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A press release issued by the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts caught my eye with the headline "Designer Courts". It referred to a cooperation agreement between the Dubai Design and Fashion Council and the Dubai Dispute Resolution Authority which was signed on 15 March 2017 "to pave the way for wider adoption of the English language, international law courts system by Dubai’s fast-developing design and fashion sector."
I have not yet found a copy of the agreement but the press release suggests it contains the following provisions:
- "Dubai Design & Fashion Council (DDFC) support opt-in to DIFC Courts through new cooperation agreement with DIFC Dispute Resolution Authority (DRA)
- DIFC Courts Small Claims Tribunal to underpin Dubai’s expanding design and fashion sector through swift, English language dispute resolution
- Agreement lays foundation to explore adding Design IP as a topic for Courts of the Future"
I was particularly interested in the last of those bullet points which refers to "Design IP" because this is the first occasion that I have seen an official document considering the use of the DIFC's English language common law courts as a forum for resolving IP disputes.
Intellectual property is a federal responsibility in the United Arab Emirates and designs are protected by registration under Chapter 3 of Federal Law No. 31 of 2006 Pertaining to the Industrial Regulation and Protection of Patents, Industrial Drawings, and Designs. The DIFC courts already had jurisdiction in breach of confidence and passing off cases under the DIFC Law of Obligations. The agreement between the DDFC and the DRA seems to extend that jurisdiction with the consent of the parties.
I have already discussed the DRA and the Small Claims Tribunal in my articles dated 27 July 2016 and 20 April 2017. According to its website
The press release states:
"The Dubai Design & Fashion Council (DDFC) was established by the Dubai Government to raise the profile of Dubai as a regional and global destination for design. Leading the development of a sustainable industry, DDFC provides in-depth market intelligence and helps elevate local and regional talent, enabling the contribution of the creative industries to the development of the Emirate."Looking through its news and resources pages I am glad to see that the DDFC already gives its members advice and information about intellectual property law.
The press release states:
"As design entrepreneurs start up and compete across the region and beyond, they are reliant on key partnerships for talent, funding and materials. These need to be protected to enable businesses to trade securely and grow. By opting in to DIFC Courts Small Claims Tribunal (SCT) using a standard contract clause, enterprises will benefit from its proven capacity resolve disputes amicably and fast in English, with 85% of cases settled within four weeks."
It is important to stress that the parties must consent to the DIFC courts' jurisdiction. For licences, distribution, franchising, joint venture and other agreements, the following clause is suggested:
"Any dispute, difference, controversy or claim arising out of or in connection with this contract, including (but not limited to) any question regarding its existence, validity, interpretation, performance, discharge and applicable remedies, shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Courts of the Dubai International Financial Centre (“the DIFC Courts”)."For existing disputes, the press release suggests the following:
"Any dispute, difference, controversy or claim arising out of or in connection with [Define Dispute], including (but not limited to) any question regarding the existence, validity, interpretation, performance, discharge and applicable remedies of the underlying contract in dispute, shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Courts of the Dubai International Financial Centre (“the DIFC Courts”)."There appears to be no reason why the court should not hear infringement disputes thought perhaps not revocation and invalidity applications without further federal legislation. That appears to be in the contemplation of the Emirati authorities: "
"Thinking ahead for businesses of the future, DIFC Courts and DDFC will work together to understand the industries needs from a legislative perspective for IP law."An incentive to opt into the Small Claims Tribunal's jurisdiction is that it offers speedy resolution. According to the press release:
"Through the award-winning smart SCT, firms with claims can access a virtual courtroom online from anywhere in the world. With the option of serving notice via instant messaging and social media, business owners can now solve legal problems using their smartphones or laptops with minimal interruption even as they travel."Anyone wishing to discuss this article or design law generally should call me on +44 (0)20 7404 5252 during UK office hours or send me a message through my contact form.