WHAT IS YOUR IP?

Saudi Arabia 2019-2020 | ECONOMY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Abdulaziz M. AlSwailem, CEO of Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property (SAIP), on international affiliations, standardization, and competitiveness.

When SAIP was established, patents, trademarks, copyrights, and industrial design came together under one organization. Could you tell us more about the process of bringing these IP responsibilities together?

Intellectual Property (IP) is a key factor for the future development of Saudi Arabia's economy and Vision 2030 stipulates targets that are directly enabled by IP. Therefore, Council of Minsters Resolution 410 sets forth a new governance for IP in the Kingdom which is this Authority. IP is typically government responsibility and internationally regulated by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which lead the growth of a balanced and effective international IP system that promotes innovation and creativity for the benefit of its member states. The IP system, however, differs from country to country. Saudi Arabia decided to bring all IP fields in one unified authority, which was also formulated Vision 2030, and SAIP was established which is one of the initiatives of the Trade and Investment Ecosystem to facilitate business, support the National Economy, encourage investment and to give the Kingdom a higher rank in the World Competitiveness Index. Bringing these IP responsibilities together helps us to have the whole picture. Therefore, revising and drafting laws and regulations as well as proposing amendments to these laws and regulations and setting policies. We see challenges because we bring different entities from different backgrounds and procedures, though this can be an advantage as we start to see how we can unify our processes and make things easier for investors, applicants and IP attorneys.

What approach should companies or individuals wanting to register IP take?

IP assets play a growing role as the importance of a knowledge-based economy rapidly develops in Saudi Arabia. Companies or individuals wanting to register their IP should first identify which type of IPs they have whether these are Patents, Industrial Designs, Plant Varieties, Integrated Circuits, Trademarks or Copyright. In this context, SAIP launched “What is your IP?” which is an electronic tool at the SAIP Website (saip.gov.sa) that will help applicants to identify the type of their IP since some applicants get confused between patents and industrial designs. In the current situation, we have an electronic platform for filing patent applications. All the processes of a patent filing are electronic; Saudi Arabia is among the first countries that started to file patents electronically. For trademarks, Saudi Arabia has a fast examination process, which only takes 75 days, where 60 days are mandatory by law to publish and wait for appeal. Our first initiative is to revise all our processes to ensure that we do not take unnecessary steps and to reduce the time involved in the projects we do. The second initiative is to translate all these processes into an IT system and have an excellent IT system that is not off the shelf. It should be something either customized or in collaboration with international partners that develop their own IP automation systems. The third initiative is to ensure we have the proper infrastructure that will help implement all these processes. The target is to do all our services and activities electronically. Currently, 75% of our services are done electronically, However, we are working hard to convert the other 25% into electronic, once the whole system is revised.

What is your vision on raising awareness to maximize the advantages of proper IP registrations for entrepreneurs and inventors?

One of our key mandates is an awareness program, which will help us with the four pillars that we work on. Our pillars are to focus on the core business, which is the IP operation including all laws and related processes. The next pillar is providing the IP services. Sometimes, people have questions that need to be answered, and based on this they decide where to go; we provide statistics, websites, surveys, and many other services to this community. The third pillar is to have an impact on those who create and utilize IPs. We are in the middle to ensure we have a registration and protection of IP; however, we cannot work alone and have to work with those who create and utilize the IPs to maximize the benefits. The fourth pillar is enforcement where awareness is extremely important, as we need to be sure every IP registered is protected and enforced. That is what we like to call IP respect rather than enforcement, as this is closer to our culture and understanding. We have a dedicated program of awareness to ensure the community is aware of IP and the types of IPs that we can protect; how infringement impacts our health, economy, and education, among others; and other lines of education for lawyers, companies, and stakeholders. Furthermore, SAIP will launch IP Clinic to support the acquisition of IP rights by raising awareness of the acquisition of IP, provide legal and technical advice and guidance on IP and make initial diagnosis of potential IP as well as to support the utilization of IP information, provide IP information to support the creation of IP rights, initial search of prior art and search on non-infringement of IP rights for the benefit of entrepreneurs and inventors.

Can you walk us through your international affiliations?

Our vision is to be a hub in the MENA region, and to do this we extended our collaboration with international affiliates. We have signed an agreement with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), National Intellectual Property Administration, PRC (CNIPA) and Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO). We have started collaborating with the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore and have an agreement with the European Patent Office. Those agreements are focused on the exchange of expertise and capacity building, as this is one of the crucial issues to be an excellent IP office or authority. Second is the exchange of data, and while there is a fast track of patent offices, we seek to sign Patent Prosecution Highway agreements with those offices to exchange our examination reports, which will increase the speed of finalizing patents and reducing the backlog in our office. Third is to share our policies and guidelines with other international offices, as this needs to be aligned with international best practices. Policies vary from country to country based on how strong they are with IP; however, we want to get the right international authorities to ensure we enforce the right policies. We select the big five offices to start with and sign agreements with them and define the main area of collaboration, which is capacity building, processes, and revision of processes, policies, and bylaws.

How could better enforcement with regard to IP be ensured?

We believe enforcement is extremely important to assure that every intellectual property is being respected. However, we are focusing now in building respect by raising awareness of intellectual property rights and the establishment of the authority. SAIP will orchestrate the enforcement ecosystem, which starts at the customs and ends up in the court. We have a full seat of authorities and organizations involved in the enforcement line. Our target is to get a unified national committee for enforcement. We will have an enforcement agent who will work under our supervision and will implement enforcement on the ground in collaboration with our partners in governmental, and private entities to promote enforcement ecosystem in Saudi Arabia. The enforcement agent will propose national programs to ensure IP enforcement, study the impact of sanctions in deterring violators and the appropriate compensation for rights holders, prepare a guideline for enforcement procedures, receive the notices and complaints, conduct research and investigation and then follow up the execution.



What are your strategic priorities for the coming years?
The short-term target is to revise our national laws and policies and work toward standardization. The second target is to join the most important international treaties related to IP, with the target being to increase the number of treaties joined by Saudi Arabia from 6 to 13 in 2020. Considering that the ratification of International Treaties on IP is an essential element in the positioning within the global community. SAIP strives to be a globally respected, fully integrated IP authority that establish itself as the IP hub in the Middle East and North Africa. Besides joining treaties provide services and protection expansion for Saudi citizen's and companies going abroad. The third target is to prepare IP National Strategy and set implementation plans and timeline in coordination with related entities. The fourth target is to move on with e-services in all our activities and set a strategy for backlog applications then implement that strategy. In terms of creation and utilization, we have different initiatives, including IP services through the IP Clinic, which provides a broad range of services to SMEs and evaluates where their IPs stand. We have the IP Value Lab to evaluate each IP and provide advice about what to do with a particular IP. The third initiative is for copyright, because based on international treaties, there is no obligation of copyright registration. Still, we encourage people to register their copyright; the goal is to establish collective management offices to set best model of CMOs that fits local market and prepare specific procedures and policies. This is where we can bring IP and those who would like to utilize IP into one platform which will help exchange their business and market their IP. In addition to that SAIP will establish IP academy which is a training institute that provides IP training for individuals with the cooperation of WIPO, to promote IP education and knowledge in Saudi Arabia, through training. IP academy will offer IP library, IP distance learning, IP summer school and IP Master programs to leverage IP in Saudi Arabia. SAIP will also organize the licensing of IP attorneys to offer services to SAIP's beneficiaries. In order to foster the competitiveness of the national economy and support the development of the Intellectual Property culture in Saudi Arabia.