The Prime Minister of UAE His Royal Highness Shaikh Mohamed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum issued law number 4/2019 for Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) on November 21, 2019, “DIFC IP LAW”.
With the help of this new law, we believe the UAE, and Dubai in particular, has advanced one step more in progressing its regional position as a hub host for e-commerce, e-governance services, knowledge-based economy and strengthen innovation environment. Dubai has been the center point in the Middle East to launch many entities that has later becomes international reputation in e-commerce, mobile applications and online web services providers. The very good examples of “Souq.com” marketplace, acquired by Amazon, and “Maktoob” acquired by Yahoo Inc, “Careem” in process of acquisition by Uber, were all established in the UAE. Because of this unique position, Dubai was the ideal place to hold many routine IP events and meetings for international organisations to promote, discuss and advocate for protection of IP rights and discuss key challenges in this domain within our region.
Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC), or unofficially known as the Wall street of Middle East, was established to be the first district that follows common law system in a civil law country. This area continues to be among the most favorable locations to set up entities of foreign investments, international firms, financial institutes and other western companies that seek presence in the Middle East. As Intellectual property (IP) is one of the key areas of law that is evolving rapidly in UAE, both government and private sectors have begun, in the last few years, paying more attention to applicable laws and regulations that assist them to create, protect, own and enforce their exclusivity on intangible assets.
The majority of IP rights in UAE are regulated by Federal laws that were enacted between 1992 and 2002 and were followed by several amendments. To enhance the protection of IP rights within DIFC and keep the speed with international standards of IP laws, the new DIFC IP law introduces clarity on ambiguous or keys issues that are deregulated in the UAE. In fact, calls were made by professional experts in IP during the past few years to pass a special, developed and enhanced IP piece of regulation in the DIFC that can set out the best practice rules, provide guidance and advanced protection and clarity on IP related inquiries. Hence, this new law does not come as a surprise to those who have been following the advancement of local regulations in the UAE, rather, it reads as a promising step to expand in the protection of IP rights in the region and sets out a good precedent for legislators to regulate, or amend existing laws, on a wider level.
The new DIFC IP law introduces a new era in IP rights protection within our region. It establishes a well-regarded reference to head for a more internationally satisfying IP legal landscape. Whilst we should wait and see the enforcement of this new law before local courts, we anticipate key interesting provisions to be introduced to regulate classical IP rights models, i.e. patents, trade secrets, industrial designs, trademarks, copyrights and trade names. For instance, this law should read in harmony with existing federal laws that are applicable in the UAE and does not determine any new and/or alternative registration systems. The law does not establish or introduce any registration systems for IP rights within DIFC nor will replace or overlap with existing registrations acquired from relevant offices at the UAE Ministry of Economy. On the other hand, it brings an explicit recognition of some new doctrines and principles in the IP field, such as fair use of trademarks and patents, work for hire, parody, classification of economic rights associated with copyrights, factors and advanced measures to determine “well known” trademarks, trade secrets violations and reverse engineering.
Collection Societies is a very interesting topic to see regulated for the first time in an internal law and the new DIFC IP law provides an excellent opportunity for Collection Societies entities to plan and establish its presence in the DIFC. This will help to start the process of enforcement of those delegated copyrights to Collection Societies, bringing this area to a real presence within the UAE. To those who followed this topic, it has been subject to serious debates, discussions and advocacy efforts in the past 10 years, without any material progress. In light of this new law, the Collection Societies are invited to expand their presence and come to the DIFC to use this new legislative platform for its activities in the region. Article 41 of the new law sets out some clarity on performance of Collection Societies and restrictions of some activities, such as applying discriminatory licensing or exploitation to copyrighted work of art. Nevertheless, Collection Societies should know that the DIFC court orders are enforceable within the UAE mainland and, in theory, can be expanded to reach other GCC and/or Arab states, based on applicable treaties and conventions.
Sanctions and penalties in this law are also an important chapter, noting promising ranges of fines that are to be imposed, which seem to be more effective in assisting enforcement actions. With introducing a new Commissioner of IP role, we believe this mechanism will be an indication to see how this new DIFC IP law will be enforced.
A more detailed review for this new law will be released by IP practitioners which will help to add further clarity and explanation to stakeholders, i.e. Intellectual Property rights owners and counsels.