October 1, 2018 / 2:55 PM / 15 days ago

Qatar launches WTO proceedings against Saudi Arabia over alleged IP violation

DUBAI (Reuters) - Qatar has started proceedings against Saudi Arabia at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), accusing it of intellectual property rights violations, Qatar’s economy ministry said on Monday.

Part of Qatar’s concerns involve the blocking of Qatari-owned broadcaster beIN in Saudi Arabia, the ministry said on its website, and accused Riyadh of refusing to take effective action against the piracy of beIN content in the kingdom.

Saudi officials were not immediately available to comment. They have previously said that the country is taking action to combat piracy and is committed to protecting intellectual property rights.

Global sports network beIN Sports is blocked in Saudi Arabia under a boycott the kingdom imposed on Qatar over a year ago. Riyadh and Arab allies severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar in June 2017 over its alleged support of terrorism. Doha denies the accusations and relations remain hostile.

Qatar said it submitted a request at the WTO for formal consultations to address its allegations against Saudi Arabia, which include the pirating of beIN content by beoutQ.

A WTO official confirmed the request had been submitted.

It is unclear who owns beoutQ or where it is based, though the broadcaster is widely available in Saudi Arabia. Following accusations of piracy of beIN content in Saudi Arabia, a Saudi official said in June the kingdom had confiscated about 12,000 pirating devices from the market.

BeoutQ has been accused by soccer’s governing body FIFA, tennis governing bodies and others of illegally airing sports content which beIN owns the exclusive Middle East rights to.

Separately, beIN said on Monday it was seeking $1 billion in compensation from the Saudi government for damages resulting from being blocked and the pirating of its content.

Saudi Arabia’s government media office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

BeIN said in a statement it was pursuing arbitration under an investment protection agreement of the Saudi-based Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), of which Qatar and Saudi Arabia are members, and other international treaties. The current head of the OIC is a Saudi national.

Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Additional reporting by Stephen Kalin in Dubai and Tom Miles in Geneva; Editing by Toby Chopra

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