Intellectual Property Protection
Kuwait provides no legal protection for pharmaceutical product patents. As in some other countries in the Gulf, pharmaceutical piracy is threatening to become a significant problem as pirating companies from other countries attempt to penetrate these markets. There has been some encouraging progress, however, as there appears to be a new willingness among health and commerce officials to prevent pirate product registrations and amend the deficient 1962 patent law.
After registering two unauthorized copies of a top selling patented product, ignoring the patent holder's objections in 1997, Kuwait announced that a committee was being established to study and revise the patent laws in order to implement TRIPS obligations. Although no legal change has yet been made, the Ministry of Health, with the support of the Ministry of Commerce, has issued a "ministerial decision," MOH Decision 675, that provides de facto protection to patented pharmaceuticals by banning pirate product registrations. The decree is to take effect in June 1999, and U.S. companies are hopeful that the new policy will mark a tangible improvement in pharmaceutical protection in Kuwait. However, since the decree has not yet taken effect, and we do not have any confirmation that Kuwait will enact a TRIPs consistent patent law by the end of this year, we believe that as a goodwill acknowledgment commensurate with Decision 675, Kuwait should be downgraded from "Priority Watch" (1998) to "Watch," pending further progress on the patent law.
Potential Exports/Foreign Sales
Kuwait represents the third largest pharmaceutical market ($200 million ex manufacturer) among the Gulf Cooperation Council states. At this time, it is not possible to estimate accurately potential export growth. Action now, however, can help prevent a serious piracy problem from developing and encourage implementation of a new patent law within the next 12-18 months.
For all the aforementioned reasons, PhRMA believes that Kuwait should be listed as a Watch Country under Special 301 in 1999.