The Emirates Intellectual Property Association (EIPA) recently held in Dubai its sixth "Regional Intellectual Property Crime Conference in the Middle-East and North Africa", in cooperation with Interpol.
The event gathered representatives from trade mark offices and intellectual property associations from the region and beyond (including the UAE, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, the United-States, France, Korea, Japan), as well as officials from:
- the Dubai Police
- the Ajman Police
- the Dubai Customs
- the Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED)
- Dubai Public Prosecution
- the Dubai Judicial Training Institute
The discussions focused on the growing efforts to raise public awareness about the importance of intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and the continuous dedication and commitment of the local enforcement authorities. The speakers also highlighted the increasing cooperation between the private and the public sectors, and the intensification of the legal and technical trainings of the relevant officials in detecting illegal merchandise and of judges in assessing IPR infringement, for an efficient implementation of IP laws in the region.
As a result of the continuous efforts from local authorities to fight against illicit trade and counterfeit products in the UAE, there has been a dramatic increase in recent years in the number of products seized in the UAE.
IP enforcement activities in 2016
For example, so far during 2016, the Intellectual Property Protection Section of the Dubai Department of Economic Development (the body responsible for the regulation of economic activity for all businesses operating onshore in Dubai, in the UAE) has seized approximately 64,000,000 counterfeit products in the course of raids carried out following administrative infringement complaints from brand owners' products. The value of the goods amounted to almost AED one billion.
The DED recently implemented an online filing system of complaints, thus increasing the accessibility of the filing system whilst facilitating the process of filing complaints and ensuring issuance of reports. The DED's stated aim of the move to online filing, is to create greater efficiencies and thus carry out more enforcement, as they will need to meet less with rights holders, so can concentrate on seizing infringing and counterfeit products.
There has also been an increase in the number of infringement cases processed by the Dubai Police: around 221 criminal complaints have been processed in the first nine months of 2016.
Other Police departments in the UAE also commented that they are active: for instance, Ajman Police has dealt with 30 infringement complaints in 2016. Ajman is the smallest of all of the emirates, though it has increasingly come on to the radar of rights holders in recent years as more and more infringing and counterfeit products are warehoused there for sale in the UAE and for export.
In addition, this year, Dubai Customs, which has developed an online system for the recordal of trade marks, has carried out more than 100 seizures of products suspected of infringement.
With respect to the judicial authorities, the UAE has begun implementing specialised IP court circuits (Ministry Resolution No 137 of 2016), and is now contemplating providing specialised IP training programs to judges.
Advice from government authorities
For the UAE to remain a leading country in the field of protection of intellectual property rights, the government authorities are now strongly pushing for:
- the reinforcement of the role of the private sector to enhance the sharing of information and the education of the community via
(i) technical training for companies on the management of their IP rights portfolios;
(ii) legal training and provision of technical assistance for the relevant officials on the efficient detection of illegal merchandise and the distinguishing of authentic branded products, and
(iii) legal training for judges on the issue of levels of similarity of trade marks and the assessment of damages.
- the organisation of specialised conferences on trade mark licensing to raise the level of competitiveness in the region.
Simple things to remember
In the UAE, the enforcement of intellectual property rights is taking place, as the above figures confirm. With the growing efficiencies brought about by automation of processes, the officials can now do more in the fight against counterfeits in the country.
Whilst seizures and raids are taking place in the UAE, it was stressed at the EIPA conference, and is important to remember that, in order to be able to enforce your intellectual property rights, you must ensure that such rights are registered in the UAE.
Gowling WLG's Middle East and Africa intellectual property practice offers technical and legal training to companies regarding the protection of their IP rights in the MENA region, and is working closely with the UAE's Customs Authorities and the Departments of Economic Development in each emirate to enforce its clients' IP rights.
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