The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven emirates in the Middle East which was established in 1971. With a small-scale local population and relatively new Intellectual Property laws, UAE is still going through a continual development phase in the Intellectual Property Rights Portfolio. The IP laws established in UAE are in full compliance with the international agreement on TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) and are governed by the Federal laws of UAE.
The Intellectual Property Rights as per the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights in UAE are as follows:
A trademark could be any name, sign, symbol, logo, or phrase which is capable of uniquely identifying the goods, and services from one source or origin to another. In UAE, the Ministry of Economy, trademarks department, deals with the mechanism of Trademark Registration. This registration is compulsory for the owners to hold exclusive rights over their trademark and seek other means of protection as prescribed by the laws in UAE. Once a trademark is registered, it lasts for a period of 10 years from the date of filing, renewable every 10 years on the payment of the required fee.
A patent is an exclusive Intellectual Property Right granted to individuals for an invention, which can be a product or a process, offering a new way of doing something. In UAE, the patent is granted by the Ministry of Economy, patents department. Another way of seeking Patent Protection is by filing a GCC (Gulf Co-operation Council) Patent Application covering the GCC countries of UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar. Once a patent is registered, it lasts for a period of 20 years from the date of filing, and annual annuity payments are compulsory to hold rights over the patent.
Industrial Design Protection is provided for the ornamental and aesthetic aspects of an article or a design which may constitute the features of shape, configuration, pattern, or composition in two or three-dimension. In UAE, Industrial Design Protection is accomplished by registering the design before the Ministry of Economy. The registration application can have more than one industrial design, if those designs are co-related with respect to their manufacturing or use. The industrial design protection lasts for 10 years from the date of filing, and annual annuity payments are required to hold the rights over the industrial design or drawings.
In a legal sense, copyrights describe the rights granted to owners for their original works of authorship. The subject matter of copyright includes music, paintings, sculpture, films, computer programs, databases, literary work, sound recordings, elements of fashion design, and so forth. In UAE, copyrights can be protected by filing an application before the copyright department.
Domain names are the internet protocol addresses governing the unique online identity of an individual, firm, or an organization. In UAE, the domain names are protected and managed by the United Arab Emirates Network Centre (UAEnic) under the provisions of law.
IP CHALLENGES AND THEIR SOLUTIONS IN UAE
It is not surprising to say that IP rights and laws are not very well-established in UAE as compared to other countries across the globe with better and longer histories of IP regimes. Some challenges addressed by the UAE authorities along with their expected solutions are as follows:
1- ENFORCING IP RIGHTS IN FREE TRADE ZONES:
With more than 45 free trade zones in UAE, enforcement of IP rights by the brand owners becomes a complicated process as the procedure, and the authority with jurisdiction can differ between free zones. When IP right holders want to take an action against the issues of counterfeiting or infringement, they should verify who is responsible for enforcement in the free zone in question, and if there are any processes in place using which complaints can be filed.
Some steps must be initiated to remove ambiguities so that the IP right holders have a clear understanding of how complaints can be filed. The right holders want more cooperation among the authorities of free trade zones, customs, police, and themselves to fight against the issues of counterfeiting, and IP infringement in free trade zones.
2- LIMITED AMOUNT OF DAMAGES:
Manufacturers and distributors of counterfeit products remain indomitable by the limited award of damages given to the owners by the courts in UAE to make up for the damages suffered due to the act of infringement.
Improvements and revisions might take place with respect to the future implementation of the GCC Trademark Law, which would include a recovery of infringer’s profits in the damages awarded to the right holders.
3- RE-EXPORTATION OF INFRINGED PRODUCTS:
In UAE, the customs may re-export infringed goods rather than destroying them, which is another major challenge faced by the IP right owners.
However, this is expected to change with the improved Customs’ measures provisions of the GCC Trademark Law, which may order complete destruction of the infringed goods at the expense of the owner unless it poses a serious threat to environment or human health.
In spite of the challenges that are yet to be addressed by the UAE authorities, brand owners and IP right holders have seen a considerable change and noteworthy progress in the IP rights enforcement, specifically through the establishment of specialized court circuits. The officials are now fighting against counterfeits with the help of the efficiencies provided by automation of processes. The UAE authorities are also making an effort to offer legal and technical training to companies regarding the protection of their brand names and entities.