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to see how Qatar can continue to participate in it unless the order expelling Qatari nationals from Saudi Arabia is rescinded.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.