Wednesday, 7 June 2017

How will the Blockade of Qatar affect IP Law in the GCC Countries?

Jane Lambert

Severing diplomatic relations, expelling a state's nationals, closing a land border and airspace are steps that fall only a little way short of war. It is remarkable that those steps have been taken by two of the parties to the Gulf Cooperation Council ("the GCC") against a third since the GCC had achieved a high degree of political and economic integration.

One aspect of that integration is the GCC patent which is actually a unitary patent for the member states of the GCC - something that the member states of the European Union have yet to achieve. GCC patents are issued by the GCC Patent Office which I discussed in Patents: Gulf Cooperation Council on 21 Jan 2011. A subtitled video on YouTube explains how the Office works.  According to its website, the GCC Patent Office has granted 5,721 patents as of today. That may not be a huge number when compared to the output of the Chinese, Japanese, US, Korean or European intellectual property offices, but the GCC Patent Office's business would have been expected to grow as all the GCC countries were developing industries and technologies for when the oil runs out.  As the Office is located in Saudi Arabia, it is hard to see how Qatar can continue to participate in it unless the order expelling Qatari nationals from Saudi Arabia is rescinded.

Other types of IP law will be less affected. Trade mark law had been harmonized in the GCC states by a GCC Trade Marks Law but there was no such thing as a GCC trade mark (see Saba Al Sultani and another GCC Trademark Law Coming Soon Sept 2014 WIPO Magazine).  Similarly, there was no GCC system of design registration and no single GCC copyright.

It is to be hoped that the differences between the Qatari government and the governments of its neighbours can be resolved and that the blockade can be lifted soon, but, even if it is, the actions taken by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates may well have done lasting damage to the GCC. It will not be lost even upon the states that participated in the blockade that the GCC is not a union of states of equal size. Saudi Arabia has a population of 33 million compared to Bahrain's 1.4 million, Kuwait's 4.3 million, Oman's 4.6 million, Qatar's 2.4 million and even the UAE's 5.8 million. The pressure that has been exerted upon Qatar on this occasion could easily be brought to bear on any of the other states in a future dispute.

Consequently, any business exporting to, importing from, investing, or seeking investment in any of the GCC states would be wise to plan for a future that may not include the GCC in its current form. The IP issues that would arise in such a future would be very similar to those that have sprung up in the UK as a result of Brexit. Exporters to, and investors in, any of the GCC states should ensure that their brands, technology and other intellectual assets are protected by national as well as GCC law. Their contracts should take account of the possibility of further blockades and insert effective force majeure provisions. Wherever possible contracts should be construed and enforced in accordance with English law. Where that is not possible, the laws of the Abu Dhabi Global Market, Dubai International Financial Centre or the Qatar Financial Centre which are modelled on English law and enforced by English speaking, common law courts should be considered.

Should any reader wish to discuss this article or IP law in the Gulf in general he or she should call me during British office hours on +44 (0)20 7404 5252 or send me a message through my contact form.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Dubai Forum for the Settlement of Computer Supply Disputes

Jane Lambert

A consultation on adding a new Part 56 to the Rules of the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts will close at 17:00 Dubai time tomorrow. The new rules would establish a new specialist division of the DIFC Courts to be known as the Technology and Construction Division ("TCD").

The TCD would resolve TCD claims which will include
"claims relating to the design, supply and/or installation of computers, computer software and related network systems."
Such claims may become more frequent as the Dubai International Financial Centre aspires to develop a financial technology industry (see the press release Dubai International Financial Centre Calls on Applicants for FinTech Hive at DIFC 16 April 2017).

The TCD appears to have been modelled on the Technology and Construction Court ("TCC") of England and Wales and the proposed Part 56 incorporated some of the provisions of Part 60 of the Civil Procedure Rules and the Part 60 Practice Direction. If the proposal is approved the TCD would handle much the same business as the TCC which includes all kinds of business and engineering disputes and challenges to arbitrators' decisions as well as computer supply disputes.

Should anyone wish to discuss this article or the computer supply disputes generally, he or she should call me on +44 (0)20 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

DIFC Small Claims Tribunal

Standard YouTube Licence

Jane Lambert

The Dubai International Financial Centre ("DIFC") has its own legislation modelled on United Kingdom statutes or codifications of principles of English common law. Those laws are administered by special English speaking courts known as the DIFC Courts. I discussed the jurisdiction in DIFC Courts 7 Jan 2011 JD Supra.

