Do you have a new idea, a brilliant invention, or a completely new work of art that you want to share? If that is the case then you should preserve your work and keep it safe. Protection is legally achieved by the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR). In this regard, we speak about patent, trademark, and copyright protection.
Intellectual Property (IP) relates to the creation of minds, such as art projects, designs, inventions, images, symbols, names, literary and more creative work that can be owned legally. Moreover, the intellectual property rights (IPR); trademark, copyright, and patent, allow you to protect your IP to preserve your work from infringement. Lebanon was one of the first Arab countries to pass legislation for IP protection and have been a member of various international intellectual property conventions since the 1920s (such as the Paris Convention for the protection of Intellectual Property) and a member of national, regional, and international organizations. For that, the Lebanese IP legislation is generally compliant with the international standards, and enforcement has improved over years.
Intellectual Property Rights in Lebanon
The three intellectual property rights; trademark, patent, and copyright. These are protected under the Lebanese Law. The first Lebanese property rights law was enacted in 1924, known as Law No. 2385. This law dealt with the issues of copyright protection. Nowadays, law number 75/99 regulates the IP rights matter. This law was issued four years after heated debates and addresses protecting artistic and literary intellectual properties.
A trademark is a unique sign that allows people to distinguish a certain product from other products. In. Lebanon, trademarks are governed by various national and international articles, for Lebanon had signed many international conventions and treaties from the High French Commissioner's ordinance.
Trademark registration can be operated by anyone, whether by a person or corporate bodies. In Lebanon, there is no difference between national and foreign requesters, but foreigners should assign a local agent to represent them and proceed with the registration and receive the registration certificate.
Registration is filed at the Office of Intellectual Property in the ministry of economy and trade. The office checks the trademark's content making sure it's a real and original one.
Its validity remains for 15 years and renewable indefinitely.
A patent is one of the most common types of IP rights to come to mind when talking about IPR protection. A patent is used to deter an invention from being retailed or utilized by another party without permission. Also, it allows its owner to sell it or grant a license to the invention to any third party.
Patent’s protection law was enacted on August 7, 2000. This law, along with the International Conventions, stipulate that for an invention to be considered as a patent, it should:
Be a new, non-existent invention.
Be of industrial use.
Ownership of the patent
Once the patent is handed out it’s owned by the creator her/himself. In the case of multiple persons participating in one invention, the right of a patent is distributed equally among them unless a separate agreement was presented. In the case of many individuals producing the same invention independently, then the right of the patent is owned by the first applicant.
Procedures for obtaining the patent
First of all, a request is presented to the ministry of economy and trade including the following:
A description that the invention is not inconsistent with public policy and morals.
The seriousness and novelty of the item for which the protection is essential.
Then, after being issued, the minister's decision can be appealed before the Court of Appeals of Beirut. The office has 60 days to issue the patent, starting from the announcement of the minister's decision.
The patent is valid for 20 years.
Copyright law was enacted on April 3, 1999, and entered into force on June 6, 1999.
This IP right protection covers a wide range of work that was recently extended to computer software, videos and many more.
Copyright delivers two types of rights; moral rights and economic rights. The moral rights are not limited to any duration. However, economic rights are valid starting from the end of the year the work was first published and continue for 50 years after the author's death.
For further information about the copyright law in Lebanon click here.
Lebanon IPR breaches
However, with all the conventions and treaties that Lebanon ratified and is bound to follow, Lebanon is still one of the countries that encounter copyright violations specifically and intellectual property rights violations generally. According to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) 301 Report published in 2017, Lebanon remains on the Watch List for infringement of intellectual property rights and copyright problems. Also, the US-Business Software Alliance estimated Software Lebanon’s piracy rate at 70% in 2015, compared to 71% in 2013 and 2011 and 72% in 2009, which indicates that Lebanon is trying its best to fight and curb piracy. On the other side, Lebanon was ranked as the 37th highest country with piracy rates globally in 2015 (out of 111 countries) and the 6th highest in the MENA region. These high rates in the infringement of the IP rights and piracy are mainly triggered by the weak legal framework and poor law enforcement. Such breaches structure Lebanon's most crucial troubles. Specifically check slide 18 on: Lebanon as a case study on copyright.
Finland as a role model
Just as in Lebanon, Finland has a parliamentary regime. However, Finland is ranked the 1st country internationally and regionally in the protection of IPRs. It follows various strategies and criteria in order to maintain this score (8.712). These criteria are correlated to the political stability, control of corruption, rule of law, court procedures concerning IPR trials, judicial independence, etc. All the previously mentioned factors are highly controlled in Finland, which respectively allows the IPR protection to be guaranteed. For example, the courts are held in the presence of IPR specialists along with the judges. The trials are of one-year duration only, to be extended in extreme cases.
On the other hand, Lebanon encounters several political difficulties, although it is, as previously stated, a parliamentary regime, the myriad political parties compose an obstacle in controlling corruption and stabilise the political difficulties. As well as the non-specialization of the courts causes the trials to be dealt with lack of enough knowledge and experience in the IPR field. Moreover, all civil cases in Lebanon need much longer time to be resolved ( about 10 years minimum) than Finland or any other country. All these factors if worked out will help the rate of IPR infringement to reduce, and thus encourage the inventors and creators to register their work in Lebanon and know that they and their work is protected.
In this sense, Lebanon is recommended to:
Modernize the Law and regulatory framework of intellectual property.
Rely on efficient legal practices.
Ratify and implement the latest international intellectual property framework, treaties and conventions.
Increase public awareness.
Implement and enforce the protection system effectively.
Introduce specialists in IPRs to assist the judges in court.
Amend civil laws to reduce trials duration.
Work towards curbing corruption.
Lebanon has to work on improving its law enforcement in the intellectual property field otherwise the rate of IPR registrations will keep decreasing. Intellectual property rights have a proportional effect on the local business, industry, and the country’s economy.
WIPO Magazine, in September 2005. Country Focus: Meeting IP Challenges in Lebanon Click Here
World Trademark Review
MelCome International Annual Conference. July 18 to 22, 2018. (This)
Mattar Law Firm (http://mattarlaw.com)