Qatar was one of the first countries in the Middle East region which shed light on innovation, entrepreneurship and setting up research parks. While it is a very small country geographically it was indeed a pioneer when it set up Qatar foundation to spearhead innovation efforts in Qatar and the rest of the MENA. Dare I say Qatar Foundation was inspired by Silicon Valley to lead the way in developing this Middle East ecosystem for technology and innovation through its education, research, and access to expertise and community development initiatives.

Innovation in Qatar has been clearly defined in Qatar’s National Vision 2030 and in the Qatar’s National Development Strategies which state building a sustainable, and diversified economy through the expansion of R&D-based innovation.

At the core of successful innovation especially R&D based innovation is the ability to leverage intellectual property, and utilize an efficient and transparent landscape to protect, enforce and maintain IP rights. This is the case regardless of the type of IP, whether it is a patent, trademark, copyright, trade secret, database, or otherwise.

With this backdrop, Qatar has been striving to update its intellectual property procedures, laws, regulations and systems to strengthen and build confidence in its local IP landscape. These efforts included:

1- Town halls with different stakeholders in Intellectual property

2- RFPs and suggestions for updates relating to all types of IP

3- Brainstorming meetings with key decision markers to discuss suggestions; and finally

4- Actual updates to local trademark procedures and regulations.

Recently in 2022, there were 3 key changes to local procedures in Qatar namely;

1- Changes to who can own a trademark in Qatar

2- Changes to the treatment of tradenames in cases

3- Changes to procedures relating to change of name and address

We will be discussing these changes, their impact, when they are effective from and the reasoning behind these changes.

  1. Changes to who can own a trademark in Qatar

  a- What is the change?

In January 2022, the Qatar trademark office announced that going forward individuals will not be able to register a trademark in Qatar. Therefore limiting the ownership rights of trademarks to companies, only.

  b- Reason behind the issuance of this decision

No guidance, or details were provided as to the reasoning behind this change, so we have speculated some of the reasons why:

* Suggested reason 1 for changes in Qatar trademark practices – This change followed the Ministry of Commerce and Industry’s decision which requires online businesses to issue a commercial license even if operating from home.

* Suggested reason 2 for changes in Qatar trademark practices – this change may also be to ensure trademark office records are up to date and consistent, therefore making it easier to manage the process and accuracy by the trademark office. If there are any infringement actions, or legal suits issued against the prior filed, the trademark office can link to the commercial registry and ensure that the business name, date and address are up to date and the applicant can be summoned.

*Suggested reason 3 for changes in Qatar trademark practices – this change may also be because other GCC countries such as Oman have implemented this change in their trademark office practices and have proven that this limitation has a positive impact.

* Suggested reason 4 for changes in Qatar trademark practices – finally, our last guess as to why this change was implemented, is maybe the trademark office in Qatar wants to adopt block chain technology and this technology is only mapped to the commercial registry and not the Ministry of interior. While far-fetched, many countries in the region including Saudi Arabia are spearheading tech changes and disruptions to the traditional government model. Is Qatar doing the same and that’s why they issued such a decision? – We do not know; we are speculating but I doubt this is the reason as we have elaborated further in the next section.

  c- Impact of this change

Besides making it easier for the trademark office to connect to the commercial registry, the impact of this change in trademark registration processes while basic has tremendous negative ripple effect on the innovation and IP eco-system:

Impact 1

Increasing the cost of trademark registration by forcing local entrepreneurs to get a commercial license before product market fit!

The requirement to force local entrepreneurs to apply for a commercial license is a significant deterrent to the local innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. For Local Qatari entrepreneurs, this requirement significantly increased their inception costs.

For residents who are not from Qatar these entrepreneurs were left with no choice but to either:

1- Find a local partner for the business to issuing a local license OR

2- Utilizing marketplaces in Qatar as an import company

3- Stop the entrepreneurship venture.

The local trademark practices should be aligned with the national vision NOT contradictory to it!

Impact 2

The decision issued to disallow individuals from owning IP is contrary to article 5 of Law No. 7 of the year 2014 relating to issuance of the GCC Trademarks’ Laws which states that the following categories have the right to register their trademarks: 1- Any natural or juridical person that has one of the GCC’s nationalities, whether a manufacturer or merchant or workmanship or service provider…”, noting that the Department of Intellectual Property is not implementing the said Law. So what is the point of the law if it won’t be really implemented by the concerned administration and if it is going to issue conflicting procedures? Such contradictions will decrease confidence in the local ecosystem which fosters IP.

