Currently, the UAE is experiencing unprecedented economic growth coupled with the continued need to develop its infrastructure. As a result, foreign investors are increasingly considering UAE to be an attractive destination for investment. With the accession of the UAE to the World Trade Organization in 1996, the country has witnessed further deregulation of various sectors. In an attempt to increase the attractiveness of the UAE as an investment destination, the government has adopted measures aimed at protecting Intellectual Property Rights (Barakat, 2003). It has been achieved using the government’s enforcement agencies.
One such enforcement agency is the Department of Legal Affairs operating under the Ministry of Economy, which acts as the source from which Intellectual Property Laws are enacted and issued. Some of the most crucial responsibilities of the Department of Legal Affairs regarding intellectual property rights include preparing draft laws with their respective amendments, administrative circulars, ministerial decrees, and cabinet resolutions associated with commercial and economic activities in the UAE and providing comments on the resolutions, treaties, and conventions associated with the trade laws adopted within the Gulf Cooperation Council (Carroll, 2000). The current paper explores the aspect of trademarks in the UAE, including what provisions are outlined in the UAE laws regarding the use of trademarks.
Before delving specifically into trademarks in the UAE, it is imperative to broadly look at Intellectual Property Laws in the UAE. There is no doubt that Arabian Gulf witnessed rapid and persistent urbanization during the 20th century (Khoury, 2003). Such urbanization and economic growth have been accompanied by regulatory and legal development. Due to the unparalleled growth and the continued need to expand its infrastructure, the attractiveness of the UAE among foreign investors is increasing. In addition, the UAE has also adopted numerous jurisdictions within the GCC and, as a result, it is now possible for foreign countries to operate in the UAE with 100 percent ownership. It is contrasted with the past whereby foreign companies were compelled to partner with local firms. The UAE is a member country of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, which was ratified in 1883 with the primary objective of protecting industrial property (Khoury, 2003). In addition, the UAE has adopted a broad patent law that permits individuals and organizations to choose from diverse innovations that are outlined in the law. The UAE also became an official member of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works on July 14, 2004. The Berne Convention refers to a global agreement that governs copyright. Furthermore, the UAE is both a signatory and a member of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which refers to an international agreement that is overseen by the WTO that establishes the minimum standards for several Intellectual Property forms (Makeen, 2009). The Intellectual Property Law of the UAE comprises Trademarks Law number 37 (1992), Patents and Industrial Design Law number 44 (1992), and the Neighboring Rights Law number 40 (1992). Design and Design are administered by the Industrial Property Office, which is supervised by the Industrial Property Directorate, Ministry of Finance and Industry. Trademarks are administered by the Trademark Section, which operated under the Ministry of Economy. The Copyright Department is in charge of copyrights and operates under the Ministry of Information and Culture (Price, 2009).
Because the UAE is still relatively young in terms of age, since it was established in 1971, the country’s Intellectual Property System is still in a continual development phase (Makeen, 2009). Nevertheless, its progress is on course concerning attaining the goals set by the government towards ensuring full compliance with the global agreements and treaties signed by the country. Local practices and laws associated with customs and patents are further complemented by the laws adopted by the GCC. The following section focuses particularly on trademarks in the UAE as a component of Intellectual Property (Carroll, 2000).
Federal Law Number 37 of 1992 and the executive regulations under this law are used in the protection and registration of trademarks in the UAE. Courts in the UAE have acknowledged the rights to have trademarks, as well as the need to safeguard trademarks before they trademark is promulgated. Trademark refers to an expression, design, or sign that can be recognized and is used in differentiating the services or products offered by suppliers from the product/services offerings made by suppliers. A trademark can be owned by a legal entity, a business, or even an individual. In addition, the owner of the trademark can position it on a product, voucher, label, or package of the product/service. For purposes of identifying corporations, trademarks may also be installed on the buildings of the corporations (Carroll, 2000).
The UAE law specifies two types of trademarks, which include local and international trademarks. Such types of trademarks vary in terms of the jurisdiction’s scope, disputes, and protection of the trademark. Concerning the local trademarks, they are registered and protected within the country. The registration of a local trademark involves issuing a bid at the UAE Ministry of Economy and Commerce. After the Ministry of Economy and Commerce accepts the request to have a trademark, the trademark is published in two newspapers. If an organization or an individual may raise objections to the use of the trademark, they are supposed to submit the reasons for objections to the Ministry of Economy and Commerce within 30 days from the day the trademark was published (Carroll, 2000).
International trademarks refer to foreign trademarks that are not registered within the UAE. International trademarks are registered and protected in their country of origin. However, it is also protected in other international jurisdictions and areas. According to Carroll (2000), it is not obligatory to register an international trademark in all jurisdictions for the trademark to be acknowledged as an international trademark within the UAE (Carroll, 2000).
The infringement of a trademark occurs when one entity makes use of a trademark that is incomprehensibly similar to a trademark that is under the ownership of another entity (the legal owner of the trademark). Cases of trademark infringement pose a challenge to the identity of corporations, which can also result in a marketing challenge, especially regarding differentiation. In case a trademark, whether local or international, has been infringed in the UAE, the legal trademark owner has the option of undertaking legal action by filing a lawsuit at the Federal Court against both the party trying to infringe the trademark and the Ministry of Economy and Commerce. The solution in such cases often involves requesting monetary compensation from the entity trying to infringe the trademark and requesting its removal from the list of registered trademarks under the Ministry of Economy and Commerce. In case a local trademark has been registered by a local organization and is being challenged by an international organization on grounds that the local trademark is an infringement of their international trademark, the burden of proof is placed on the international organization to show that consumers are familiar with their trademark and that it has a global recognition (Carroll, 2000). Nevertheless, judges have the discretion to reject or uphold their objections depending on the facts of the case, as well as the global significance of the trademark. In addition, according to Article 17 of Federal Law Number 37 (1992), if the local trademark owner uses the trademark for five successive years without facing any objections, the court will dismiss any claims raised against the trademark (Khoury, 2003).
The registration validity of a trademark in the UAE is 10 years, although, it is renewable after this period. Concerning the renewal time, the owner of the trademark should apply for the renewal during the last year before the protection of the trademark expires. Nevertheless, the law provides for a 3-months grace period to allow for late renewal. In addition, the renewal is usually published in two local UAE newspapers, as well as the Trademark Journal. Another crucial provision of Trademark Law in the UAE is that a trademark is not considered as a trading name. In this regard, the organization’s name is considered to be its trade name, which should not be confused with its trademark. The Economic Department of Dubai issues trades names whereas trademarks are overseen by the Ministry of Economy. In addition, registering a trading name does not translate to the creation and registration of a trademark (Khoury, 2003).
The current paper has explored the laws regulating the use of trademarks within the UAE. There is no doubt that registering a trademark is important in the UAE to be protected against infringements and objections that have to be resolved when there are similar international and local trademarks. Even though Intellectual Property Law in the UAE is relatively young and still undergoing conceptual development, it can be argued that the country has adopted measures aimed at improving its intellectual property rights, especially concerning trademarks.
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