This report studies the reality of United Arab Emirates (UAE) government initiatives towards Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) protection. The UAE government has initiated various steps towards IPR protection though its own enforcement agencies. The Department of Legal Affairs, Ministry of Economy, is the legal reference for the ministry. It is the source from which laws are issued and legislations enacted. The following are just examples – and not exclusive list – of its most important tasks towards IP:

  • Preparation of draft laws and their amendments as well as Cabinet resolutions, ministerial decrees and administrative circulars related to the UAE economic and commercial activities
  • Commenting on the conventions, treaties and resolutions related to trade laws in the GCC.

Through this report, I will be discussing in details the government adapted measures and how these measures were affecting the level of forfeiting and piracy levels throughout the country.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a newly emerging oil country (1971) in the Arabian Gulf Region. It is a very peculiar social reality and a nation state. Its work force and economic structure, is predominantly foreign, a reality that brings contradictions to the issue of external trade in general and IPR protection in particular and how the United Arab Emirates society perceive the piracy and forfeiting of goods. The report will also highlight the international agreements and conventions signed by the government of UAE and analyze their enforcement and how these agreements and conventions are being adopted by the local rules and regulation.

This report will also discuss what is protected under the UAE laws vs. protection measures adopted under World Trade Organization (WTO) and will also address the procedures taken by the UAE government towards IPR and compare the same with the WTO procedures for enforcing Trade Related Intellectual Property rights (TRIPS).

The Country & IPR Rules And Regulations

The United Arab Emirates was established in 1971 as a federation of seven emirates, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras al-Khaimah, Ajman, Umm al-Qaiwain and Fujairah. The rulers comprise the Federal Supreme Council (FSC), which elects the country’s President and Vice President at five-yearly intervals from amongst its members. HH Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler of Abu Dhabi, has been President since 2004, and HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, has been Vice President (also concurrently Prime Minister) since 1990. The Council of Ministers is chosen by the Prime Minister in consultation with the President, and is the executive arm of Government. The Federal National Council, or parliament, has 40 members, drawn from each of the emirates, and has a legislative and supervisory role and can amend proposed federal legislation. The Federal Supreme Court heads the judicial structure. There are also local governments in each of the emirates, while each major urban centre has a Municipality for local affairs. The traditional ‘majlis’ system of open discussion between the tribal leaders and their people has evolved into an important, although informal, part of the UAE’s governing system.

Few nations on earth have experienced more complete and far-reaching change over the past few decades than the United Arab Emirates. Today a land of six-lane highways and glittering streams of motorcars, where space-age cities of ivory-

white and crystal glass emerge like a mirage from the haze of desert and sea, this federation of seven ancient Emirates is not only the world’s fourth largest oil-producer, but also its richest state per head of population, and the new commercial hub of the Middle East

Due to the young age of the country (came into existence in 1971), the Intellectual Property (IP) system in the country is still going through a continual development stage, but it is progressing in the right track towards the complete achievement of the government goals towards full compliance with the international TRIPS agreement. The first IP laws were established in the year 1992 and were again updated in 2002. Local laws and practice relating to patents and customs, are supplemented with laws issued by the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC). The GCC consists of six countries on the Arabian Peninsula – Bahrain, Kuwait, Quatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – that are moving towards a European style Union.

United Arab Emirates is a member of the Gulf Co-operation Council (G.C.C.).

IPR Registration And Renewals

With a small local population, estimated to be less than 25% of the overall population of the UAE, and relatively new IP laws, it is not surprising that IP procedures are not as well established compared to countries with longer histories of IP regimes. It is only within the last year, for example, that the first patents have been granted. Initially applications were accepted by the UAE Patent Office, located in Abu Dhabi. In 2000, an agreement was reached between the UAE Patent Office and the Austrian Patent Office, which empowers Austrian examiners to examine applications filed in the UAE.

