In his timeless masterpiece The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry meditates: “I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams ...” And even today, more than 70 years after this classic tale was written, one can find little gems in the desert, more precisely in today’s Riyadh, the Saudi capital, which is home to the Gulf Cooperation Council Patent Office (GCC PTO).
It all started back in 1981, when the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was established in Abu Dhabi between the six founding members: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Apart from being meant as a political stronghold against the uprising neighbor states, the Council significantly fostered its interest right from the start, focusing on the economic development of its members. Plans such as a common currency came up but, like fellow initiatives (such as transforming the GCC into a full confederation), are still waiting to see the light. On the other hand, some by no means less ambitious projects did make it to become a reality: in the present context, of course, we refer to the regional IP organization known as the GCC PTO.
Adepts of the desert know very well that between the wide sky and the endless sands, time takes on its own dimension: only in 1987, the first patent law was set up; in 1992, the GCC Patent Convention signed; in 1998, the GCC PTO established; finally, on October 3, 1998, the first patent application was filed. So where are we today, 15 years of experience later?
State of play
The GCC has developed into the most important economic player in the Middle East and North Africa (or MENA) region. Even without the envisaged enlargement to Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, and Yemen, the current GCC members account for over 50% of the OPEC oil, or 16.5% of the world production; their combined nominal gross domestic product equals ca. US$ 1,500 billion.
And with the GCC PTO, more than 27,000 patents have been filed!
The ten most important filing countries are:
- Saudi Arabia,
- Belgium, and
The PTO currently employs around 90 people, including 30 examiners. Since there are no local branches, all applications have to be filed directly with the Office: first electronically, then additionally in paper form (this sequence is mandatory).
To read the full article, please view the PDF attached (as published in The Patent Lawyer magazine).