Dubai: Law of Offshore
Intellectual Property Law
In 1992, the UAE passed three laws pertaining to intellectual property: a copyright law, a trademark law, and a patent law. The UAE began to enforce the copyright law on September 1, 1994. The government began registration of trademarks and patents in 1993.
Patents: Federal Law Number 44 protects new inventions, original improvements, new concepts, trade secrets and industrial know-how, industrial patterns and designs. The Ministry of Finance and Industry houses the patent office.
Trademarks: Federal Law Number 37 regulates trademarks. The UAE has a trademark office in the Ministry of Economy and Commerce which is accepting registration applications.
The trademark law provides protection for 10 years, with possible renewal options. Owners of registered trademarks have the right to file legal actions in UAE courts in cases of infringement. The courts are empowered to attach, seize, destroy or re-export counterfeit goods. Criminal penalties can include fines and/or imprisonment.
In 2003, the UAE Ministry of Economy and Commerce invited industry to launch an Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) forum in the UAE.
The UAE laws prohibit using illegal software in IT applications and require companies to provide adequate proofs on the usage of original software. According to the findings of the eighth annual BSA Global Software Piracy Study for the year 2002, UAE's leading anti-piracy role in the region for the seventh consecutive year has resulted in the decrease in piracy rates from 86% in 1994 to 36% in 2002 and while this figure has not improved significantly over the following years (36% in 2010), the UAE is recognised as being among those countries with the lowest piracy rates.
The UAE Ministry of Economy and Commerce has also begun to strengthen the working of the trademarks committee and is beginning to look into the various proposals sent to this body besides preparing a list of investigators in order to enhance the implementation of the laws.
In September 2005, it emerged that the UAE was reviewing its intellectual property protection legislation.
The review took place in anticipation of a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States.
Speaking to the regional media at the time, the director of Dubai Media City (DMC), Mohammad Al Mulla confirmed that:
"It (the IP regime) is still under review and will be updated in line with and under the framework of the FTA agreement with the US. Once the updates come into effect, it will have an impact on the country's overall business activities, including the media."
In January 2009, the Dubai International Financial Centre released a draft of its proposed Intellectual Property laws for public consultation. The new laws cover intellectual property rights such as copyrights, patents, trade secrets, trademarks and related rights.
Omar Bin Sulaiman, Governor of the DIFC and Vice Chairman of the UAE Central Bank commented at the time that: “By creating a strong legal framework for protecting proprietary knowledge, which is one of the financial service industry’s key assets, the new Intellectual Property laws will enhance the platform of growth that DIFC offers financial companies. The new laws will also promote industry growth by creating the ideal legal environment for product and service innovation. The laws reinforce DIFC’s strong emphasis on integrity, transparency and efficiency.”
With the exception of the proposed Trade Secrets Law, the proposed Intellectual Property laws are modelled on the UAE Intellectual Property laws which are in tune with international standards and comply with the requirements of the TRIPS/WTO Agreement.
The TRIPS/WTO Agreement caters to both civil law and common law jurisdictions. These drafts are designed to achieve this alignment without eroding the DIFC’s image and philosophy as a common law jurisdiction.
The proposed Trade Secrets Law was drafted taking into consideration the salient features of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act of 1985 (for thresholds) drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws based in the United States and the Economic Espionage Act of the United States of 1996 (for definition of trade secrets) – both of the aforesaid statutes are common law instruments, thus, the DIFC Trade Secrets Law is compatible with the common law.