It is important for businesses to have an overall strategy to protect their Intellectual Property (IP) in Iraq. IP is protected differently in Iraq than in the United States. Rights must be registered and enforced in Iraq, under local laws. U.S. trademark and patent registrations do not protect products in Iraq.
Registration of patent and trademarks is on a first-in-time, first-in-right basis so businesses should consider applying for trademark and patent protection even before selling products or services in the Iraq market. Companies may wish to seek advice from local attorneys or IP consultants who are experts in Iraqi law. It is always advisable for companies to conduct due diligence on potential partners. Companies should consider carefully, however, whether to permit an Iraqi partner to register IP rights on their behalf. Doing so may create a risk that the Iraqi partner will list itself as the IP owner and fail to transfer the rights should the partnership end. Companies should work with legal counsel familiar with Iraq laws to create a solid contract that includes non-compete clauses, and confidentiality/non-disclosure provisions.
To obtain trademark protection in the IKR, businesses have two options. For trademarks already registered in Iraq, extension of its protection to the IKR is achieved with a letter with trademark details from the Iraqi Trademarks Registrar in Baghdad to the Registrar of Trademarks in Kurdistan. For trademarks not registered in Iraq, the application should be submitted to the Registrar of Trademarks in the IKR including, (a) power of attorney from an Iraqi Embassy or Consulate; (b) certified copy of the trademark registration certificate; and (c) extract from the commercial registrar or trademark certificate of incorporation notarized at an Iraqi consulate. Trademark applications take between six and eight months for final processing.
It is also recommended that small and medium-size companies understand the importance of working together with trade associations and organizations to support efforts to protect IP and stop counterfeiting. There are a number of these organizations both in Iraq and the United States. These include:
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce
- American Chamber of Commerce in Iraq (AmCham Iraq)
- National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
- International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA)
- International Trademark Association (INTA)
- The Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy
- International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC)
- Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)
- Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO)