The Government should do its own investigating into counterfeiting rather than simply reacting to complaints, a number of large companies concerned about their trademarks said yesterday. Their comments came after the UAE Ministry of Economy and the Brand Owners Protection Group (BPG) signed an agreement to co-operate in the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) and initiatives against commercial fraud.
"What we want from the Government is for them to do the inspection themselves, and to watch the market instead of waiting for us to file a complaint," said Abir el Hosseini, a lawyer with Saba, the Dubai lawyers that represent the German car maker, BMW. Due to its position as a global hub for re-exporting goods, many companies are concerned that the UAE's ports have become an easy transport point for counterfeited goods to world markets. Sarmad Hasan Manto, a lawyer and consultant at the Dubai branch of United Trademark and Patent Services, said the UAE authorities generally inspected only about eight per cent of crates that entered the country.
BPG estimates that counterfeited goods that entered the UAE market or passed through its ports to other destinations cost producers and manufacturers of trademark products US$2.7 billion (Dh9.9bn) in 2006. The Ministry of Economy, which assumed responsibility for enforcement of copyright, intellectual property protection and anti-piracy laws from the Ministry of Information two years ago, has in the past two months signed a string of agreements to beef up enforcement of the laws.
The agreement with BPG yesterday followed a similar agreement with the Dubai Department of Economic Development last week, and one with the Abu Dhabi Department of Planning and Economy in May. Abdulla Ahmed al Hussain, the director of the ministry's control department, said there were plans to sign similar agreements with other agencies across the emirates by the end of the year. Omar Shteiwi, the chairman of BPG for the GCC, said yesterday that the country's consumer protection and anti-fraud laws enabled the Government to implement automatic checks and inspections on all shipments.
"[But the Government] is not very proactive in using those laws," Mr Shteiwi said. "I want the Government to be more active number one, number two to have more partnership with the private sector and number three to have effective penalties [for violators]." He said most counterfeit dealers received light fines instead of jail terms and deportation, which he said would be a greater deterrent. Mr Hussain, whose department at the Ministry of Economy is charged with enforcing trade laws, said the new agreements would give the Ministry the muscle and expertise it needed to fight counterfeiting and piracy.
"The Ministry of Economy does not have enough power - manpower - to enforce all the laws," he said. "The laws are there, [and] these agreements would help to make implementation more effective." firstname.lastname@example.org