While Lebanon is not a WTO member, its intellectual property rights (IPR) legislation is generally compliant with Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) standards. IPR enforcement is weak. The Ministry of Economy and Trade’s (MOET) Intellectual Property Protection Office (IPPO) has led efforts to improve the IPR regime but suffers from limited financial and human resources, and insufficient political support. The August 2020 Beirut Port blast significantly damaged the IPPO’s offices; limited repairs have been made. IPPO relies on private sector donations to procure computers and equipment. Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces (ISF) and Customs play roles in enforcement. The understanding of IPR within the Lebanese judiciary has improved somewhat in recent years but gaps remain with regards to the negative economic impact that IPR violations have on the economy. The MOET’s new draft laws and amendments to existing laws (as well as key IPR treaties) aimed at improving the IPR environment, notably for industrial design, trademark, geographical indications, as well as amendments to the copyright law, await approval from both Lebanon’s Cabinet and Parliament.
Existing IPR laws cover copyright, patent, trademarks, and geographical elements. Lebanon’s 1999 Copyright Law largely complies with WTO regulations and needs only minor amendments to become fully compatible. Copyright registration in Lebanon is not mandatory, and copyright protection is granted without the need for registration. The MOET launched an online registration service in January 2013 for trademarks on https://portal.economy.gov.lb/. This service simplified the registration process and registrations of trademarks now take place online. Due to the complexity of copyrights and patents, registration is still accepted in person at the MOET, and payment must also take place in person. The switch from a deposit system to an objection system for trademarks also remains stalled due to the need for parliamentary approval. However, the MOET noted that it implements the objection system in practice.
Lebanon’s Parliament ratified the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) in 2010. Ratification documents have not yet been deposited with WIPO, however, since this would also require amendments to the Copyright Law.
A modern TRIPS-compatible Patent Law, approved in 2000, provides general protection for semiconductor chip layout designs and plant varieties. Data protection and undisclosed information fall under Article 47 of the Patent Law, but current provisions for pharmaceutical registration are subject to interpretation. Generic manufacturers in Lebanon are not prohibited from using original data (e.g., data published on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website) to register competing products that are identical to original products. Decree No. 571 on the conditions of registering, importing, marketing, and classifying pharmaceuticals, which should have improved the process of drug registration and reduced the number of copycat drugs being registered, still leaves some room for interpretation. There are no current plans to amend the Patent Law. On patent registrations, the Lebanese legal regime does not require examination for novelty, utility, and innovation. Simple patent deposit is required at the MOET, where the application is examined only for conformity with general laws and ethics.
The Internal Security Force (ISF) Cybercrime and IP Unit under ISF’s Judicial Police directorate focuses its efforts on online counterfeiting and copyright violations, whereas the Money Laundering and Financial Crimes Unit investigates trademark violations associated with counterfeit physical goods. Lebanese Customs also plays a direct role in IPR enforcement by seizing counterfeits and an indirect role as part of its efforts to combat smuggling. The U.S. Trade Representative removed Lebanon from the Special 301 watchlist in its 2022 report. Lebanon had been on the watch list since 2008, and while Lebanon has done little to improve its IPR protection and enforcement, industry stakeholders had not raised concerns about IPR protection during the Special 301 review since 2014.
The MOET’s IPPO acts upon the requests of rights holders or in an ex officio capacity. The ISF cannot act in an ex officio capacity and still requires a criminal complaint to be filed with the prosecutor’s office for it to take action. The sale and distribution of pirated, counterfeit, and copycat products continued across Lebanon, in commercial establishments and through street vendors. This included leather goods, apparel and luxury items, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs), software, optical media, and pharmaceuticals.
For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles.
IP Attaché Contact Information
U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi
Plot No.14 Block 6 Masjed Al-Aqsa Street
Kuwait City, Kuwait
+965 2259 1455