May 17, 2020

Protecting Your Healthcare Brand in the Middle East

Middle East Healthcare
Hospital Finance
4 min
As many Middle Eastern countries are seeing hefty investments in various fields, governments today are reaching out to investors to help them protect their brands.
The Middle East has emerged as an important market, and considering theregions recent expansion in healthcare,it has become one of the most sought after...

The Middle East has emerged as an important market, and considering the region’s recent expansion in healthcare, it has become one of the most sought after destinations for multinational companies from across the world.

However, it is of paramount importance that every company or service provider protects their brands. This is true not only for healthcare, but for any other fields.

The Middle East today offers splendid opportunities, but along with come a number of difficulties. Not only is it important today to protect your brand, but also send the message across to mischief makers that the brand owner takes the matter seriously.

Trademark protection

One of the biggest problems that healthcare service providers and pharmaceutical companies face worldwide is that of counterfeiting. Not so long ago, the world was shocked to discover fake Apple stores in China. More hilariously, there was also a fake Steve Jobs whose face was used to sell those products.

Counterfeit medicines are a global nuisance. Needless to say, suspicious drugs put public health in jeopardy. They also take a severe toll on the brands which are counterfeiting, and cost professionals and service providers their goodwill and ruin reputations.

Every year, thousands of lives are lost because the patients were treated with counterfeit medicine. These fake medicines are so sophisticatedly packaged, and are often circulated very convincingly by criminals, that even veteran doctors may fail to recognize them.

Similarly, there are a number of other manufacturers who try to pass off counterfeit surgical goods and similar equipment as authentic. Every year, many cases are reported globally when institutions run into legal disputes over trademark infringement. Even hospitals are not immune to such practices.

Hence, it is imperative to register one’s trademark. For starters, trademark registration offers the brand owner the right to use a particular name, logo, phrase or certain words exclusively. Whether for licensing or franchising, trademark registration is a necessary step in any commercial strategy.

The Middle East, today, is an important market for any multinational looking for expansion. Hence, it is important that they protect their trademarks and make sure that crooks do not take advantage of them. Moreover, trademark registration is also an important step in building brand identity; and it definitely gives the brand owner an advantage over its rivals.

Not only for foreign investors, trademark registration is a must even for local brands. It helps in building market presence, and a big advantage of registering a trademark is that it can help a brand or service providers reach out to the diaspora all over the world.

Benefits and price

As many Middle Eastern countries are seeing hefty investments in various fields and their economic profiles rise, the governments today are alert about the dangers of counterfeiting and are reaching out to investors to help them protect their brands.

For example, the UAE has a recordal and complaints system for trademarks, which can be used to enforce action against counterfeit drugmakers. Other countries, like Saudi Arabia, have a number of civil and criminal sanctions against counterfeiters and infringers. In recent years, a number of agencies have been launched in the Middle East, like Cerberus, which investigate into cases of infringement.

However, one obstacle on the way is the cost of registering trademarks, which is higher in most Middle Eastern countries than other parts of the world. It can be estimated that thousands of dollars are spent by brand owners in professional fees, obtaining documents and other legal necessities to register their trademarks in UAE.

Unlike the European Union, it is not possible to obtain a trademark that with a region-wide registration in the Middle East. However, it is possible to obtain patent production in the GCC countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE) through a single application cleared by the GCC Patent Office. This can be very valuable for pharmaceutical companies or other healthcare/surgical equipment manufacturers, who plan to rollout or trial their products across the region.

It is thus, important to recognize the real cost of not registering a trademark. While the expenses may seem high initially in most Middle Eastern countries, there will be a heavier price to pay if the trademark is not registered. Many shops in the region are brimming with foreign made goods, but at ridiculously low prices- which is a sure sign of counterfeiting. Unfortunately, the average customer may not be able to recognize these fake products and be easily swayed by the low prices. But in the end, dissatisfaction with the product will affect the brand. This is particularly true for drugs and medicine manufacturers, but other manufacturers of healthcare-related articles may also be affected equally.

Thus, the real ‘cost’ that a brand owner should consider is their brand identity, goodwill and reputation. By protecting their trademarks, they can confidently stride through the land of opportunities.

This feature was printed in the July edition of Healthcare Global magazine. 

Share article

Jun 13, 2021

How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats

Jonathan Miles
6 min
Jonathan Miles, Head of Strategic Intelligence and Security Research at Mimecast, tells us how the healthcare sector can protect itself from attacks

One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority.  In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.

The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics. 

From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world. 

Going digital 

The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years. 

This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate. 

Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.

To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care. 

Strengthening defences

Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change. 

It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device. 

These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.

Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement: 
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.

In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.

Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents. 

Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.

This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents. 
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.

Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.

As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.  

Fighting future threats

With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.

To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced. 

This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.

Share article