With its FinTech Hive and Courts of the Future initiative, the Dubai International Financial Centre ("the DIFC") is acquiring intellectual assets in financial, legal and other technologies that require legal protection. Of course, Gulf Cooperation Council patents and Emirati copyrights, trade marks and other intellectual property rights apply as much to the DIFC as they do to any other part of Dubai but those rights have been enforced up to now by the Arabic speaking civil law courts and not by the English speaking. common law DIFC courts. The only intellectual property matters that fell within the jurisdiction of those courts were those relating to breaches of confidence and passing off.
By an enactment notice (the equivalent on a commencement order) dated 14 Nov 2019, a new intellectual property law, known as Intellectual Property Law DIFC Law No 4 of 2019. came into force on 21 Nov 2019. The new law consists of 68 articles arranged in 7 Parts plus 3 schedules. Part 1 (arts 1 to 6) deals with general matters, Part 2 (arts 7 to 16) with patents, utility certificates, industrial drawings and designs, Part 3 (arts 17 to 42) with copyright, Part 4 (arts 43 to 51) with trade marks and trade names, Part 5 (arts 52 to 55) with trade secrets, Part 6 (arts 56 to 65) with a new Commissioner of Intellectual Property; and Part 7 (arts 66 to 68) with remedies and sanctions. Schedule 1 is concerned with interpretation, Schedule 2 with the laws that have been taken into consideration when drafting this legislation and Schedule 3 with fines for various infringements.
The law was enacted after a consultation which began in March and ended on 17 April 2019. The consultation document was accompanied by a draft of the proposed law and a response form. Para10 of the consultation document noted:
"Intellectual property rights are increasingly becoming the most important intangible assets of any business. In addition, technology and innovation are the driver for investment in today’s business. In DIFC, the growing interest in technology and innovation in the financial sector, has translated into the recent establishment of the first FinTech related accelerator - FinTech Hive."Para 12 added that the purpose of the new law was to enable the DIFC to be a safe environment for creativity and innovation and to enable DIFC entities to protect their intellectual property rights within the DIFC. Para 17 adds that the proposed law recognizes the UAE registered trade marks, patents, utility certificates and industrial designs and drawings and does not require separate registration in the DIFC. It is aligned with the UAE federal laws relating to IP, and focuses only on the enforcement of IP rights in the DIFC.
Art 3 (1) of the Law provides that the enactment applies in the jurisdiction of the DIFC. By virtue of art 3 (2), it applies to any person who owns or claims ownership, uses or attempts to use, or who seeks to enforce or protect an intellectual property right, or any part thereof, in the DIFC. However, art 3 (3) makes clear that law applies to any person who owns or claims ownership, uses or attempts to use, or who seeks to enforce or protect an intellectual property right, or any part thereof, in the DIFC. Art 7 recognizes any patent or utility certificate that is valid under federal IP law Similarly, art 14 recognizes as valid any drawing or industrial design that is valid in the UAE, Correspondingly, art 43 recognizes federal trade marks. Slightly different arrangements are made for copyrights and related rights. Art 17 provides:
"Notwithstanding Article 19, a Work recognised as subject to copyright protection under the Federal Copyright Law is recognised as valid for purposes of this Law and is protected and enforceable in the DIFC"However, art 18 and subsequent provisions appear to create an independent DFIC copyright. Curiously, Part 5 seems to establish a DIFC trade secrets law without any reference to art 37 of the Law of Obligations which covers the obligations of confidence. Nor is there ant reference to art 38 of that Law which provides for passing off.
The most interesting provisions of the new Law relate to the Commissioner of Intellectual Property, Art 5 provides that the Law and any legislation made for the purpose of that Law shall be administered by the Commissioner. He or she has very extensive powers under art 59:
"(1) The Commissioner of Intellectual Property has such powers, duties and functions as conferred on him under this Law and any Regulation made under this Law and shall exercise such powers and perform such functions in pursuit of the objectives of this Law and the Regulations.The Commissioner shall have wide powers under art 66 to deter or punish infringements of rights subsisting under this legislation. These powers shall be without prejudice to the power of the DIFC courts to grant injunctions and award damages pursuant to art 67 (1) of the new law There is a right of appeal to the DIFC courts from decisions of the Commissioner under art 68 (1).
(2) In performing his functions and exercising his powers, the Commissioner of Intellectual Property shall pursue the following objectives:
(a) to promote greater awareness and public understanding of intellectual property and the requirements of this Law and the Regulations in the DIFC, and(3) Without limiting the generality of Article 59(1), such powers and functions of the Commissioner of Intellectual Property shall include:
(b) to promote good practices and observance of the requirements of this Law and the Regulations by the registered entities in the DIFC.
(a) receiving and deciding on all complaints or disputes filed in connection with the Law in the DIFC, and imposing fines for non-compliance with this Law and any related Regulations;(4) The Commissioner of Intellectual Property has power to do whatever he deems necessary, for or in connection with, or reasonably incidental to, the performance of his functions.
(b) coordinating with the UAE Federal and Local authorities on facilitating and promoting protection of intellectual property rights for DIFC persons;
(c) preparing or causing to be prepared in a timely and efficient manner;
(i) draft Regulations;(d) submitting such draft Regulations, draft standards, and draft codes of practice to the DIFCA Board of Directors for approval and advising it of any guidance that is issued;
(ii) draft standards or codes of practice; and
(iii) guidance; reasonably required to enable him to perform his statutory functions;
(e) making recommendations to the DIFCA Board with respect to fees, procedures and executive regulations for the Commissioner of Intellectual Property, which the DIFCA Board may promulgate;
(f) employing and appointing persons on such terms as he considers appropriate to assist him in the exercise of his powers and performance of his functions;
(g) where he considers it appropriate to do so, delegating any of his functions and powers; as may more efficiently and effectively be performed by officers and employees of the Commissioner of Intellectual Property, and with the approval of the DIFCA Board of Directors, either generally or in relation to any particular matter, to any other person.
(h) prescribing forms to be used for any of the purposes of this Law or any legislation administered by the Commissioner of Intellectual Property;
(i) acquiring, holding and disposing of property of any description;
(j) making contracts and other agreements;
(k) with the prior consent of the President and Board of Directors of the DIFCA, borrowing monies and providing security for such borrowings;
(l) exercising and performing such other powers and functions as may be delegated to the Commissioner of Intellectual Property by the Board of Directors of the DIFCA pursuant to the provisions of this Law, and
(m) assisting in complying with the United Arab Emirates’ obligations under any international treaty or other agreement to which the United Arab Emirates is a party through the exercise of his powers and functions.
(5) In exercising his powers and performing his functions, the Commissioner of Intellectual Property shall act in an independent matter."
Over the next few months, I shall study in detail the IP provisions relating to patents, designs, trade marks and other IP rights. In the meantime, anyone wishing to discuss this enactment or IP law in the United Arab Emirates generally should call me on +44 (0)20 5404 5252 or send me a message through my contact form