Gulf News, Thursday, Sep 22, 2022 | Safar 26, 1444
New UAE copyright law is one of the toughest in the world
Emirates: Data, content, and intellectual property cannot be
trifled with in the UAE. The laws of the land and the courts are
enforcing what’s right for the rightful owners. Whether that’s in the
physical world or the digital domain.
Such violations are ending. Period.
So, no more ‘inspired’ rip-offs or ‘tweaks’ on others’ intellectual
property (IP) rights. The UAE now has one of the toughest data and
copyright rules in the world, whether that’s protecting the rights
of international brands available here or enforcing the ownership of
What is the law?
The UAE issued a new Federal Law No. 38 of 2021 concerning Copyright
& Neighbouring Rights (New Copyright Law) that replaced the old
Federal Law No. 7 of 2002 (Old Copyright Law), and came into force
in January. The new law covers the ambiguities that may arise given
the changing data landscape and categories of IP. From photographs,
architectural designs, and virtual art to 'work for hire' and the
concept of 'fair use', the new law covers intrinsic details that can
be applied across industries.
While the updated laws to this effect were brought out earlier this
year, data protection was added as another facet of the wider
regulations. “Regarding trademarks, preliminary measures against
infringements were introduced; clearer guidelines for the protection
of well-known trademarks included; and the right to apply for the
cancellation of trademarks based on prior use, as well as bad
faith, codified,” said Yasir Masood, Trademark Lawyer at Dennemeyer
& Associates in Dubai.
According to legal sources, the laws on copyright or data protection should
not be seen in isolation. The UAE authorities have through the recent past
been issuing a steady flow of laws that govern conduct on digital and social
media channels. “There’s been a conscious effort by the UAE to have
‘best-in-class regulations on individuals’ and businesses’ use of online
media,” said a digital media consultant.
“It is against this backdrop that the copyright and data protection side of
things have been given more teeth.”
Dubai court passes landmark judgement
This is where a landmark judgement passed by a Dubai court assumes
significance. BNC Networks is a platform that offers subscribers access to
curated data/content on construction tenders and project activities. The
company found that parts of this content were showing up on a third-party
platform, and it was determined that this could only have happened by a
subscriber passing on those details.
BNC Networks duly approached the local court to intervene. A top official at
the company said that this wasn’t merely a case of copy-pasting an isolated
piece of information.
“A data breach of this nature, if not stopped could have resulted in tens of
millions of dirhams in losses, the collapse of the business, and the loss of
over 100 jobs,” said Avin Gidwani. “The data we offer has been collected
over 18 years of research. In addition to the cost of researchers, millions
of dirhams have been invested in developing software and systems to support
our research processes.
“The verdict was passed by the Dubai Court of First Instance and the date
for appeal has passed without an appeal by the defendants. We are now in the
execution phase. They can’t re-appeal.”
Old rules, new rules
While the verdict found the other portal to have violated BNC Network’s
rights, there are other aspects of the case that make it quite interesting.
The initial filing of the claim was done last year after BNC confirmed that
data violations were indeed happening and where it was turning up. “The BNC
case was filed during the existence of the old law on copyright, and also
heard its decision under the scope of the old law,” said Raka Roy, Partner
at Galadari Advocates and Legal Consultants, which represented BNC.
“However, during the pendency of the case, the new (UAE law) was issued.”
This came into effect from January 2 this year, and incidentally, just days
after the UAE formally signed up for the Madrid Protocol, which deals with
the international registration of trademarks.
That may be, but what the law does provide in the interim is a sense of
safeguarding of rights for the UAE’s growing base of digital-only
businesses. “Data protection and online IP protection in the online domain
are still new fields, and the UAE has not waited to come up with its own
versions of what constitutes right and wrong,” said a lawyer. “This is as
much about ensuring fair practice as offering a secure environment for
digital businesses on their IPs.”
Extend the IP scope
If symbols and names were what brands were focussed on protecting in the
physical world, it now extends to much more in the virtual. This is why the
UAE laws in their revised version expand the scope of IP protection to 3D
holograms – and even colors and smells.
“The new UAE trademark law has added some non-traditional forms of
trademarks to its definition of what can be protected, such as 3D
trademarks, colors and smells,” said Masood. “As with the definition in the
old law, the mentioned trademark types are not exhaustive, but rather a list
of examples. This leaves room for other types not included by adding that
the law also covers ‘any other mark’ used to distinguish goods or services.
“At most, this change in the new law can therefore function as confirmation
that the listed non-traditional trademarks can indeed be registered in the
UAE. This is in line with the laws of major jurisdictions worldwide and part
of a greater harmonization of IP laws globally.”
For businesses operating in the UAE, it’s the only detail that matters.
Their proprietary rights will be taken care of.