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Protection of Intellectual Property Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Guiding Principle

Intellectual property rights (IPRs) is a legal concept, which determines the manner of protection and the use of human intellectual creation. Protection of intellectual property and compilation of legal regulations in this regard have a long history in Iran. Moreover, new efforts for promotion of technological innovations in Iran during the recent years, have forced the Iranian officials and policy makers to pay more attention to the IPRs system.

A. Introduction

One of the essential core of commercial transactions, taking place every day, consists of assets such as brands, know-how and technologies, which requires considerable diligence when entering into these transactions. The commercial values of such transactions largely revolve around intellectual property rights (“IPRs”). Intellectual property rights cover several types of legally recognized rights arising from some type of intellectual creativity. Intellectual property rights typically include:

1)   Copyright and related rights;

2)   Industrial property.

International awareness of the importance of IPRs protection is continuously growing. The industrialized countries suffer enormous losses in their export markets year by year due to faked products and imitated IPRs. Therefore, all major export countries endeavor to achieve an improvement in industrial property legislation worldwide. Protecting an intellectual property right against imitators is of utmost importance, in particular in areas like Iran, where faked products are constantly penetrating the market.

Most intellectual property rights require formal registration with the competent authorities in order to exist and/or have full legal effect.  The registration process varies based on the nature of intellectual property right and country of registration. A registration certificate is usually issued by the competent authority as evidence of registration of intellectual property rights.

B. Intellectual Property Legislations in Iran

As evident, IP protection in Iran started with trademark protection in 1925. At later stage, the Patent and Trademark Registration Act of Iran, translated from the laws of European countries, was initially enforced in 1931, and its executive regulations were amended in 1958, mainly in order to conform the old 80 classes of goods and services to the new 36 classes of international classification.

Recent years have witnessed a surge of interest in revamping the IPRs system of Iran. As a case in point, Art. 45 of the fourth economic, social and cultural development plan of Iran (2005–2010) calls on the government to design and implement a comprehensive IP system to encourage the development of knowledge-based products and commercialization of research results. This section attempts to document and critique the latest developments in the IP scene.

Therefore, on October 28, 2007, the Law of Registration of Patents, Industrial Designs and Trademarks (abbrev. “IR-PIT”) was approved by the Judicial Committee of the Islamic Consultative Assembly[1], to supersede the Patent and Trademark Registration Act, according to which, industrial designs and geographical indications were not registrable. The Executive Regulations of the Law of Registration of Patents, Industrial Designs and Trademarks was approved on January 20, 2009.

The Law offers the opportunity to guarantee the protection by registering all types of IPRs in the Iran. This law aims to create a balance between monopoly of rights resulting from innovations in the fields of science and traditional knowledge and protection of public interest against excessive intellectual property protection, whilst at the same time harmonizing itself with international agreements on intellectual property rights.

Amongst others, the Law introduces provisions for substantive examination of patent applications, protection for industrial designs, amending the trademark regime and introduces criminal penalties for infringement of intellectual property rights.

C. Access to International Treaties

Iran is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)[2] since 2002 and has acceded to several WIPO intellectual-property treaties. Iran joined the Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (Paris Convention)[3] in 1959. In December 2003 Iran became a party to the Madrid Agreement and the Madrid Protocol for the International Registration of Marks[4]. In 2005 Iran joined the Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their International Registration[5], which ensures the protection of geographical names associated with products. As in February 2008, Iran had yet to accede to the Hague Agreement for the Protection of Industrial Designs[6].

D. Protection of Copyright and related Rights in Iran

Copyright and all related rights are protected under the Law for Protection of Authors, Composers and Artists Rights, enacted in 1970 and the Law of Translation and Reproduction of Books, Periodicals and Audio Works, enacted in 1973. These works on the Internet are also protected under the Electronic Commerce Act[7], enacted in 2003. Iran has not acceded to any International Convention or Agreement on Copyright and Related Rights Protection (e.g. Bern and Rome Convention).

E. Protection of Industrial Property in Iran

Based on the Paris Convention, in particular Art. 10(2), industrial property consists of the following subjects:

  1. patents;
  2. utility models;
  3. industrial designs;
  4. trademarks;
  5. service marks;
  6. trade names;
  7. indication of source;
  8. appellations of origin; and
  9. the repression of unfair competition.

Iranian laws and regulations provide specific legal rules protecting a number of the above subjects.

  I.  Patent

Based on Art. 1 IR-PIT, a patent is the fruit of the intellectual endeavours of one or more individuals who, for the first time, come up with a special new process or product and solve a problem in a vocation, trade, technology, industry and the like. According to Art. 2 IR-PIT, having the following prerequisites is required a patent is accepted for registration:

  1. New initiative: It means the elements that did not exist in the previous technology or industry and were not known to ordinary holders of skills in that profession. Such initiative needs to be an applied invention and innovation from an industrial prospect that can be manufactured or used in an industrial field.
  2. Industrial usage: By industry, the vastest application, including handicrafts, agriculture, fishing and services, has been taken into consideration.

The following instances may not be covered by IR-PIT, if the subject of the patent is:

➢  Discoveries, scientific theories, mathematical methods and works of art.

➢  Designs, procedures or methods for carrying out commercial activities and other intellectual and social activities.

➢  Methods of diagnosis and treatment of human or animal diseases.

➢  Genetic resources and genetic components thereof as well as the biological processes of their production.

