x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Emblem is familiar sight on a range of items

The country's coat of arms may become more scarce after the Government cracks down on unofficial use of the emblem.

ABU DHABI // The country's coat of arms is a common sight, particularly around National Day, but it may become more scarce after the Government cracks down on unofficial use of the emblem. The crest is reproduced on a broad range of items, from the tails of Etihad aircraft to car stickers and other paraphernalia. However, official bodies such as the national carrier are exempt from seeking permission to use the emblem, officials said.

Rifki Hussein, the head of operations at Magic Touch Enterprising in Dubai, which reproduces images for corporate clients and individuals on T-shirts, caps, mugs and other items, said his company had printed the coat of arms in the past. He said he felt it was the responsibility of clients to ensure that the right to use the image had been established. "We just take the order," he said. "The client is the one that must have the approval. We will just print the artwork they give to us."

But others disagreed. The manager of a Dubai-based print firm, who did not wish to be named, said she often had to reject requests from customers to reproduce copy-righted material. She welcomed the move to restrict the use of the emblem. "It's a good idea to make rules about who can use that kind of image. It's like any logo, you should have to get permission and then stick to strict rules so if it's reproduced, it's done properly."

Mustapha Hassanpour, the manager of 7 Lands Gift Trading near Madinat Zayed, sells car stickers depicting the UAE coat of arms that are imported from China. "We only really move them at the National Day [celebrations], and now the season's finished anyway," he said. "If it's the law, then next year maybe people won't sell this one." It is unclear what the Government will do about those who reprint the logo overseas. Several websites offer hooded jumpers and T-shirts with the crest emblazoned on the front, but most are based abroad.

Sri Kumar Radhakrishnan, a legal consultant for Dubai-based Hilal & Associates, said he could not comment on the new ruling, as details were not yet clear. But, he said, under existing copyright legislation "action can be executed against whoever infringes the law; if there's somebody producing a duplicate overseas then they can be prosecuted". As for images that closely represent a copyrighted logo or emblem, it was down to the prosecutors to establish in court that it sufficiently infringed the original, he said.

In many countries the use of a national coat of arms is restricted to government entities. The US state department has expressed concern over the use of its coat of arms in commercial enterprises. It fears such usage gives the impression of government approval. However, the justice department ultimately decides on an image's legality. Those using the US government's official seal, which bears the national coat of arms on the front, or its likeness, to give a false impression of government approval face a maximum fine of $250 and up to six months in jail.

Those wishing to reproduce the Commonwealth coat of arms, used by the government of Australia, must apply for permission in writing. Approval is only granted in "limited circumstances", such as for Australian sports teams competing in international competitions. It is against the law to import any goods that bear a replica of the image into the country. lmorris@thenational.ae