The 1992 Trademark Law had implementing regulations. The implementing regulations for the 2002 Trademark Law are yet to be published. The issue of trademark renewals is particularly significant. The first federal trademark registrations were granted in 1993. The first renewals, therefore, had to take place last year, in 2003. The Trademark Office has had to deal with many issues relating to renewals including fees, publication and changes of agent. The Trademark Registrar has resolved a number of these issues. However, they are not published yet, and observers expect them to be incorporated in the Implementing Regulations.

Many applications have been filed for designs. But the examination committee has not been constituted, so applications have not been examined. There is now a considerable backlog in applications. The United Arab Emirates Network Information Centre (UAENIC) handles ‘.ae’ domain name registrations and the process is relatively straightforward.

Like a number of other countries in the Persian Gulf, official fees for processing all IP transactions are high in the UAE. This applies to official fees such as trademark renewals, as well as related transactions. This acts as a barrier to entry. During the last 10 years only some 50,000 trademarks have been registered. If the fees had been closer to $200, rather than the $2,000 they actually are, more trademarks might have been registered. By setting cheaper fees, the Trademark Office might have generated more income and provided itself with more resources.

Like a number of other countries in the Persian Gulf, in the UAE, the official fees for processing all IP transactions are relatively high. This applies to official fees such as those for trademark renewals, as well as related transactions. This does act as a barrier to entry.

What Is Protected Under UAE Laws Vs. WTO

UAE Procedures For Enforcing TRIPS VS. WTO

Enforcing IP Rights is relatively straightforward. Practitioners from around the world will be familiar with procedures governing actions brought through the civil court, with the police or the public prosecutor. Some government departments have jurisdiction over infringement of registered trademarks. These include sections within the Department for Economic Development in Dubai and Sharjah and a section within Abu Dhabi municipality. They are given a quasi judicial authority to punish infringers, seize and destroy goods and impose fines, but cannot order that compensation is paid to a brand owner. Administrative officials have settled the vast majority of trademark infringement actions during the past 12 years, particularly in Sharjah and Dubai. A far fewer number of cases have gone to court, but as more cases (particularly criminal prosecutions) are brought to court, judges have become more familiar with infringement issues. They are assisted in their enforcement work by WIPO, the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition and the World Customs Organization.

At present there is no unified federal customs authority. Like the courts and administrative bodies, each emirate has its own system. Each emirate’s customs authority is responsible for enforcement. With such a huge volume of trade in goods in transit, more coordination at a federal level is needed, although the GCC Customs Law, which provides for a single Customs Union with free movement of goods internally, does allow for detention of goods in transit.

Although the UAE is no longer on the US Watch List, piracy is still quite a significant issue. There are many reports in the local press about the arrests of infringers, and the seizures and destruction of pirated goods, but these are limited mainly to copyright.

International Signed Agreements & Treaties By UAE 1972 – 2004

UAE has been a member of the WTO since April 10, 1996. It has signed the following Treatie and Agreement:

  • Berne Convention for the Protection Literary and Artistic Work
  • Paris Convention for the Protection Industrial Property 1-3-1996
  • Patent Cooperation Treaty
  • WIPO Convention
  • WIPO Copyright Treaty
  • Accession of the UAE to the Copy rights and Neighboring rights Agreement 29.02.2004

IPR National Legislation Summary

Current IP laws in force in the UAE:

Patents, Designs and Industrial Models Law, No. 17 of 2002

The Patents, Designs and Industrial Models Law, No. 17 of 2002, which protects a patent for up to 20 years and a utility patent for 10 years. Patents need to be worked within four years of filing. Designs are protected for up to 15 years from the date of registration.

Trademark Law No. 8 of 2002

Trademark Law No. 8 of 2002, under this law; trademarks are valid for 10 years from date of filing and can be renewed for periods of 10 years.

Copyright Law No. 7 of 2002

The Copyright Law No. 7 of 2002, which is optional, grants protection for the lifetime of the author plus 25 years. This applies to cinematographic films, works of art, works made by corporate bodies and works of art published under pen names. Photographic works

Photographic works are protected for 10 years only.

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