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What’s up in IP, UAE? A bustling commercial hub makes trademarks vital


Tapping into the high purchase power of the world-renowned commercial hub requires trademarks and IP-inclusive contracts as a lifeline. Zahra Ragbi, the UAE Office Director of Baianat Intellectual Property, explains why. In this article series, our global partner network reveals key IPR trends around the globe.

Everyone wants to do business in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), it seems. In addition to being a well-known transit point, the country hosts thousands of international companies in different business sectors, and the number is only increasing. Of the total population of 9.99 million, 8.84 million people are expats.

“The UAE is an alluring destination for all industries. We have stable political conditions, good ICT infrastructure, and high purchasing power. The government is encouraging innovating, working towards AI and blockchain, and keeping up to the international standards via new and amended legislation”, says Zahra Ragbi, the UAE Office Director of Baianat Intellectual Property.

As an international hub for all the world, the country enables both an active consumer lifestyle and interesting investment opportunities – especially for those with a keen eye for IPR.

“Everyone wants a piece of the bustling creativity and innovating we have here, which means that the competition for intellectual property rights can get heated. Filing for IP protection should be taken seriously and done quickly. If the company or its offerings aren’t well protected, the enforcements on the inevitable infringements may prove to be hard or even impossible.”

Booming consumer market equals high risk of infringement

Global companies are eager to enter the high-consumption country, either directly or via a distributor or a licensee. The alluring global activity is a potential danger for companies that don’t take brand protection seriously.

“It is highly advisable for companies wiling to enter the UAE market either directly or via franchiser/distributor to protect their IPR rights first.” Ragbi says.

In cases where infringements are taken to the court, prior use of a trademark or other intellectual property by a local company will decide the fate of enforcement.

“Due to our regional protection and first-to-file system, prior use abroad doesn’t count in court. A new product entering the market even for a trial run will immediately be taken advantage of unless properly protected with IPR.”

Many business-savvy companies may lack the background of enforcing their IP rights in a foreign country. That’s why Ragbi recommends all the contracts and agreements with local business partners to be drafted not only by specialists in general law but specifically IP specialists.

“That’s where quality and professionalism really matter. We do registrations all over the world for clients who export goods or have franchise or licensing operations. Kolster is one of our main partners abroad, as we expect accuracy, trustworthiness, and collaborative consulting from our partners.”

Major changes in legislation and practises

In 2021, the country celebrated the 50th anniversary of the UAE union and started preparations for the years to come. To keep up with the international standards especially at the business and investor level, the government has been constantly introducing new laws and amendments.

“This is the first time the government has issued such changes to such an extent and so rapidly. Accessing the Madrid System is one example of change in terms of e.g., new trademarks, copyrights and industrial laws were issued. The new laws brought more consistency and definition to several matters that were mainly a practice and not clearly stated in the law. In addition, the new laws introduced more leniency in terms of procedures”, Ragbi says.

Furthermore, the validity period of designs has been extended from 10 to 20 years. The new law is also more lenient in terms of novelty, as previously any kind of disclosure of the invention eliminated the novelty criteria.

“Now we’ll be abiding by the international standard of a 12-month grace period from the disclosure date of the invention. Additionally, the previous law was quite silent about software protection. The new law clearly states that in the UAE, software can’t be protected with designs or patents, thereby falling only under the copyright law.”

Attuning to the international practices

One of the newest changes the government has issued touches on the daily lives of the locals. Since 1990, the weekends in the UAE have consisted of Friday and Saturday. This will no longer be the case.

“As the majority of the world works on Fridays, handling deadlines as an IP practitioner was challenging. The government has now announced that the weekend will be shifted to include Saturday and Sunday. Many people have been shocked by this drastic change, as it will affect both our professional and personal lives.”

The true extent and details of the new legislation and amendments remain to be seen, as the new IP laws will be implemented by January 2022 and related bylaws are still to be issued.

Baianat Intellectual Property has a rich history of specialty in Intellectual Property since 1964 with more than 25 offices in a different 17 countries.
Baianat Intellectual Property is part of Kolster’s global partner network that helps in IP matters around the world. This article is part of a Kolster article series diving into IPR trends around the globe.