Infidels at the gates
: the development of intellectual property protection regimes in the Arabian Gulf States, and the external forces that shaped them

  • David Price

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    This thesis examines the performance of the Arabian Gulf Cooperation Council member states in protecting intellectual property rights, in the context of their accession to World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership, and compliance with the requirements of the WTO's Agreement on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights and the international conventions upon which the Agreement has been built.

    In the span of a single generation, the legal systems of the Gee states have undergone dramatic change and development - and that change is continuing. The change has been characterized by a major trend towards codification of laws, entailing increasing substitution of institutionalised procedures for the former discretionary exercise of personal authority largely based on local application of Shariah law. Nevertheless, the states' intellectual property laws still contain idiosyncrasies peculiar to themselves and to the GCC, such as the status of Shariah law.

    The driving force for the development of each state's intellectual property regime has been primarily external, and hence a dichotomy has arisen between the formal expression in the legislation and its practical application through the enforcement efforts. The dichotomy arises because of the external pressures to adopt laws for which the states do not yet have the expertise, infrastructures or cultural mores to effectively execute to the level of satisfaction sought by the more demanding developed countries. Even though the GCC states have regimes that are largely TRIPS-compliant, and have demonstrated a general willingness to address the complex issue of enforcement - albeit with mixed success - they now face additional pressures from developed countries, notably the United States, to adopt even higher standards of protection - TRIPS-plus standards. These standards are primarily aimed at protecting the particular interests of intellectual property rights holders from these developed countries. The pressure is applied through bilateral investment treaties and free trade agreements, which are then being promoted by the developed countries as representing the new international consensus on intellectual property protection standards.

    There are some contentious areas of intellectual property rights of particular concern within the region that are not yet adequately protected, such as traditional knowledge and cultural heritage, and indigenous biodiversity. Accordingly, intellectual property protection in the Gulf region is still, in essence, "work in progress", and future developments may hopefully change its character more in favour of the GCC states' interests themselves. The question arises whether the states continue to succumb to the pressures, or whether they will be able to at least hold their own ground and perhaps to some extent outmanouvre the developed countries.
    Date of Award2006
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorChristoph Antons (Supervisor) & Ned Aughterson (Supervisor)

    Cite this