In April 1998, Kuwait was placed on USTR's Priority Watch List. In 1999, new copyright and patent protection laws were passed that greatly improve the situation. During the first half of 1999, the Ministry of Information raided and seized pirated software and videocassettes and fined the violators.
A new amendment to Law No. 4 of 1962 is designed to bring Kuwait into compliance with WTO criteria. Protection is now available for patented inventions and know-how for up to 20 years. The patent, however, must be renewed every four years. Patent infringement is punishable by a maximum jail term of one year and/or a fine of no more than $16,500.
The Kuwait Patent Office is located in the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Once an application is filed with the Registrar of Patents, no further action is taken by the Patent Office since it has not yet started the process of conducting examinations of patent applications. Opposition actions are not available in Kuwait.
Law No. 4 of 1962 provides for the registration of patents and industrial models in Kuwait. Although the Patent Law was enacted in 1962, the Patent Office in Kuwait was opened only in 1995, after a resolution adopted by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states calling for a unifying of the patent registration systems of the member countries.
The Kuwaiti government is presently preparing a draft law for the protection of patents to replace the current law discussed above. The draft, if adopted, would, inter alia, narrow the definition of a patent and lengthen the validity period to twenty years.
Trademarks and Service Marks
Kuwait has effective trademark laws but weak enforcement. In general, Kuwait follows the international classification of trademarks with a few exceptions. In accordance with Islamic mores, the Trademark Law does not protect trademarks or service marks in classes 32 and 33 relating to alcoholic beverages and pork. Following the filing of an application to register a trademark, the application is examined as to registrability. The law allows an opposition to be filed by any interested party. An opposition requires the applicant for the registration to submit a counter-statement in order to maintain the application. In the absence of any opposition or the rejection of any filed oppositions, the trademark is registered.
A trademark registration is valid for ten years from the date of filing the application. The trademark registration is renewable for additional periods of ten years each. A trademark which lapses because of non-renewal may be registered in the name of a third party three years following the lapsed registration.
Use of the trademark in Kuwait is not a prerequisite for registration or for maintaining its validity. A trademark is vulnerable to cancellation, however, if a party convinces the court that the trademark was not actually used in Kuwait for five consecutive years or that no bona fide use of the trademark was made.
Assignment of a trademark is effective with regard to third parties only after the assignment has been entered in the register and published in the Official Gazette.
Unauthorized use or imitation of a registered trademark are offenses punishable by law.
The country's new copyright law protects computer software, video and music tapes, cassettes or CDs. It also protects, cinema, drawings, original books, translations and scientific papers. The new law issued in 1999 includes KD500 fines and/or a imprisonment for a one year maximum. Repeat offenders can face stiffer penalties. On December 7, 1999, the Kuwaiti Parliament approved the law.
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