November 2015

Intellectual Property in Saudi Arabia

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Saudi Arabia has ratified the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works of 1886, revised in Paris on 24th July 1971 and the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property of 1883, both with effect from 11th March 2004.

Three government authorities have authority to protect and enforce intellectual property rights: the Ministry of Commerce and Industry for trademarks, the Ministry of Culture and Information for copyright, and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology for patents.

There are two overlapping patent registration systems in Saudi Arabia. A regional law, the GCC Patents of Inventions Regulation of 2001, Royal Decree No. M/28, amended an earlier 1992 law and  permits the registration of patents with effect throughout the GCC countries. 

Otherwise, patents are governed by the Layout Designs of Integrated Circuits, Plant Varieties, and Industrial Models Regulation, Royal Decree No. M/27 of 20/5/1425 H (17th July 2005), which gives effect to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.

Saudi Arabia’s Trademarks Law, issued pursuant to Royal Decree M/21 of 29/5/1423H (7 August 2002), brings Saudi Arabia's trademarks regime into compliance with the provisions of the TRIPS Agreement. The Trademarks Law superseded all earlier laws on trademarks. The implementing regulations for the new Trademarks Law were issued on October 4, 2002, by Ministerial Order No. 1723.

The Copyright Law, Royal Decree No. M/41 dated 2/7/1424 H (30 August 2003) and its Implementing Rules, along with the Resolution of the Minister of Commerce and Industry No. M/W/1788/1 of 10/ 3/1425 H (30 May 2004), define copyright protection to include architectural designs, speeches, theatrical, musical, photographic and cinematographic works, works for radio and television, maps, video tapes and computer software. Copyright protection is not conditional on registration or renewal.

With respect to confidential information, Saudi Arabia adopted the WTO's  Regulations for the Protection of Trade Secrets Information which provide a remedy for unauthorized disclosure of commercial secrets when done in a manner contrary to honest commercial practices. Council of Ministers Resolution No. 50, dated 25/2/1426 H (April 5, 2005).

The Minister of Commerce and Industry issued Implementing Regulations under Ministerial Decision No. 3218 of 25/3/1426H (4 May 2005), as amended by Ministerial Decision No. 431 of 1/5/1426H (8 June 2005).

These Regulations provided for protection of undisclosed test and other data. Saudi Arabia would protect such data against disclosure, except where necessary to protect the public, or unless steps were taken to ensure that the data were protected against unfair commercial use. Any person harmed as a result of violations of the provisions of the Law may file a lawsuit to claim compensation for damages sustained.

Saudi Arabia has several other laws which contain provisions protecting confidential information or trade secrets such as the Companies Law, Labor Law, Banks Control Law and the procedural rules of the Communications and Information Technology Commission.

An interesting use of the confidential information protection regime is the use by terminated Saudi distributors to prevent the entry into the Kingdom of a foreign company's sales personnel when they have been sponsored for immigration purposes by the Saudi distributor. In some cases, this tactic has deprived foreign investors of experienced personnel. When terminating an agency agreement, the status of these employees should be reviewed carefully and to avoid problems, be subject to a final agency termination agreement. 

 This article was published elsewhere under a slightly different form under the name of another individual--but I wrote it. Asserting my moral rights and all that. The photograph is from rediscoveringislam.com.


Khobar Raytheon Building Fire Update


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Here’s an update on the investigation into Saudi Aramco’s Raytheon Building fire in Al Khobar on August 30, 2015.

In a reprise of the 2002  Mecca Girl’s School fire, Saudi Civil Defense personnel on the scene refused to help stricken women who had jumped into the building’s swimming pool in a desperate effort to escape the smoke and flames. Lessons from the previous tragedy were forgotten or not learned in the first place. 

Saudi Aramco’s own fire fighting team fell down on the job. An early emergency call from a tenant in the building was ignored. The tenant was told, “if it’s not in our system we’re not going out.” The tenant called back and pleaded for help. This time the dispatcher simply hung up on him. Meanwhile the flames got worse.

There was no water at the building so Saudi firefighters had inadequate means to fight the fire. This is something to keep in mind if you are considering purchasing real estate in the Kingdom--are the municipal fire control measures actually in working order? It is not clear how Saudi Aramco’s safety team ever signed off on or failed to report a non-working system.

