Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Signs of a Thaw Between Israel and Syria

To anyone following the news in the Middle East, it is no secret that Turkey has been acting as a mediator in peace talks between Israel and Syria.

While the big sticking point of course is the status of the Golan Heights, which has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 War, there are small steps that both sides can take to inch their way towards formal peace.

In my job as a trademark paralegal, I often correspond on behalf of our clients with intellectual property firms around the world. One irritant that firms who wish to file their trademarks in the Middle East is the Israel Boycott Declaration. I have not personally encountered this problem in my nearly eleven years in the field, though I have also not represented clients seeking to register their trademarks in Syria and Iraq, two Middle East countries that persisted in requiring applicants to submit an Israel Boycott Declaration.

An example of the information requested in a Declaration for trademark applicants in Syria asks such questions as: "Do you or any of your subsidiaries now or ever had a branch of main company factory or assembly plant in Israel? .... do you have or any of your subsidiaries now or ever had general agencies or offices in Israel for your middle eastern or international operations? .... what companies are you shareholders in their capital? State the name of each company and the percentage of share to their total capital---and the nationality of each one?"

It is illegal for United States companies to comply with Israel Boycott requests, and the U.S. Department of Commerce has a bureau "charged with administering and enforcing the Antiboycott Laws under the Export Administration Act. Those laws discourage, and in some circumstances, prohibit U.S. companies from furthering or supporting the boycott of Israel sponsored by the Arab League, and certain Moslem countries, including complying with certain requests for information designed to verify compliance with the boycott. Compliance with such requests may be prohibited by the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and may be reportable to the Bureau."

But in a recent move, "Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji al-Otari approved on June 4, 2008 to exempt all new trademark, patent, industrial drawing and design applications from submitting the Israel Boycott Declaration requirement." The article does note though that "the effective date of the boycott declaration waiver was not decided by the Property Protection Department."

While a development like this is hardly the sort of thing to make the nightly news, in light of the backdoor peace negotiations between Israel and Syria, this does seem to signal a possible step forward by the Syrian government. I will keep an eye on this and see if a date is announced for when the boycott declaration waiver will take effect.


Anonymous said...

That's kind of interesting... do we have similar laws about other national boycotts? I mean, is it illegal for a company to sign an agreement to boycott Syrian goods, or German ones?

bullet said...

The Golan Heights is always going to be an issue. Israel will never give it up and would be stupid if they did. "OK! Here's a piece of easily defensible high ground from which you can shell the shit out of our country. Have at it!"