The DIFC courts consist of a Court of Appeal, Court of First Instance and a Small Claims Tribunal ("SCT"). The jurisdiction of the SCT has been extended by the DIFC Courts Rules of Court Order No. 1 of 2015 In Respect of the Jurisdiction of the Small Claims Tribunal of the DIFC Courts. Part 53.2 of the Rules of the DIFC Courts ("RDC") provides that:
"The SCT will hear and determine claims within the jurisdiction of the DIFC Courts:
(1) where the amount of the claim or the value of the subject matter of the claim does not exceed AED 500,000 or;
(2) where the claim relates to the employment or former employment of a party; and
all parties elect in writing that it be heard by the SCT (there is no value limit for the SCT’s elective jurisdiction in the context of employment claims); or
(3) which do not fall within the provisions of sub-paragraphs (1) or (2) above, but in respect of which:
(a) the amount of the claim or the value of the subject matter of the claim does not exceed AED 1,000,000; and
(b) all parties to the claim elect in writing that it be heard by the SCT, and such election is made in the underlying contract (if any) or subsequent to execution of that contract; or
(4) such other claims as may be ordered or directed by the Chief Justice to be heard by the SCT from time to time."
Although it is called a small claims court, the SCT's financial limits are quite high. There are approximately AED 4.71 to the pound at current rates of exchange so AED 500,000 equates to £106,180.50 and AED 1 million to £212,383.89.

The procedure is set out in Part 53 of the RDC which appears to have been modelled on Part 27 of the English Civil Procedure Rules. There is also a useful guide to the procedure entitled Small Claims Tribunal. Unless the judge orders otherwise neither party can be legally represented and recoverable costs are limited to such part of the issue fees as the court considers reasonable unless a party has acted unreasonably.

Most cases before the SMT are resolved very quickly. A defendant has only 7 days in which to file a defence and a consultation in which the court seeks to resolve the dispute without a trial is ordered to take place as soon as possible thereafter. Many cases are settled at the consultation which enables the SCT to resolve most disputes within a month of the issue of the claim form. The SCT has power to grant any final order that could have been granted by the Court of First Instance including a final injunction. Judgments of the SCT can be found on the DIFC Courts website,

Should anyone wish to discuss this article or the DIFC courts generally, he or she should call me on +44 (0)20 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Dubai Dispute Resolution Authority

By art 3 (3) (c) of a decree dated 21 May 2014 (Law No. (7) of 2014 Amending Law No. (9) of 2004 Concerning the Dubai International Financial Centre) the Ruler of Dubai established the Dubai Dispute Resolution Authority, Art 8 (1) of the Law provides that the Authority shall be comprised of the DIFC Courts, the DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Centre and any other tribunals or ancillary bodies established in accordance with Article 8(5)(b) of that Law. At present, those ancillary bodies include the Academy of Law 
which regulates as well as educates DIFC Court practitioners and the Wills and Probate Registry for non-Muslims with assets in Dubai.

The Authority's mission is to be "a platform for delivering legal excellence in the Middle East and the gateway to a suite of services available to businesses operating in Dubai and beyond."  In a white paper distributed by The Lawyer on the 18 July 2016, James Foster and Robyn Waller of Gowling WLG list 15 facts about the Authority to consider when drafting an international contract. These include:
  • the freedom for parties to choose the governing law of the contract;
  • the absence of a requirement that any of the parties has a connection with Dubai;
  • the prestige and experience of its judges; and
  • the DIFC Courts' propensity for innovation.
On the last two points, a press release from the Courts dated 18 May 2016 announced that Sir David Steel had succeeded Sir John Chadwick as Deputy Chief Justice of the DIFC Courts and that Sir Jeremy Cooke had joined the bench and an article in the Emirates Insider announced that the DIFC Courts will open a virtual court in September (see DIFC Courts to launch GCC's first 'virtual court' 23 July 2016 Emirates Insider). The court, which will hear claims of up to AED 1 million (£207,289) using VoIP technology which will enable small and medium enterprises to recover debts and employees compensation for wrongful dismissal without returning to Dubai.  

It should be remembered that the DIFC has its own law of confidence (see DIFC Law of Confidence 27 Jan 2011) and action for passing off (see The DIFC Law of Passing off 7 April 2011). There does not seem to be any reason why this new online court should not entertain trade secrets, franchising and licensing disputes. Practitioners from all jurisdictions can qualify to practise in Dubai but as the rules and practice are modelled on the Civil Procedure Rules and so many of the judges are from London members of the English bar are particularly well placed to do so.