Three months after the blaze, Saudi Aramco has failed to issue a report on the fire. Private insurance companies will not pay claims without some kind of official documentation. Saudi firefighters either don’t have a report or they’re not releasing it. This is why you prepare and publish the investigation into a tragedy and its aftermath: to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

Without a police report, the insureds were told, “we can’t do anything.” Meanwhile, finance companies insisted on timely payments for vehicles that had been destroyed. The insureds’ clamor was finally heard and Saudi Aramco cobbled together a partial interim report. The insurance companies rejected the report because it was incomplete and insisted on photographs.

At least one of the insureds snuck into the basement of the now off-limits building and took a photograph of the burned out mess in his parking space with his mobile phone. He forwarded the photographs he took in the basement to his insurance company. They were rejected because the photographs were fuzzy and “not clear.”

It is a commonplace of human existence that we hide what shames us. There is no shame in taking corrective action, especially when lives are at stake.

The Aramco report of the investigation? Not coming anytime soon. Don’t hold your breath.


Two Classes of U.S. Citizens



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While there was a good deal of controversy about President Obama's birthplace, there is no doubt that having been born in a U.S. state, he has a greater right to citizenship then say, Senator John McCain.

Senator McCain was not born in the United States, but in a U.S. territory. At the time, the status of people born in that territory was subject to some dispute, and it wasn't until later legislation was passed that it became clear that children born to U.S. citizens in the Panama Canal Zone would have the right to U.S. citizenship.

This right was not granted to everyone born in the Canal Zone. If your parents were Colombian, Panamanian or Barbadian—as many of the Canal workers were—there was no right to U.S. citizenship at all.
Panama, it should be remembered, was a department of Colombia until 1903. The United States threw its military might behind those Panamanian separatists who offered a better deal than the democratically-elected Colombian congress.

While legislation was quickly enacted to deal with day-to-day life in the Canal Zone—including founding a church(!)—the question of citizenship was not resolved until the 1930's.

Until 1967, it seemed, there was only one class of U.S. citizens. You could lose your citizenship by making a declaration of loyalty to another state, serving in its military or voting in an election.

But in that year, the U.S. Supreme Court decided
Afroyim v. Rusk, 387 U.S. 253, which held that there are two classes of citizens: one class, like President Obama, holds citizenship by and under the authority of the Constitution. The other, like Senator McCain, holds citizenship through a mere statutory grant.

Afroyim traveled to Israel and voted in an election. The State Department tried to revoke his citizenship. Afroyim was born in the United States, and while the Constitution describes how you can acquire citizenship, it says nothing about losing it.

So the State Department's efforts to deprive Afroyim of his citizenship failed. For the first time in American history, it was possible to hold dual American nationality. The distinction continues today.

For this reason, Senator McCain, and those like him, could lose their citizenship more easily than President Obama.

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How to Get Out of Jury Duty

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You have to make the decision as to whether this is the moral thing to do. There are arguments on both sides. If you reach the conclusion that it is not appropriate for you to serve, this is how to get out of jury duty:

1. Upon receiving the summons, write “No English” on it and send it back. Normally, this will be the end of it. If you get another, do the same. Eventually, they will stop.

2. Upon receiving the summons, write a letter to the Clerk advising that you will be happy to serve as a juror, but that you do not consent to the courthouse security search. Ask to have a court officer meet you outside the courthouse to escort you through security, because you do not consent to give up your rights to be searched.

Note that searches in government buildings are deemed to be consent, or voluntary searches. However, this consent only applies when someone makes the voluntary decision to visit the building. If you are being forced to show up–as where you have received a jury subpoena–then the search isn’t voluntary, and you have the right to refuse. The penalty is that you will be denied entry to the building. Which is what you are looking for.

3. Upon receiving the summons, write a letter to the Clerk saying that you cannot serve “because only God can judge.” This should be the end of it.

4. If you have ignored the above and you find yourself sitting in court ready to be questioned, tell the judge that you cannot be fair because “if the defendant is here it means he must be guilty.” You will be quickly dismissed so that you don’t taint the jury pool.

5. Read the Wikipedia article on jury nullification. This is the common law's  safety valve when unjust laws are passed. Tell the judge or the lawyers that you know about jury nullification and they will boot you off the jury. 

6. If you get a federal grand jury subpoena, please consider serving. The grand jury system has been “gamed” since its inception. A federal grand jury, once impanelled, has nationwide subpoena powers and can investigate any crime. The prosecutor and the police are supposed to work for the grand jury, not the other way around. Use your imagination.

“Doesn’t all of this deprive the accused of a fair cross-section of the community and the right to a fair trial?” 

You’re kidding, aren’t you?