Last week, INTA held its first-ever conference in the Middle East! Entitled Hot Trademark Topics in the MEASA Region, the event attracted over 250 attendees to Dubai from more than 50 countries, signaling to the Association that the United Arab Emirates has become a major international player in the IP world.
The Undersecretary of the Ministry of Economy for the UAE, His Excellency Engineer Mohammed Ahmed Bin Abdul Aziz Al Shehhi, opened the conference with an excellent keynote address. Conference Co-Chairs Charles Sha’ban (Abu-Ghazaleh Intellectual Property, Jordan) and Hoda Barakat (Hoda Barakat Legal Consultancy, UAE) created a program that also included several government officials from the Dubai Economic Council, Dubai Customs and the Qatari Ministry of Business and Trade. INTA leadership took the opportunity to host several meetings with government officials from the region, that were speaking and in attendance at the conference.
The steadily growing economic activity in the Middle East has led to an increased need for trademark protection as well as strategies to guard against infringement and the counterfeiting of goods. Panel discussions focused on topics that provided attendees deeper insight into both the opportunities and challenges of doing business in the region. And Dubai provided a fantastic backdrop for these discussions.
The region serves as a trading hub between the European Union and China and has become a prime target for counterfeiting. The trademark laws in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates are, for the most part, strong, but enforcement in the Emirates has proven difficult. For instance, the law requires that no counterfeit product be on display, but street hawkers still clandestinely offer counterfeit goods to the tourists walking through the city’s many souks. The government has stepped in with a number of creative campaigns to combat the problem. Many of Dubai’s mosques now spread the message “Counterfeiting is not Halal” to clearly communicate disapproval of counterfeiting among the city’s Muslim community. The Ministry of Economy has also collaborated with the creators of FREEJ, a highly popular Emirati animated series, to produce vignettes in which the series’ central four characters deal with the consequences of choosing between counterfeit and genuine goods.
Local government officials who spoke at the conference also discussed issues facing customs officials—in particular, a controversial anti-commercial fraud bill, which introduces a provision that gives customs authorities the capability to re-export counterfeit goods—an act that violates TRIPS Agreement obligations. Because of environmental concerns and the loss of a major landfill in Dubai, customs officials do not currently have the ability to properly dispose of the seized counterfeit goods. The officials forecasted that this provision would not make it into the final law and were open to collaborating with brand owners on ways that they could safely remove these goods from the international stream of commerce.
Panel on International Organizations & Best Practices at the First Intellectual Property Forum: Toward Fair and Safe Trade conference:
From left to right: Ms. Sara Holder, Partner, Rouse & Co.; Mr. Jack Chang, Chairman, Quality Brands Protection Committee; Mr. John Anderson, Chairman, Global Anticounterfeiting Committee; Ms. Toe Su Aung, President, International Trademark Association; Mrs. Sophie Molle, IPM Project Manager, World Customs Organization and (out of view) Mr. Takashi Unno, Representative of Middle East of International Intellectual Property Protection Forum in Japan
Later in the week, The Brand Protection Group, a brand owner association and INTA member, hosted a separate event in collaboration with the Dubai Economic Council entitled the “First Intellectual Property Forum: Toward Fair and Safe Trade”. Many of the speakers at this forum had also participated in INTA’s conference and praised our Association for hosting a conference in Dubai. Toe Su Aung was invited to give remarks and to speak on a panel on International Organizations & Best Practices, which marked her last formal appearance as INTA President.
INTA will continue to build on this momentum and promote its presence in the region. We look forward to future collaboration with both brand owners and government officials in Dubai and the Middle East. For more information about INTA activities in the Middle East, contact Maysa Razavi at email@example.com.