Impact 3

From a trademark perspective if you are an individual who already owns a trademark in Qatar how this new practice will impact you has not been further elaborated by the trademark office. Whether these trademarks are at risk of cancellation action, or forced license, or forced assignment, or nothing is really not known. These uncertainties and ambiguities while we are certain are un-intentional significantly impact users confidence in the system, so implementing a process for public comment for such changes is one way to minimize such effects.


  1. Changes to the registrability of a tradename as a trademark in Qatar

  a- What is the change?

The Trademark Office in Qatar has issued a new policy which states that trade names can no longer be registered as wordmarks going forward as trade names. Tradenames should be accompanied with a logo if trademark protection is of interest. The rationale for this decision was that tradenames are already protected at the Commercial Registry, and therefore there is no need for trademark protection. If the applicant wishes to protect theirtrade name as a trademark, then they should incorporate a distinctive logo along with it to acquire the characteristics of a registerable trademark.

  b- Reason of changes of local practices regarding the registration of tradenames

No specific reason was provided as to the reasoning behind this change, however we believe that this change was in line with the change issued by the ministry of commerce. Which states:

A trademark cannot be used and registered as a trade names, but can only be added to the company’s commercial registration as a commercial activity. To protect foreign investors’ intellectual property rights and ownership to their trademarks in case any future disputes between the investor and the local Qatari sponsors, arises. The ministry of commerce advises to create a company under a new trade name with the sponsorship of a Qatari partner, then record a license agreement between the original foreign investor’s company and the newly created Qatari company for the use of the trademark.

This is great the fact that the ministry is considering FDI and the importance of the intellectual property protection and enforcements. However limiting the ability to register a tradename as a trademark is not the way to go.

So what should the local company do? Can Qatar Foundation not register its name as a trademark without a logo?

Why not:

  1. Implement local limitations to the ability to cancel trademarks on the notion of bad faith, even without  a prior registration. That would be a much more strategic long term change with significant impact on enforcement efforts.
  2. Implement the ability to cancel a commercial certificate if the license agreement was revoked?

The trademark law in Qatar stipulates that a license agreement shall be registered in the intellectual property department in the ministry so why not use the issuance of a no objection letter of a consent letter?

  c- Impact of this change

Unfortunately, this change is restricting Qatar’s local innovators and business owners by disallowing them from registering their names, usually the first trademark filed as a trademark!


III. Change in local practices regarding recoding changes and assignments on trademarks in Qatar  

  a- What is the Change:

The Department of Intellectual Property issued an internal decision amending the requirements for

1- Recording an assignment

2- Recording a change in the ownership details of a trademark

3- Renewing a trademark registration,

In addition to a legalized POA, legalized deed of assignment, or change, copy of commercial certificate translated to Arabic, the applicant is now obliged to submit a copy of the trademark’s latest publication or latest certificate.

On a side note, Qatar is one of the few countries in the world which still has the trademark publication offline and in print. So accessibility, transparency and availability of information is not really three! While this is GREAT for trademark agents and the ministry due to additional fees, this is contrary to Qatar’s national vision and strategy to enable and empower innovation and therefore have a stable IP eco-system.

  b- Reason of issuance of such decision:

This change happened in order to ensure the proper update of the Trademark Office’s database for old trademarks filed in Qatar prior to introducing its online system. Besides, when the Trademark Office moved to its new headquarters in Lusail, all the old trademarks’ archives were left in their old headquarters in Industrial Area, which makes it hard for TMO’s employees to check the old trademark hardcopy file.

  c- Impact of this decision on individuals

Moving forward the TMO’s decision is making the process more complicated for individuals especially that it won’t be easy for them to get the certificates and publications with the current outdated databases causing so much troubles that may lead to losing their own intellectual property rights.

The development and rise of innovations worldwide don’t only depend on the various creations but also on the smooth, efficient, transparent and reliable procedures and regulations that encourage innovators to protect their innovations effortlessly. Change, updates and transparency in the IP ecosystem is always welcome especially if such changes are aimed for better protection and a more efficient eco-system. However with that said, as there are many players within the innovation eco-system and continuing to set up dialogue with different stakeholders is key to issue comprehensive transformations.

We trust that Qatar will be one of the regional driving forces and destinations for innovation in the MENA region. The Qatar foundation in addition to multiple other local entities have made a dent thus far and will continue to do so. The Qatar research development and innovation strategy of 2030 invites everyone local or international who would like to partake on the innovation journey to join as it will be exciting, impactful and transformational.

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