Effective August 10, 2023, and based on Ministerial Decree No. 56 of 2023, Qatar is adopting the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) Trademark Law and its Implementing Regulations, replacing its current Trademark Law (Law No. 9 of 2002 with respect to Trademarks, Trade Indications, Trade names, Geographical Indications, and Industrial Designs).
This makes Qatar the fifth GCC state after Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Saudi Arabia to implement the Law, leaving the UAE as the only country that has not done so.
It is important to highlight that the GCC Trademark Law does not establish a central GCC Trademark Office or a unified trademark registration covering all member states, unlike e.g., in the European Union, but rather serves the purpose of aligning trademark regulations and procedures.
The most significant differences brought about by the adoption of the GCC Trademark Law are highlighted in this article.
Providing more clarity on what constitutes a well-known trademark
In line with international standards, Article 4 of the GCC Trademark Law provides clearer criteria for what constitutes a well-known trademark which should serve as a guideline for the authorities and brand owners and make decisions more predictable.
Granting the possibility of allowing multi-class applications
Article 9(1) of the GCC Trademark Law explicitly permits trademarks to be registered for one or more classes, and this provision is further elaborated in the Implementing Regulations. Multi-class filings and registrations are beneficial for trademark owners, as they reduce administrative efforts and costs, streamlining the application and renewal processes. Additionally, official fees and agent fees are generally lower for additional classes in multi-class applications. However, it is worth noting that despite this provision, none of the other GCC states that have already implemented the GCC Trademark Law have chosen to adopt multi-class applications, and there is no indication that Qatar will do so either.
Clarifying that goods/services are not automatically deemed to be similar just because they are in the same class or dissimilar because they are in a different class
Article 9(2) of the GCC Trademark Law addresses this issue, providing a welcome contrast to the current practice of the Qatari trademark office and other GCC countries, including the UAE. The approach of considering goods and services as similar or dissimilar based solely on their classification often fails to reflect market realities. The GCC Trademark Law recognizes that goods and services within the same class can be significantly different from each other, allowing for the coexistence of similar trademarks. Conversely, treating goods and services as dissimilar solely due to differing classes can be exploited to evade rejections and misuse of the classification system. To address these concerns, the GCC Trademark Law emphasizes the need for a more comprehensive examination process that goes beyond superficial class-based comparisons.
Reducing the opposition period from four months to 60 days
This significant alteration, outlined in Article 14 of the GCC Trademark Law, allows third parties sufficient time to review applications, prepare arguments, and submit necessary documents while also expediting the trademark registration process. Similarly, the time to comply with examiners’ conditions has been reduced from six months to 90 days (Article 12(2) GCC Trademark Law), and the time to appeal an opposition decision before the court has been reduced from 60 to 30 days (Article 15(3) GCC Trademark Law).
Temporary protection during international exhibitions
As the Paris Convention requires, Article 21 of the GCC trademark law confirms that trademarks may be granted temporary protection during officially recognized international exhibitions.
Setting a 90-day limit for the examination of applications
This limitation is found in Article 12 (4) of the GCC trademark law and Article 6 of its Implementing Regulations and is hoped to accelerate the examination and consequently the registration process.
Regrettably, on this occasion, the official fees for various services such as trademark registrations, renewals and recordals are also being increased, which is quite the opposite of what brand owners would have hoped for in a region where these fees are already very high compared to other locations.
In conclusion, Qatar’s adoption of the GCC Trademark Law signifies a significant advancement in harmonizing trademark regulations across the Gulf region, offering increased clarity and predictability for brand owners, with notable changes such as reducing the opposition period. Nevertheless, the concern regarding the increased official fees remains a point of contention for brand owners seeking trademark protection in Qatar.
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