Saudi Arabia a step ahead of the curve in Domain name matters as well

المملكة العربية السعودية متقدمة على بقية الدول في مجال أسماء النطاقات


Over the last couple of years, we have seen a tremendous shift in Saudi Arabia’s approach and commitment to intellectual property issues. Whether IP is generated locally or being imported from abroad, the importance of IP respect has gained traction and we have seen great shifts in the Saudi market in that respect.

In line with the inspiring vision 2030 to promote innovation and since the inception of SAIP the (Saudi Authority for Intellectual property) in 2018 there has been changes updates and initiatives to increase respect for intellectual property and promote an ecosystem which fosters IP protection, respect and growth. With that said the regulatory framework which is being rolled out to all businesses and stakeholders is key in ensuring the Innovation and business eco-system is functioning efficiently and effectively.

The regulatory changes we have seen have been broad reaching and impacting all companies in all sectors. While frustrating at times due to lack of available thought leaders to guide on these changes, we trust and believe that these changes all fall in line with the IP owners’ rights and aim to foster innovation collaboration and growth for all stakeholders.

On an Intellectual property front, domain name processes and regulations were significantly changed starting from February 2021, whereby the Saudi Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC) updated the "Saudi Domain Name Registration Regulation", the changes were implemented to to adopt the "Registry-Registrar Model" which allows registered users to transfer Saudi domains ending with (.sa) or (. السعودية) to pre-approved licensed registrars, namely;

* NourNet

* Sahara Net

* Solutions by STC

* Hawsabah

* DNet

The pre-approved registrars are private sector companies which provide Saudi domain registration services.

Within the Saudi CITC announcement, the deadline to complete this transfer for all local country level domain holders (Except government) was 31 December 2021 and this period was subsequently extended to 31-Mar-2022. If you have not transferred your domain, will be cancelled.

When transferring domains, domain owners should requests the authentication code from the domain name’s SaudiNIC’s Registry System. Then, the .sa and .alsaudia domain owners submit a transfer request to the receiving private registrar along with the authentication code. In order to complete the transfer process, the domain holder should assign an administrative contact for the domain which should be a local entity/individual with local contact details and authority to authorize the newly appointed registrar regarding the domain. Alyafi IP Group and AOA attorneys can each be administrative contacts for .sa and .alsaudia domain names. If no administrative contact was assigned on a domain the transfer request is rejected.

While drafting the laws and regulations regarding local country level domain names, namely .sa and السعودية the Saudi regulators were keen on creating regulations which protect IP owners and decrease the possibility or exposure to cybercrimes namely cybersquatting. Therefore while at first glance the requirements to obtain a domain name seem burdensome, understanding the impact and the reasoning behind these requirements shows the dedication and commitment of all authorities to IP protection. Article 2/5 of the SAUDI NIC regulations are a clear embodiment of that whereby registrant of Saudi domain names must have one of the below criteria;

* An entity physically located in Saudi Arabia; OR

* A natural person having Saudi nationality or Premium Residency; OR

* An entity with a registration or license issued by a pertinent authority in Saudi Arabia; OR

* An owner of a trademark or trade name that is registered in Saudi Arabia.

In addition to the requirement for a trademark of commercial license to limit cyber squatters, the new version of the Saudi Regulations includes replacing the rule relating to objections with a new rule dealing with Domain Name Dispute Resolution. As well as, adding a rule about handling the complaints, and other changes to support adopting the "Registry-Registrar" model. Also, "WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center" will be the provider for Saudi domain names disputes. Another significant update on a dispute resolution front is that the CITC has stated that the "WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center" will be their provider for Saudi domain names disputes.

Saudi Arabia is leading the region in terms of legal and commercial reforms to utilize, protect and create internally generated and externally generated innovations. The new requirements and procedures set for local country level domain names is one example of how the country is trying to assist brand owners and IP owners with online brand enforcement while allowing them to remain within GDPR and within the Saudi Data  Protection law. The local eco-system players - SAIP (Saudi IP Authority) along with CITC (Communication and Information technology Commission) and SNIC (Saudi network and Information Center) and SDAIA (Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA)) have communicated and collaborated to create such comprehensive legislation. The extensive requirements for local country level domain names coupled with the below referenced procedures shows to

1- Have an administrative local contact;  coupled with

2- Article 13 of Saudi NIC’s regulations regarding Registrants Information and Its Availability to the Public; and

3- A process to request domain details from respective authorities

4- Saudi NIC’s Saudi Domain Name Dispute Resolution Rules

We are expecting further information and clarification on the data availability and compliance with the Saudi data protection law.

We have seen so many updates and improvements and upheavals in the Saudi process and requirements especially when it comes to the innovation and IP ecosystem. We trust local leadership and stakeholders are on the right track to position Saudi Arabia as a leading player in best practices regionally and internationally. We are looking forward to see all the upcoming changes which will take place and trust that changes will be communicated effectively and efficiently to provide guidance to all eco-system partners.

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