INTA Leadership Discuss IP and New Media at the Dubai Expo 2020

Published: March 16, 2022

Munir Suboh

Munir Suboh BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates LLP Dubai, United Arab Emirates Co-Chair, INTA Middle East Global Advisory Council

INTA and Emirates Intellectual Property Association (EIPA) leadership emphasized the necessity to cooperate and enhance the intellectual property (IP) landscape in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in remarks given during panel discussions held during Expo 2020 in Dubai, UAE, on February 28, 2022.

Led by Munir Suboh (BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates LLP, UAE) and Dima Naber (The CWB Group SAL Holding, Jordan), co-chairs of INTA’s Middle East Global Advisory Council (MEGAC), the exchanges touched upon the impact of IP on new media and technology, such as the metaverse, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and virtual reality gaming. Attachés representing various jurisdictions also provided updates on various types of IP legislation and other developments in the UAE.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Suboh pointed to the growth in the value of new media models, including statistics showing the jump in value of NFTs transactions from US $1.25 billion in the first and second quarters of 2021 to nearly US $11 billion in the third and fourth quarters of last year, according to statistics published by Reuters.

Sara Maroun (MBC Group, UAE) gave valuable comments based on her in-house experience at MBC Group, a leading media group in the Middle East and North Africa. She said that the new media spectrum is “a reality that all media companies must embrace, plan for, and invest in.” In addition, “Gaming developments and projects have always been in our business, and ensuring that users comply with IP rights remains a challenge to monitor,” she said.

From her strategic role at the Embassy of France in the UAE, Jinane Kabbara, regional counselor for IP, noted that most French companies and IP owners look for an update and proper understanding of resolutions as issued in the region so they can understand the legislative platforms, such as the claiming rights developed by artificial intelligence, and then plan for their future business in this domain.

Bassel El Turk (Rouse, UAE) gave many interesting comments on IP protection in new media forms and agreed that practitioners and IP owners currently have many unanswered questions on their rights. He commented that when the new set of IP laws in the UAE were drafted and discussed in 2021, no one expected that IP issues resulting from the metaverse, gaming, and NFTs would be as important as they appeared at the end of 2021.

In concluding the first panel discussion, Mr. Suboh suggested that stakeholders across regions will need to learn and share experiences to address IP rights issues resulting from new media. “We may potentially call for a new international convention, similar to TRIPS [the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement], which will specifically govern and give some acceptable reference to all member states of WIPO [the World Intellectual Property Organization] to regulate their IP digital assets in the metaverse, NFTs, and the gaming field,” he said.

Between the panel discussions, INTA Board Member Motasem Abu-Ghazaleh (Abu-Ghazaleh Intellectual Property (AGIP), UAE) briefed participants on blockchain and IP. He shared INTA’s initiatives in highlighting blockchain technologies for IP in light of the “WIPO Blockchain Whitepaper for IP ecosystems” and how this revolutionary technology will likely affect IP business operations and the trademark registration process in the future.

In the second panel, Ms. Naber raised questions to the speakers about the international harmonization of IP protection during the digital era and issues related to nontraditional marks.

Peter Mehravari, U.S. IP attaché for the Middle East and North Africa region, who is based in Abu Dhabi (UAE), confirmed that the U.S. government will continue to support international efforts to bring IP protection in its best form to IP owners globally. He said that U.S. companies rely on IP attachés in different regions to build bridges with decision makers and to advocate with diplomacy for best practices and the transmission of know-how in these regions. He also noted that the goal of enhancing local IP policies to support IP protection for all countries continues to be a priority, especially in the digital era, which has increased the challenge for many countries.

Mark Devaney (Clyde & Co., UAE) commented on the UAE’s recent accession to the Madrid System and how this should boost the ability of local brand owners to protect their rights by using an accessible method to cover more than 100 countries globally. He confirmed that the UAE has also taken steps in its new law to provide for a broader interpretation of trademarks, specifically defining the nontraditional marks for which brand owners should be able to secure protection.

Yamish Yakoob, UK IP attaché for the Gulf Cooperation Council at the British Embassy in Saudi Arabia, advised on his role and how he works with local entities, such as the Saudi Intellectual Property Authority, to share his knowledge about the UKIPO and this one-stop-shop IP governmental body.

Panelists agreed that having IP attachés representing different industrial countries in the region will boost the transmission of knowledge and experience in IP governmental services and make it more accessible to key decision makers in the region. They concurred that the harmonization of national IP systems can only be accomplished through greater international collaboration and by ensuring that all stakeholders appreciate the true value and importance of IP rights. The event was also attended by delegates from the Japanese IP attaché at the Japan External Trade Office.

The event was concluded with closing remarks from Hoda Barakat (Hoda Barakat Legal Consultancy, UAE) and Mr. Suboh. According to Ms. Barakat, “While we are all members in different IP organizations, the IP community needs to always work together as we have a common goal of enhancing IP protection/enforcement and awareness, promoting innovation and sharing best practice in our region. This is more so now than ever before with all the new challenges posed by the new technologies discussed earlier today at the INTA-EIPA event.”

The 182-day Expo began October 1, 2021 and will run through March 31, 2022. The global event was originally scheduled to take place in Dubai from October 2020 to April 2021, but it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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