In January 2021, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Patent Office stopped accepting new GCC applications and abolished the GCC patent system as we knew it. Amended GCC patent regulations were issued in 2022 that established a new role for the GCC Patent Office ('GCCPO'). In 2023, the GCCPO announced that it was going to restart operations and has since been handling the filing and prosecution of national patent applications on behalf of requesting GCC countries.
Bahrain and Kuwait were the first countries to begin referring the filing and examination of national patent applications to the GCCPO and more recently, Qatar became the third country to begin outsourcing national applications filed after 1 July 2023. There has been no announcement from the remaining GCC members, i.e. Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as to if or when filings through these national offices may be handled through the GCCPO.
Applicants still have the option of filing individual applications directly at the national offices for Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar. However, for applicants seeking patent protection in all three GCC states, the GCCPO offers a simpler more cost effective solution. Applicants can file one application directly at the GCCPO, through the e-filing system, which will be subject to a formality and substantive examination carried out by the GCCPO on behalf of the three national offices. Once examination is complete, the application is then forwarded to the national offices for grant or rejection.
Applicants can also rely on the official fees published by the GCCPO for direct GCCPO filings. The official filing fee for a company applicant is approximately USD 800, around 20% lower than pre-2021 official fees, so there are substantial cost savings for filing at the GCCPO if you are seeking protection across two GCC states or more as opposed to filing separate applications at each national office. In addition to cost saving benefits, applicants can expect more consistent and faster examination outcomes by filing directly at the GCCPO. The Bahraini Patent Office only initiated substantive examination of national applications in 2018 and the Kuwaiti Patent Office followed suit in 2021. Both Offices are currently working through a backlog of pending applications so applicants can expect a delay in the examination procedure at the national offices.
The official examination fees at the GCCPO are still case dependent and confirmed by the examining authority at the time of examination. These are payable directly to the GCCPO once examination is complete, while official issue fees and annuities are paid to the national offices.
For more information on the above, please reach out to Tamara El-Shibib or Marian Fayek in our UAE-based IP team.