Cablegate: Ipr in Yemen: New Laws and Enhanced Enforcment Needed

Published: Mon 1 Nov 2004 06:28 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF A O3 Sanaa 2776
1. Summary. Intellectual Property Rights Laws in Yemen need to
be updated to meet Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property
Rights Standards (TRIPS), and existing laws should be enforced.
Although it is not a major transit point or purchaser for
illicitly produced goods and is not on USTR Special 301 watch
list, Yemen does not have adequate IPR laws. The Ministries
charged with enforcing IPR regulations suffer from poorly trained
staff and offer little incentive to pursue IPR violations. End
2. Yemen is not on USTR's Special 301 Watch List as a country of
concern for Intellectual Property Rights violations. The amount
of smuggled and pirated goods is growing, however, and illegal
copies of software, DVDs and music can be purchased at some
stores in major cities. At this time, Post is unaware of any
pirated goods being produce illegally Yemen. Most pirated
products are likely smuggled from other countries and sold in
Yemen. Due to Yemen's extreme poverty, however, the market for
such items is limited.
"Tite" Still on Shelves
3. The Tide/Tite issue (Ref A) is a case-study on the failure of
IPR enforcement in Yemen. Proctor and Gamble (P) initiated
court proceedings against the local manufacturer of Tite laundry
detergent in 1999 for violating their Tide patent. Having won
three cases (including a Supreme Court ruling in 2003), Tite
laundry detergent is still on supermarket shelves and P is in
private arbitration talks. Continued discussions with the
Ministry of Industry's Office of Patent Enforcement have produced
no effective response. In the Tide case, Yemen's laws worked
(albeit slowly), but the Supreme Court's decision was not
enforced and there is no political will to resolve this
outstanding IPR issue.
New IPR Legislation Needed
4. Yemen's IPR laws are not WTO compliant and legislation
designed to address many Trade Related aspects of Intellectual
Property Rights Standards (TRIPS) languishes in Parliament.
Yemen's patent, industrial design, and copyright laws all must be
revised to meet international standards. The U.S. submitted
several specific questions on Yemen's Memorandum of Foreign Trade
Regime aimed at TRIPS compliance for patent and copyright laws.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism submitted to Parliament an
amended copyright law that addressed specific concerns over
software piracy and is TRIPS compliant, but Parliament still has
not ratified the adjustments. Gaps such as geographical
indicators, topographies (integrated circuits layout),
undisclosed information (especially those related to trade
secrets), and anti-competitive behavior in contractual licenses
still need to be addressed in future legislation.
Who Controls What?
5. The Ministry of Industry and Trade (MIT) controls patents and
trademarks. The World Intellectual Property Organization
provided computers and other English language training for Patent
officers. Four IPR departments reside in MIT: Patents and
Industrial Designs; Trademark Registration; Trademark Depository;
and Public Awareness. The offices suffer from lack of English
training, limited awareness of IPR trends and insufficient
equipment to carry out their functions.
6. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism enforces copyright laws.
The Ministry is less adept at enforcing its laws that MIT and
suffers from inadequate resources. Executives from Microsoft
along with the private NGO the Business Software Alliance are
lobbying the ROYG to adopt the changes to the copyright laws
concerning software piracy. If such a law is drafted, Microsoft
will open an office in Yemen. Enforcement of the laws falls to
Ministry of Interior and Customs, with little interaction, except
if encouraged by companies.
7. In July, President Saleh announced an anti-smuggling
initiative aimed at fighting software piracy and asked Yemen's
Chamber of Commerce to raise awareness regarding the problem.
Post has seen no movement to extend enforcement, take readily
available pirated software off the shelves, or pass legislation
to enhance enforcement.
--------------------------------------------- -------
Untrained Officials Enforcing Little Understood Laws
--------------------------------------------- -------
8. Judges and prosecutors lack training to prosecute IPR cases.
Cases take years to wind their way through Yemen's judicial
systems; decisions, as in the Tide case, are not enforced.
Further complicating the situation in Yemen is the combination of
laws from both the former South and North. Judges from the South
often did not receive training in the new commercial laws they
are required to enforce. The ROYG is taking small steps to
address the problem and is looking at upgrading the commercial
courts in both Sanaa and Aden to meet business needs.
9. Companies who bring IPR complaints to various ministries
receive attention, but the ministries charged with enforcing IPR
laws do not take action. Several businessmen note that once they
inform the Customs Authority of a problem, officials are helpful
and usually act to seize goods. On the flip side, there seems
little political will to initiate cases of IPR enforcement.
New Laws, Enhanced Enforcement Equals Revenue
10. Comment: With declining oil revenues and high unemployment,
even small steps toward improving Yemen's investment climate are
important to encourage foreign investment. Until now, the IPR
message is usually linked to the far off WTO accession goal and
not the fact that expanded IPR protections will directly benefit
Yemenis. The pitch for expanded IPR enforcement and new laws
should focus on the benefits of job creation and expanded tax
revenue Yemen would receive should they take necessary steps
toward WTO accession. End Comment.
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media