By Nusaiba Bin Shaibah
KUWAIT, April 23 (KUNA) -- Kuwait has been working hard in the past five years to ameliorate intellectual property protection to encourage creativity and invention and attract investments, said US intellectual property attache for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
"We saw about five years ago a growing appreciation for the importance of different policies that would incentivize private sector and incentivize people to create, innovate and to also bring investments to Kuwait and to the region," Peter Mehravari said in an interview with KUNA.
"One of the big incentives is to make sure that when people create or invent something that is protected from being copied." He stressed that this does not mean that only having clear laws in place, but also enforcing agencies to apply those laws and make efforts apparently.
The Kuwait-based US official estimated that Kuwait and other Gulf countries, driven by their ambitious development visions, have been working to make intellectual property a priority in the past few years.
"The future strategic visions of each of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UAE are about transition which require not only the minimum protection for inventions, creative works, brands but really a competitive framework, because we are not only competing on the level of the region, but we are competing globally," Mehravari told KUNA.
"And if you want to see an innovative company brings its products to Kuwait, then Kuwait needs to have a competitive advantage when it comes to protecting the investment by that company," he elaborated.
He noted that even when Kuwaiti inventors want to introduce their products to a market, they would look for a market that would protect their inventions better, or might have a police authority that will enforce their rights.
"Inventors will not choose markets that provide the basics of IP protection means, but ones with competitive international standards where they can see a big space to create in innovate," he underlined.
Mehravari affirmed that Kuwaiti inventors, especially in the IT domains, are yearning for effective mechanisms to protect their intellectual property rights.
"I have been in Kuwait for 14 months and I see a need for the youth creative community for IP protection, and had many discussions about the problems involves in IP issues and creative products or services," he said.
"They have immediate concerns of their own work. They need guarantees to stop others from copying their work. It is a perception of not what only the law says but the protection on the ground." He suggested that there is one opportunity for Kuwaiti inventors or artists to establish a community that would work further on IP protection.
"There is a huge need for such a community in Kuwait and in the region to improve public awareness about the legal rights of IP and to help their country to compete globally," he stated.
He added that there is a need for a profession in IP protection to help innovation and creativity thrive, hence keep all types of investments in the region.
IP protection includes patent, trademark, copyrights, industrial design, trade secret and data protection.
The US official hailed fruitful cooperation with Kuwaiti government to improve IP practices.
"Over the past two years we had absolutely the best engagements with the Kuwaiti government on the IP, and there has been some incredible positive developments," he said.
He revealed that the US is supporting Kuwait's efforts to ensure the new copyright draft law not only meets Kuwait international obligations, but also provides further incentives for Kuwaiti artists and creators to protect their works in Kuwait and abroad.
"This is achieved by joining two important international treaties related to copyrights and the digital space," he said.
"Madrid Protocol international agreement makes it easier to protect IP, by providing an international system for obtaining trade mark protection for countries or regions using a single application," he said, noting that Kuwait is not yet a member in Madrid Protocol, but it is a member in the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).
The (PCT) was concluded in 1970 and provides a unified procedure for filling patent applications to protect inventions in each of its contracting states.
Mehravari pointed out that the US embassy in Kuwait arranged this week two workshops on IP protection at Al-Shaheed Park, downtown Kuwait city.
The first workshop tackled the legal protection provided for the work of artists and musicians and the second focused best ways and practices to protect inventions and brands even for those who cannot afford it.
He shed lights on the efforts exerted by the different Kuwaiti bodies to boost IP protection.
He particularly praised the efforts made by Kuwait Copyright Office, which is led by Shaikha Rasha Al-Sabah, and the General Manger of The National Library Kamel Al-Abduljalil.
"For the past two years the National Library and Kuwait Copyright Office have taken the copyrights protection matters under their wing to find more protections that can help Kuwaiti artists and designers," he disclosed.
"They are both passion for protecting creative works, and their efforts are amazing. The National Library is really trying to make Kuwait competitive in the region. It makes sure that Kuwaiti creative designers not only work in the physical space, but also the digital space." On the major challenges facing Kuwait and regional countries in IP domain, he signaled out the spread of counterfeit goods.
"The spread of counterfeit goods threatens the trust of inventors and creatives in any market, particularly in the absence of policies that would protect them," he said, stressing the need to deny them access to local markets.
"Kuwait General Administration of Customs has been especially great over the past two years. The head of the IP department is Osama Al-Shami has been leading the customs IP office for many years, this year they ceased 343 different shipments of counterfeit goods from entering to Kuwait," he said.
He went on to say that "The US government is really happy for his efforts, and his office has the potential to do even more if provided with more resources." Mehravari noted that his office is working closely with Kuwait's Ministry of Commerce and Industry over the past year as well as with its consumer protection department to counter the spread of counterfeit products.
"Because one of the challenges facing Kuwait is the amounts of counterfeits in its marketplaces. They include luxury items, electrical supplies that are used widely at home and offices, in addition to car parts. We are trying to make some priority to get those counterfeits out of the marketplace in an efficient manner," he noted.
He, however, lamented that in some cases the process of reporting counterfeits in Kuwait is taking about three to four months.
"This should be done in a shorter time ... to not allow sufficient time for their sale or distribution in the market," he asserted.
He pointed out that the focus is more on food products to make sure that all spoiled or harmful foods are prevented from the markets.
The US official praised the efforts made in this matter, calling for a more rapid reaction. (end) nbs.ibi