Intellectual property rights: an unknown concept

3 Sep
Malak Shaher
Yemen Times

Published:30-09-2010

An unoriginal poster of teen pop star Hanna Montana sold in a toy shop in Sana’a. Copyrights and trademarks are not yet understood or appreciated in Yemen. YT photo by Nadine Ibrahim.

SANA’A, Sept. 29 — Abubakr Al-Maflahi, Yemen’s Minister of Culture attended a conference in Geneva last week, chaired by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), in order to discuss how intellectual property plays a vital role in economic development.

Shamsadeen Al-Zain, the head of Al-Zain Organization for Intellectual Property, told the Yemen Times that the Yemeni government struggles to protect intellectual property in a country where many have no idea what intellectual property and copyrights mean.

Yemen has ratified two international conventions on intellectual property rights, yet the illegal copying and stealing of other people’s ideas is still widespread in the country, Shamsadeen Al-Zain, added.

Al-Zain said that intellectual property rights certainly play a key role in development, since people’s creativity is better generated when they know their rights will be protected.

As the head of an intellectual property organization, he often witnesses people stealing trademarks and artistic creations such a songs, DVDs and CDs, which according to him are widespread.

“Computer systems and software in Yemen don’t have legislative protection and are always exposed to theft and piracy,” he said.

The first intellectual property law in Yemen was issued in 1994 to protect trademarks, industrial figures, patents and copyrights.

According to Al-Zain, a person found guilty of intellectual property theft can be imprisoned for up to six months or be asked to pay damages according to what the judges specify. He or she may also be asked to apologize in a newspaper or on television.

Yemen signed the Paris Agreement to protect industrial property in 1997. It also signed the Bern Agreement in Switzerland to protect literary and art works in April 2008.

But most people still are not aware of intellectual property rights, he said.

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