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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 18 January 2019

Quicktake: why we need intellectual property rights

Trademark laws aim to help countries fight fraud and boost SME growth

Counterfeit mobile phones are destroyed in an industrial shredder at a facility in Dubai. GCC governments are clamping down on trademark theft. Antonie Robertson/The National
Counterfeit mobile phones are destroyed in an industrial shredder at a facility in Dubai. GCC governments are clamping down on trademark theft. Antonie Robertson/The National

The head of a global trademark body this week called for stronger intellectual property laws to support economic development. A company’s trademark is their “business identification card” without which they cannot market themselves and grow, said Etienne Sanz de Acedo, chief executive of the International Trademark Association (Inta). The National explains what IP is and why it must be protected.

What is intellectual property (IP)?

IP refers to ideas or solutions created by the mind, such as inventions, literary or artistic works, designs, symbols, names, logos and other images used in commerce. IP is protected by law through trademark, copyright and patents legislation, which enables people and companies to earn financial benefit and recognition for what they have created.

Why should we protect it?

If protections are not in place, IP can be stolen or copied by rivals - offences known as trademark infringement or counterfeiting. The creator gets no credit - or financial compensation - for their work.

More broadly, IP laws enable businesses to tell the world what they are doing, establish themselves and grow. This gives aspiring entrepreneurs the confidence that their idea will be protected and encourages more innovation, stimulating economies.

IP laws aim to strike a balance between the interests of innovators and the wider public. They cannot be so restrictive that they hamper fair competition, but they must be robust enough to fight counterfeiting and other fraud, which may harm the public's interest and safety.

How can GCC businesses register IP?

Patents and trademarks are usually registered with each country’s ministry of economy and valid for around 20 years. In addition, there is the GCC Patent Office, based in Saudi Arabia and governed by GCC Patent Law, which oversees patents across the six-country bloc. The UAE is a member of the global Patent Cooperation Treaty and the World Intellectual Property Organization.

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Read more:

Exclusive: Global trademark body wants GCC governments to strengthen laws

Science issue: How to get a patent in the UAE

EU fights back against fake goods from UAE

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What is the biggest challenge for IP practitioners?

The growth of digital channels is increasing the spread of counterfeit goods. Last month, Abu Dhabi Police said it confiscated Dh100 million worth of fake branded items in the year to date, including gold jewellery, medical equipment, watches, handbags and more. Together with global bodies such as Inta, governments are working to tackle counterfeiting on- and offline.

Updated: December 27, 2018 05:01 PM

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