ABU DHABI // The usually ubiquitous image of the UAE coat of arms on T-shirts, caps and other paraphernalia could soon be a thing of the past. A federal law passed yesterday will see anyone using the national emblem for commercial or industrial purposes without permission heavily fined.
The Government hopes that the move will end the mass random use of the crest and preserve its dignity. "The coat of arms has prestige," Mohammed bin Abdullah al Gergawi, the Minister for Cabinet Affairs, said. He was speaking at a meeting of the Federal National Council (FNC), during which the new rule was discussed and passed for final approval. "The main goal is to implement [the law] because offenders were not pursued in the past," said Mr al Gergawi.
"Only the President and the state institutions can use the coat of arms. This law is to ensure no one else uses it ." The draft law was first submitted to the FNC on November 2. It must now be approved by Sheikh Khalifa, the President of the UAE. Offenders could pay as much as Dh100,000 (US$27,000) and face a jail term of up to a year. The legislation bans the illegal use of the image for any commercial purposes, such as on billboards or shop signs or as part of a company's logo and commercial activity.
Mr al Gergawi said the law would be enforced by the Ministry of Interior. He expressed concern over the excessive use of the emblem. It was feared that individuals could use reproductions when forging documents, he said. In March last year, the Cabinet endorsed the current coat of arms, later approved by Sheikh Khalifa. The bill passed yesterday provided the legal framework for the use of the crest, which was officially adopted on May 1 last year.
The new legislation allows industrial and commercial use of the coat of arms only after presidential approval. Mr al Gergawi said the Ministry of Presidential Affairs would be responsible for submitting applications to use the emblem by non-official entities. A rule on the use of the nation's first coat of arms was formalised in a law passed in 1972, but members of the FNC complained that it had not been enforced.
"Since the establishment of the state, many offenders have not been punished," said Abdul Raheem Shaheen, a FNC member from Ras al Khaimah. "The coat of arms is everywhere. It's all over the shops." The 1972 law stipulated a fine of 500 Qatar-Dubai riyal, the currency used throughout the emirates between 1966 and 1973, when the dirham was introduced. A one-month jail sentence could also be imposed.
The new crest has been used by federal entities since last year. Yesterday, FNC members took to the podium with the updated state emblem forming the backdrop. The old coat of arms consisted of a golden falcon with a disk in the middle showing a dhow. The new one shows the UAE's flag, instead of the dhow, surrounded by seven stars representing the seven emirates. There is also a difference in the colour of the frame and the Arabic font of the words "UAE" underneath.