Anyone wish to discuss this article or this topic generally should call +44 (0)20 7404 5252 during office hours or use my contact form.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016


This morning I received comments to two of my articles which began with the words:
"I am a private loan lender which have all take to be a genuine lender i give out the best loan to my client at a very convenient rate" (sic).
In each case the comment was accompanied by an application form for a loan.  Not only does that sentence offend English grammar it also offends me. This blog is intended to be a source of information and commentary on the intellectual property laws of the GCC countries and not a billboard for services of various kinds.

The company that enables me to publish this blog allows me to scrutinize each and every comment before it appears and gives me the choice of publishing the comment, deleting it or marking it as spam.  I marked the two loan application comments as spam and they will never appear on this blog as long as it subsists.

Sometimes an advertisement is disguised in elaborate flattery for the article or publication with a hypertext link to the service provider. I wasn't born yesterday and I am quite astute to that approach too. Such comments are also marked as spam.

The only commentary that I shall allow are those that relate to the subject matter of the article.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Fajer Ahmed's Law Column

National Assembly of Kuwait
Author: xiquinhosilva
Source Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence

Serendipity means a "fortunate happenstance" or "pleasant surprise". The word was coined by Horace Walpole who explained an unexpected discovery he had made by reference to a Persian fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip in which the princes were “always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of”.  A practical example of serendipity occurred this morning when I was referred to an article in the Kuwait Times about a ballet teacher in Kuwait by the Royal Academy of Dance (see Jane Lambert Dance in the Gulf 10 June 2016 Terpsichore).

I discovered that the Kuwait Times has a legal column in English called Legalese. The columnist is called "Attorney Fajer Ahmed".  His columns seems to cover everything from What happens if you’re fired by telephone? which was published on 5 June 2016 to Understanding Kuwait's Laws on 15 Nov 2015. Articles that my readers might find particularly interesting include The Law and Franchises in Kuwait (28 Feb 2016), How to start a Business in Kuwait 31 Jan 2016) and Protecting your Intellectual Property (17 Jan 2016).

Fajer also contributes to a an online publication called 248AM which also has a legal column. Interesting articles on that site include Kuwait Law: How a Law becomes a Law 2 Nov 2015 and Kuwait Law: SMEs and Small Businesses in Kuwait 25 Nov 2013. 

I also learned from 248AM that Kuwait is building a cultural centre that will include a stage for opera, ballet and other performing arts (see Sneak Peak: Kuwait Cultural Centre 5 May 2014 and A Photographic Journey inside Qasr Al Salam 9 Apr 2014). Since copyright protects librettos, musical scores, choreographic notation, stage backdrops and sometimes costumes and props and as actors, dancers, singers and musicians have the right to object to filming, taping or broadcasting of their performances it is perhaps time to revisit Kuwait copyright and related rights which I last discussed in Intellectual Property Law in Kuwait on 14 July 2011.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

When an Abu Dhabi Royal sues in England: Sheikh Tahnoon Bin Saeed Bin Shakhboot Al Nehayan v Kent

Royal Courts of Justice
Author Anthony M
Source Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence

In the United Kingdom, as in many other countries, the unsuccessful party in civil litigation usually has to contribute substantially to the solicitors and counsel's fees of the successful party. The amount that the unsuccessful party has to pay is known as "costs" in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and "expenses" in Scotland. If there is serious doubt as to whether a claimant could or would pay such costs or expenses the courts if those jurisdictions have power to require him or her to give security (or in Scotland caution) for the costs. That typically takes the form of a deposit of money into an interest bearing account managed by the court but it could be a bank guarantee, insurance bond, escrow fund or other arrangement.

In England and Wales the power to order security for costs is governed by Section II of Part 25 of the Civil Procedure Rules. CPR 25.13 enables the court to make an order for security for costs if:
"(a) it is satisfied, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, that it is just to make such an order; and
(b) (i) one or more of the conditions in paragraph (2) applies, or
(ii) an enactment permits the court to require security for costs."
This is a very powerful weapon for defendants as it can stop a claim in its tracks.  The usual reason for an order is that:
"the claimant is a company or other body (whether incorporated inside or outside Great Britain) and there is reason to believe that it will be unable to pay the defendant’s costs if ordered to do so."
However, there are other grounds one of which is that the claimant is:
"(i) resident out of the jurisdiction; but
(ii) not resident in a Brussels Contracting State, a State bound by the Lugano Convention, a State bound by the 2005 Hague Convention or a Regulation State, as defined in section 1(3) of the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982."
It was on that ground that Mrs Justice Nicola Davies expressed willingness in  Sheikh Tahnoon Bin Saeed Bin Shakhboot Al Nehayan v Kent [2016] EWHC 623 (QB) (21 March 2016) to make a security for costs order (albeit limited in scope) against the sixth in line to the throne of Abu Dhabi who is a very wealthy man.

