WTO to investigate Qatar’s IP dispute with Saudi Arabia | Major Businesses | Business | News | Rapid TV News
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The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is to investigate allegations of intellectual property breaches by Saudi Arabia, following an application by Qatar and its pay-TV operator beIN Media.
beoutQ piracy Messi 20 Dec 2018
The WTO decision comes after Qatar submitted a second request for a panel to review its claims Saudi Arabia has failed to protect IP rights in line with the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Qatar initiated the dispute in October, alleging Saudi Arabia was refusing to take action against the theft of beIN’s premium sports content by sophisticated pirate TV network beoutQ, which it alleges is based in the Kingdom.

On 4 December, the Kingdom had sought to block the dispute, arguing that due to vital security risks associated with its long-standing economic blockade of Qatar, the WTO could not hear the case. Supported by the UAE, said that the dispute had “no legitimate connection” with the WTO because maintaining diplomatic relations between states was an exercise of state sovereignty.

However, this week a Geneva trade official said the WTO had agreed “to establish a panel to rule on Saudi Arabia’s alleged failure to provide adequate protection of intellectual property rights.”

Qatar’s representative to the WTO welcomed the move, claiming “legal experts have found no basis for using the pretext of national security to cover up crimes of IP rights piracy”.

In October, beIN had also launched an international investment arbitration seeking US$1 billion compensation from the Kingdom. It said it had been “unlawfully driven out of the Saudi market and subjected to what has been described as the most widespread piracy of sports broadcasting that the world has ever seen”.

Since the severing in June 2017 of diplomatic ties between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, beIN Media’s pay-TV service has been blocked by Kingdom. Its premium content such as Premier League, UEFA Champions League and FIFA World Cup football, as well as Hollywood movies, has been pirated by the 10 channel network beoutQ, which appeared shortly after the regional blockade of Qatar began and is allegedly carried by Riyadh based regional satellite operator Arabsat.

“There has been an utterly unprecedented and brazen act of theft of intellectual properties rights over the past 18 months,” beIN said in a statement after the WTO decision.

It has affected “rights holders, broadcasters, movie studios and other stakeholders across the world of sports and entertainment - and the responsible parties must be held to account,” the entertainment company said.

Saudi Arabia has consistently refuted claims that it is involved in the violation of IP rights and said it remains committed to taking action to combat content theft and protect intellectual property.