We often encounter cases where entrepreneurs have decided to expand their business outside of their home country in order to venture in the UAE without properly protecting their brand. It is fundamental to have knowledge of the UAE trademark system in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises in the future.
The applicable laws to trademarks in the UAE
Trademarks are protected in the UAE by Federal Law No. (37) of 1992, which was amended by Law No. (19) of 2000 and Law No. (8) of 2002 (the “UAE Trademark Law”). The UAE Trademark Law seeks to provide protection for registered trademarks in the UAE and aims to safeguards the interests of both consumers and businesses.
The definition of a trademark
Pursuant to Article 2 of the UAE Trademark Law, a trademark is defined as “anything which takes a distinctive form whether names, words, signatures, letters, figures drawings, symbols, titles, tax stamps, seals, pictures, inscriptions, advertisements or packs or any other mark or a combination thereof, used or is intended to be used, either in distinguishing goods, products or services, whatever their origin is, or to show that goods or products are owned by the mark owner by virtue of their manufacture, selection or dealing in, or to indicate the performance of a service.”
Signs that cannot be registered as a trademark
As per the UAE Trademark Law, a number of signs cannot be registered as a trademark. Article 3 provides an exhaustive list of these signs. They include for instance:
- Signs without any distinctive character or property or use of common names of goods, products and services or the ordinary drawings or pictures of goods and products;
- Any signs that offend public morals or contrary to the public order;
- Signs which are identical or similar to symbols with absolutely religious character.
The concept of trademarks having an international reputation
According to Article 4 of the UAE Trademark Law, it is not possible to register trademarks of international reputation, i.e. which goes beyond the borders of the original country of the trademark to other countries. There is only one exception: if the original owner of this international trademark wishes to register the said trademark in the UAE.
However, the concept of “trademark of international reputation” is quite unclear as no specific definition is given. Indeed, the criteria which indicate whether a trademark can be considered as having an international reputation are not provided. It is therefore preferable for international trademark owners to follow the registration process in the UAE in order to ensure full protection of their interests.
The registration process of a trademark
The entity responsible for the registration process is the Ministry of Economy. A Trademarks Register records all the trademarks, names, addresses and type of activities of their owners, the descriptions of their goods, products or services, etc. Any person may request a certified true copy of what is recorded in the Trademarks Register after payment of the required fees.
The trademark registration is valid for the seven emirates constituting the UAE. After approval of the registration application by the Ministry of Economy, the application is published in two local Arabic newspapers. Any interested person can file an objection to the registration of the trademark by submitting a written objection to the Ministry of Economy or sending a registered mail or e-mail within 30 days from the date of the last publication, and the Ministry of Economy shall notify the registration applicant with a copy of objection to his application within 15 days from the receipt of such an objection.
To finalize a trademark registration, it can take up to one year and the fees amount to approximately AED 13,000 per class. Upon registration of the trademark, the applicant receives a certificate indicating the details of the trademark registered and its owner.
Counterfeiting and infringement of trademarks can take a toll on a business especially in certain parts of the world. Given the amount of time required to register a trademark in the UAE, it is essential to start the registration process of the trademark as early as possible.
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