In this action the claimant claimed £2 million under an agreement with the defendant to invest in an hotel business. His claim form was issued on 8 July 2013 and a request was made for interim security on 10 Jan 2014. That was not provided to the defendant's satisfaction so he applied on 28 July 2015 for security in the sum of £1 million payable as follows:
"i) £400,000 within 35 days of the date of the court's order;
ii) £250,000 by no later than 35 days after the hearing of the restored CMC;
iii) £350,000 by no later than 2 days before the date fixed for the trial in the action."
The defendant's application notice provided for the claim to be struck out and judgment to be given to the defendant if such security was not given.

The defendant submitted that:
  1. He would face serious and substantial difficulties in seeking to enforce any costs award in his favour against the claimant having regard to the claimant's status as a senior member of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi and for position generally with respect to the enforceability in the UAE of judgments of the court of England and Wales.
  2. If the court were to ignore the standing of the claimant and concerns about the judicial system in the UAE, expert evidence before the court demonstrated that a costs order from the courts in England and Wales would not be enforced by the courts in the UAE.
In support of his first submission, the defendant relied on a report on the UAE by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers. The rapporteur found that:
"The justice system in the UAE has developed into an elaborate and complex court system in a relatively short time frame. Despite commendable progress and achievements the Special Rapporteur is concerned that the challenges and shortcomings she has identified are serious and negatively affect the delivery of justice, the enjoyment of human rights and the public's confidence in the judiciary. …"
 She found at para [28] of her report that:
"The federal system of the United Arab Emirates is complex and can be difficult to understand, in particular for non nationals, who constitute the majority of the population. During a visit, the Special Rapporteur was told that because of the complex superposition of federal and local laws, it is sometimes difficult for the public to know where the boundaries lie between the federal and local justice systems. There also appears to be a lack of consistency between the applications of federal laws between the Emirates. The Special Rapporteur is concerned about reports that it is difficult for people to know which legal provisions are applicable to them depending on where they are in the Federation, and that laws are sometimes applied in an arbitrary manner, that creates ambiguity and mistrust with both law enforcement authorities and the justice system."
There were also concerns about the independence of the judiciary, the absence of a formal distinction between the judiciary and the executive and particularly that the attorney-general was one of the 7 members of the federal supreme court and 3 others represented the executive.

In support of his second submission, the defendant relied on the evidence of a senior UAE lawyer  that it would be extremely difficulty and expensive to enforce a costs order against the claimant in the UAE.

At para [29] of her judgment, Mrs Justice Nicola Davies found no objectively justified grounds upon which to conclude that this defendant was unlikely to successfully obtain enforcement of a costs judgment against the claimant in the civil or commercial courts of the UAE but she did accept at [30] that the defendant would be likely to have to embark upon a legal process which could be lengthy and thus costly in order to attempt to obtain enforcement of a costs order. She formed the view that those difficulties would be better protected by a security for costs order tailored to the additional costs that the defendant would incur in enforcing a costs order. She made it clear that such an order would be limited in its amount and would not preclude this claimant from pursuing his claim.

As the defendant's application did not include such a claim and as no quantification had been provided, Her Ladyship left it to the parties to state in writing whether they could agree terms and to return for a second hearing if they could not.

An order of the kind proposed by the judge is unusual and would not have been made if the claimant had substantial assets in the United Kingdom. In expressing willingness to make it, she impliedly accepted at least some of the criticisms that had been made of the UAE and Abu Dhabi legal systems by the defendant. No doubt that is one of the reasons why the authorities in Dubai and Abu Dhabi have established special common law jurisdictions in their financial districts (see Jane Lambert Abu Dhabi Global Market - Yet Another Common Law Enclave in the Gulf 22 Feb 2016).

Should anyone wish to discuss this case or any of the issues raised in it he or she should call me on +44 (0)207 404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form. I should like to thank Mr Abdul Hafeezi of Freeman Harris for bringing this case to my attention.