x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE's R&D aspirations rely on a strong patent system

Expanding a programme to help Emirati innovators get their ideas recognised internationally is a sound step. But there is more to be done in related fields.

From mobile phones to nuclear medicine, technological change never stops in the modern world. Where previous eras saw a race for resources, our century has a new form of gold rush in the quest for innovation and invention.

It's an exciting time to be a researcher - but it can be a frustrating time, as well.

From computer operating systems to knock-off designer handbags, disputes over patent and copyright protection have become a major burden in the courts in many places. Idea theft is in some ways easier than ever today. Intellectual-property law and practice need some innovation themselves.

In this climate, anything that can help innovators in smaller countries to protect their intellectual property and turn their concepts into cash flow is more than welcome. A long step in that direction is now being taken in the UAE: Takamul ("integration"), Abu Dhabi's programme to help Emirati innovators win international patents and get products to market, will announce today that it is expanding across the country.

Takamul was launched 14 months ago, as one part of a response by the Abu Dhabi Technology Development Committee, to fill gaps in the UAE's intellectual-property system. The programme's goal is to increase the number of US patents granted to Emirati individuals and universities, from the mere seven issued in 2010 to 100 or more by 2030.

That target year is no coincidence: the goal is one element of Abu Dhabi's Economic Vision 2030, which aims at greatly increasing the diversity of the country's economy by that year. Inventions can certainly be a useful part of that effort.

As vital as global patents are, however, they are just one part of the innovation challenge. Takamul's aid to innovators, be they garage tinkerers or sophisticated university engineers and scientists, starts with legal and financial support for US patent filing, but also extends to advice and aid to make ideas commercially sound and, ultimately, profitable.

This is worthwhile work that should help stimulate, in this country, the creative forces the whole world wants and needs.

Meanwhile, however, there are other intellectual-property matters that also demand attention. To name one, copyright and trademark infringement on a broad and relatively open scale are not normally characteristic of developed countries. The knock-off items that are openly sold at some seedy shops harm the brand of the nation as a whole.