Russia and Middle East deepen ties and move to reform IP landscape

The commercial and cultural links between Russia and the Middle East are deeply established.

In recent years, these ties have been further strengthened with increasing Russian presence in the Arab world, not least across the tourism, agriculture, science and technology, property and energy sectors.

In return, the flow of Gulf investment into Russia is a welcome sign in Moscow. The Russian economy continues to struggle under the pressure of stringent sanctions imposed by the West in response to actions in the Crimea, plus the impact of low oil revenues, which account for some 50% of the state budget.

The Middle East continues to invest heavily in Russia, with a $10bn investment into the country by the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund in 2015 just one example. Of the $25bn investment pot generated by the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) since its inception in 2011, more than 90% has originated from Asia and the Middle East.

Beyond investment, collaboration between Russia and the Middle East is also growing. Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear corporation, recently expanded its presence in the Middle East by opening its first office in the United Arab Emirates, while a memorandum of intent signed in 2015 will see Saudi Arabia cooperate for the first time with the Russian Space Agency on space exploration.

Moscow and the United Arab Emirates have also agreed to cooperate on several infrastructure projects both in Russia and internationally, including a new $750 million airport in Cuba.

Of course, the FIFA World Cup in Russia in 2018 and in Qatar in 2022 further underlines the regions’ interlinked relationship. However, the responsibility of staging football’s showpiece event casts light on key issues that both Russia and Qatar – and the Middle East more generally – need to tackle.

Counterfeiting remains endemic across the Russian and Arab economies. Like Russia, governments in the Middle East are now seeking to drive through regulatory change designed to boost IP protection. In particular, the United Arab Emirates, which has long served as a transit hub for the global counterfeit industry has taken a number of steps in recent years to curb this illicit trade.

Although Qatar is expected to make further regulatory changes ahead of the World Cup, many global brands remain unsure of their ability to protect and enforce IP rights in the country and the wider region.

Without appropriate guidance, global businesses can encounter difficulties when seeking to protect their intellectual assets across the Middle East and Russia. Though these IP landscapes are now changing, vigilance, intelligent planning and local insight will remain essential.