 9/2002 on trademarks, trade indications, trade names, geographical indications, and industrial designs and templates, but the new law has not come into force yet.
The existing Penal Code stipulates hefty fines on those dealing in counterfeit products and imprisonment for offenders convicted of counterfeiting, imitating, fraudulently affixing, or selling products, or offering services of a registered trademark, or other intellectual property violations. However, the level of awareness about IPR and enforcement is low among the public. The IP Protection Department in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has taken the lead in promoting awareness through workshops and seminars.
The United States Trade Representative Office (USTR) does not consider Qatar a market that engages in, turns a blind eye to, or benefits from piracy and counterfeit products, nor is Qatar listed in USTR’s Special 301 Report.
Qatar is a member of the World Trade Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and is a signatory of several WIPO treaties. For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/wipolex/en/profile.jsp?code=QA .
Resources for Rights Holders:
U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
Regional IP Attaché
Peter C. Mehravari, Intellectual Property Attaché for the Middle East & North Africa
U.S. Department of Commerce Foreign Commercial Service, U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
U.S. Embassy Kuwait City, Kuwait
+965 2259 1455
United States Trade Representative
IPR Director for the GCC
+1 (202) 395-9564
A list of local attorneys that may be able to provide assistance in pursuing IP protections and enforcement claims in Qatar can be found at the U.S. Embassy Doha website: https://qa.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/local-resources-of-u-s-citizens/attorneys/