Statement by the Government Communications Office on the lawsuit at the WTO addressing Saudi Arabia’s failure to protect intellectual property rights

13 October 2019

Qatar’s dispute settlement proceedings against Saudi Arabia at the World Trade Organization (“WTO”) have made significant progress in exposing Saudi Arabia’s failures to protect intellectual property rights in violation of the WTO Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (“TRIPS Agreement”).

The Qatari delegation participated earlier this month in the second substantive meeting in Geneva before the WTO dispute settlement panel charged with addressing the dispute. During the hearing, Qatar pointed to the extensive evidence demonstrating the Saudi government’s longstanding support for the sophisticated broadcast pirate channel “beoutQ”, and Saudi measures that thwart any possibility of Qatari nationals enforcing their intellectual property rights against beoutQ in Saudi Arabia. With the support of Saudi authorities, beoutQ has systematically pirated content owned by or licensed to a Qatari-headquartered company – beIN Media Group LLC – and has broadcast it in Saudi Arabia and beyond, via Saudi-based Arabsat satellites.

Contrary to its obligations under the TRIPS Agreement, Saudi Arabia has refused to take any effective action against this egregious Saudi-based piracy, which has affected right holders from around the world. Instead, Saudi Arabia has taken measures to prevent beIN and other impacted right holders from bringing their own enforcement action before the Saudi courts. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia has supported the beoutQ piracy by providing financing and promoting public screenings of beoutQ’s unauthorized broadcasts. As Qatar has demonstrated throughout the WTO proceedings, these actions are incompatible with Saudi Arabia’s international obligations.

Right holders and broadcasters from around the world have suffered severe financial consequences because of beoutQ’s piracy and Saudi Arabia’s support of the pirate. At the hearing, the Panel was asked to consider recent statements by well-established football leagues and football governing bodies around the world, such as FIFA, UEFA, the Premier League, LaLiga, and Bundesliga, among others. In these statements, the right holders confirmed, through the detailed report of an independent expert, that the beoutQ piracy has been broadcast via Saudi-based Arabsat satellites. The right holders also explained that they have been blocked from accessing Saudi courts to protect their intellectual property rights.

Qatar will submit written responses to questions posed by the Panel in the coming weeks, upon which the Panel will issue its ruling in due course.