Protecting your intellectual property

AhmedWith technology within hands reach, a majority of us now have Instagram accounts, WordPress blogs, Snapchat and other platforms that have made us “publishers” in a sense. Online platforms have also made it easier for us to market our business ideas. Before technology, publishing your work was something only a few fortunate people had the opportunity or the means to do but now you could easily publish a short story, showcase your photography and even establish your own small company online.

We are very fortunate in Kuwait and the GCC that there is a lot of encouragement from governmental entities as well as communities to encourage the youth to become writers, painters, photographers, and to pursue any other talent or business idea they have. I hope this article helps you in pursuing your talent. With technology though, new laws had to be implemented for to protect our rights. Today I will be answering questions about Intellectual Property rights.

Question: What is included under Intellectual Property Rights? What can I protect?
Fajer: According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, “Intellectual Property refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce”. This definition is very wide and includes so many different things, to understand better lets break it down.

There are three main categories under intellectual property as follows:
1) Copy Right – this is of important to anyone that “Produces” work. This includes literary work, art work, photography, any theater plays, and any musical productions.

2) Patents – This refers to inventions. They have to be “new” and capable of industrial applications. As can be used, unlike copyright this refers to materialistic work.

3) Trade Marks – these are usually logos of commercial entities, used as a quality of origin and to inspire customer loyalty

Question: How do I register my Intellectual Property?
Fajer: The answer to this question depends on what you are trying to protect. For copy rights unfortunately unlike neighboring GCC countries you cannot do so easily online, but you can through the Kuwaiti courts, from experience though most people do so only after someone has infringed their right, ie they claim property rights to their work after someone has used their work without permission.

For patents it is much easier than copy rights as there is a central body for the Gulf Cooperation Council for the Arab States located in Saudi Arabia. It is called “The Patent Office of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf” and they accept online submissions at http://www.gccpo.org/

For Trademarks there is a relatively new regulation for the Gulf Cooperation Council for the Arab States, the law was passed in 2014 and the countries are working closely to apply the law, making it easier for business owners across the gulf to protect their commercial rights. In Kuwait you can apply through the Ministry of Commerce, after fulfilling certain requirements and filling out hard copy forms (not available online yet), you will receive a “temporary” Trade Mark, this usually takes around 30 days. The Trade Mark will then be printed in the local newspaper the Kuwait Gazette and if no one appeals or claims that the Trade Mark is similar to their own within 90 days, then the trademark will become a permanent right.

Question : How long can one person own a certain Intellectual Property Right?
Fajer: In Kuwait and most countries copyrights are given to the “producer” for their lifetime and for 50 years after their death. This explains why anyone can now produce something written by Shakespeare. In the GCC trademarks are now being passed for 10 years since the day of registration, and can be renewed accordingly.

Question: Sometimes going through the proper channels for copyrights can take a while, how can I protect myself until then?
Fajer: There is no right or wrong way to do this. The best way is to go through the proper channels but as you mentioned they take a while and sometimes it’s more efficient not to do so. The important thing though is for you to protect your rights in the long run and you are able to do so by always being able to prove that your work is yours.

If you have produced work, let’s say a short story for example, my suggestion is before publishing it, send it to yourself via email, this way if something does come up in the future you can prove that you wrote it first.

I would also advice that you always read or research about the terms and conditions on online platforms before “publishing” your work on them. Some platforms can be very sneaky by making you agree that anything you publish through them is owned by them.

By Attorney Fajer Ahmed

This article was published on 17/01/2016