➢  Any and all matters already known in technologies and industries of the past.

➢  The patents, the exploitation of which shall be contrary to the Rules of Sharia or public order and good social morals.

Under IR-PIT, patent rights shall belong exclusively to the inventor thereof. The rights under patent may be freely transferred and made over to another. In case of death of a holder of patent, the rights thereunder shall be transferred to the heirs.

Intellectual property rights, when they exist, have a specific life-time. The life-time of a patent in Iran is 20 years from the time of filing.

  II.  Trademark

A Trademark is not only a name or a logo and its value is not restricted to the mark as such. The name or the logo which is used as a trademark is attached to and representing a product or service. Its value stands for the market value of the product, which was created by developing a high quality product and by winning the confidence of a wide range of customers, by promoting, advertising and marketing it through the years. The trademark guarantees the customer the constant quality of a certain product. Well known trademarks have a tremendous value, which should not be underestimated. Therefore, when assessing the value of a trademark special consideration should be awarded to the goodwill of the trademark. As opposed to patents, which lose value with age (after 20 years a patent becomes part of the public domain), trademarks gain value over time.

Trademark in Iran may be any word, name, slogan, symbol, device, package design or combination of these that serves to identify and distinguish a product from others in the marketplace and is also used to identify its source. Based on Art.30 IR-PIT, trademarks means any visible sign by the use of which it shall be possible to distinguish the commodities and services offered by natural persons and legal entities.

An application of registration of a mark shall be submitted to the Trademark Registration Bureau together with a sample of the mark and the list of the goods and services for which registration of the mark has been applied, on the basis of the classification that is being enforced or on the basis of the international classification.

The period of validity of registration of a mark shall be ten years after the date of filing the application of registration. This period may be extended repeatedly, at the request of the proprietor thereof, for further ten-year periods, by payment of applicable charges.

The exclusive right of exploitation of a mark shall belong to the one who registered that mark, according to the provisions of IR-PIT.

Exploitation and use of any mark registered in Iran, by anyone except the proprietor of the mark, shall be subject to agreement by proprietor. A proprietor of a registered mark may file suit with court against anyone making use of his mark without any agreement or against anyone who commits an act that shall customarily result in violation of the rights of the proprietor of a registered mark. Such rights include the instances where a mark similar to the registered mark has been used for sale of goods for services similar to those sold with the registered mark thereby causing misleading of the public.

Apart from IR-PIT, Art. 66 of Electronic Commerce Act provides the protection of trademarks and domain names on the Internet. Also, Art. 76 provides the imprisonment and the fine for the infringement of right of owner trademark.

  III.  Industrial Designs

According to Art. 20 IR-PIT, any combination of lines or colours and combinations of 3 dimension shapes and figures with lines and/or colours or without such elements, but to such extent that the combination or profile of an industrial design or a product of handicrafts shall change, will be regarded as industrial design.

An industrial design may be registered only in case it shall be novel and genuine. An industrial design shall be novel when prior to publication of notice, it was not known or disclosed to the public, in any part of the world.

Exploitation and use of any industrial design registered in Iran, by any person, shall be subject to agreement by the proprietor of the industrial design.

The period of validity of an industrial design shall be five years after the date of filing the statement of registration. This period may be extended for two more consecutive five year periods by paying the relevant charges.


[1]     The Law was approved in the course of a session of the Judicial Committee of the Islamic Consultative Assembly on October 28, 2007 and was subsequently confirmed by the Guardians Council on February 12, 2008. It was published in Official Gazette No.18389 on April 20, 2008.

[2]     http://www.wipo.int/portal/index.html.en

[3]     The Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, signed in Paris, France, on March 20, 1883. For more information please see the following link:  http://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ip/paris/trtdocs_wo020.html

[4]     The Madrid system (officially the Madrid system for the international registration of marks) is the primary international system for facilitating the registration of trademarks in multiple jurisdictions around the world. Its legal basis is the multilateral treaty Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks of 1891, as well as the Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement (1989). For more information please see the following link:

http://www.madridprotocol.info/ProtocolText.pdf

[5]     The Lisbon Agreement, concluded in 1958, was revised in Stockholm in 1967, and was amended in 1979. The aim of the Lisbon Agreement is to provide for the protection of appellations of origin, that is, the “geographical denomination of a country, region, or locality, which serves to designate a product originating therein, the quality or characteristics of which are due exclusively or essentially to the geographic environment, including natural and human factors” (Article 2). For more information please see the following link:

http://www.wipo.int/lisbon/en/legal_texts/lisbon_agreement.html

[6]     The Hague Agreement Concerning the International Deposit of Industrial Designs, also known as the Hague system provides a mechanism for registering an industrial design in several countries by means of a single application, filed in one language, with one set of fees. The system is administered by WIPO. The Hague Agreement consists of several separate treaties. Countries can sign up to the 1960 (Hague) Act, the 1999 (Geneva) Act, or both (the 1934 Act is frozen as of January 1, 2010). If a country signs up to only one Act, then applicants from that country can only use the Hague system to obtain protection for their designs in other countries which are signed up to the same Act. For more information please see the following link:

http://www.wipo.int/hague/en/legal_texts/

[7]     Electronic Commerce Act was enacted by the Islamic Consultative Assembly on 07.01.2004 and was ratified by the Guardian Council on 07.01.2004.

August, 2015 Zahra Tahsili
Meyer-Reumann & Partners, Tehran Office
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