x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Registering your firm's name in Arabic a lesson in branding

The Life: Foreign companies registering trademarks in Arabic must navigate the pitfalls of translation and transliteration. Saba Al Sultani talks about why companies should consider Arabic-language trademarks.

Saba Al Sultani, an associate trademark lawyer at Clyde & Co, says 'if it is left for consumers to come up with their own Arabic names for a brand, then no real brand identity is built'. Razan Alzayani / The National
Saba Al Sultani, an associate trademark lawyer at Clyde & Co, says 'if it is left for consumers to come up with their own Arabic names for a brand, then no real brand identity is built'. Razan Alzayani / The National

Foreign companies registering trademarks in Arabic must navigate the pitfalls of translation and transliteration. Saba Al Sultani, an associate trademark lawyer at Clyde & Coin Dubai, talks about why companies should consider Arabic-language trademarks.

What does an Arabic-language trademark involve?

When producing an Arabic-language version of your trademark, there are two options: a literal translation if the word or phrase has a dictionary meaning, or a phonetic transliteration, which reproduces the same sound of the original mark using Arabic letters. It is important to consider whether translation or transliteration is more appropriate for your brand. The translation of the word "apple" in Arabic is "tuffah", which sounds very different to the English word. The transliteration of the word "apple" would try and reproduce the word as closely as it can using Arabic letters. In terms of consumer recognition, therefore, transliteration has the benefit of retaining the same sounding brand name.

Why is it necessary to have an Arabic-language trademark?

If it is left for consumers to come up with their own Arabic names for a brand, then no real brand identity is built and consumer recognition is weak.

What are the challenges of Arabic-language trademarking?

Sometimes there might be more than one translation of a word in Arabic, so you need to select the most appropriate one, and, similarly, with transliteration, there may be more than one way to write the trademark using Arabic letters, and you would need to select the most appropriate one.

Sometimes a brand owner will register its brand name in one transliteration and then without realising begin actually using the brand in a different transliteration. The trademark registration … can eventually become vulnerable to cancellation because in most countries, including the UAE, if you do not use a trademark in the same way in which it is registered, after a certain amount of time it becomes open to cancellation by third parties.

How expensive and lengthy is the process?

It is relatively more expensive compared to Europe and the US. In the UAE, the official fees for registering a trademark are Dh6,550 [US$1,151]. Professional fees would be payable on top of this. [The process takes] roughly 18 months on average.

What are the regulations here on Arabic-language trademarks?

In most countries, it can be registered in English/Latin script alone or alongside the Arabic language mark. In many countries in this region, the translations of famous trademarks are given some degree of protection so that a third party trying to register a mere translation of a famous trademark would be prevented from doing so. However, proving that a trademark is famous can be an onerous task. The UAE Trade Marks law actually … also says that third parties would be prevented from registering a mere translation of a previously registered trademark without specifying that the previously registered trademark must be famous.

* Sananda Sahoo

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