By Courtney Trenwith
A unified trademark law is due to be implemented early next year, a UAE government official confirmed
Fines for importing fake goods into GCC countries will increase to the equivalent of AED1m ($272.261m) from next year under a new GCC-wide trademark law.
Director of the Trademarks Department at the UAE Ministry of Economy, Fateema Al Hosani, told Arabian Business the legislation was due to come into effect in early 2014 and would help combat the multi-billion dollar counterfeit industry.
With more than 13m containers passing through Jebel Ali Port each year, mostly from east to west, Dubai in particular is a major thoroughfare for fake goods including clothes, pharmaceuticals, electronics, watches and handbags, although it is not recognised as a significant manufacturer of such items.
Presently Dubai law allows for fines of up to AED10,000 for importing fake goods.
But there is no federal legislation governing customs in the UAE, with each of the seven emirates creating their own regulations.
Al Hosani said the new GCC law would unify not only the UAE procedures and penalties but those for all the six Gulf Cooperation Council member countries – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE.
It also will provide a specific article specifying customs authorities’ role and powers in intercepting counterfeit goods.
Al Hosani said while businesses were able to provide customs authorities with information about suspected fake goods now, it was not written in legislation.
“If I am the trademark owner and there is some imported counterfeit products, [under the GCC law, I will be able to] stop them,” Al Hosani said.
“I [can] go direct to the customs department and submit one application to stop the product from entering the country.”
She said the penalty for importing fake goods was raised to reflect the seriousness of the crime.
“[AED10,000] is not really a deterrent in the required way but after discussions, the penalty has been increased,” she told a recent intellectual property forum.
“This is one of the most common crimes.”
Various international reports have estimated global counterfeit trade to be worth $8bn, with the European Union considers Dubai to be its second largest “supplier” of counterfeit products behind China, based on the emirate being the last port of call for the illegal cargo.
Brand Owners’ Protection Group chairman Omar Shteiwi said while the goods were not manufactured in Dubai, the emirate had a responsibility to identify and intercept such items when they travelled through its ports.
“Part of the problem is [that Dubai needs] more screening and part of it is [the need for stronger] public-private partnerships,” Shteiwi told Arabian Business.
“[Dubai needs to] implement a different methodology of intelligence, more cooperation among other customs authorities and [harsher] penalties on counterfeiters. Everything, we need to do more.”
He said despite the new law allowing for larger penalties, the cost of legal action by brand owners was often more than the damage caused by the copycat goods.For all the latest retail news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.