Amid the spread of COVID-19 and the call for social distancing, the UAE Intellectual Property Office, the courts and other government bodies involved in the registration and enforcement of IP rights have taken certain precautionary measures. Gowling WLG is actively monitoring and adapting to the situation. The key take aways for IP rights holders in the UAE are as follows:
IP offices: No relaxation of deadlines.
As things stand, all deadlines in the UAE IP offices must be adhered to. The UAE IP Offices remain operational, with most staff working from home. Also, as many of the filing requirements are now handled online, this means that generally work is carrying on as usual before the UAE IP Offices.
Trademark Opposition Hearings
The Trademark Opposition division has suspended all face to face hearings, but appointed hearings will continue based on written submissions. The parties who wish to file "attend" a hearing are required to pay the hearing fees and file written submissions, ensuring that the submissions are filed prior to the appointed hearing date with proof of payment of hearing fees. The officials will circulate a hearing summary for the parties to complete and sign on the date of the hearing.
Powers of Attorney Requirements
The practical issue rights holders may face relates to the requirement for notarised and legalised Powers of Attorney (PoA), which for many actions must be in hand in order to meet the deadline/undertake the action. Currently, PoAs are being processed and so no special provisions have been adopted as yet, though we suspect as there could be growing difficulties to finalise PoA particularly in countries with COVID lockdown/containment measures being undertaken, that this position could change in the coming days/weeks.
Gulf Cooperation Council Patent Office
The Gulf Cooperation Council Patent Office has announced it will be physically closed until 4 April 2020, but its online filing systems will be open as usual. Any priority filing deadlines which fall within the closure must be met through online filing.
UAE Courts: Dubai courts adjourned until April 16th and other courts expected to follow.
The UAE Court system is made up of Federal Courts and also courts at the emirate level (such as Dubai courts). The Dubai courts have announced containment measures whereby all non-urgent matters before the Dubai courts will be adjourned until 16 April. For urgent matters in the interim, the Courts will carry out remote consideration of urgent matters. Other courts in the UAE are expected to follow similar procedures to the Dubai Courts.
Two of the high profile free zones in the UAE, DIFC and ADGM, both operate their own court systems. DIFC has announced the physical closure of its courts until 26 April, but hearings already listed will continue via teleconference. At the time of writing there has been no announcement from ADFG Courts, but the expectation is that it will shortly announce a similar closure to DIFC.
UAE IP Enforcement bodies: Reducing face to face interactions but operating as normal.
The UAE Customs and the UAE administration enforcement departments are implementing "communication by email only" policies in order to reduce face to face interaction. Other than this, they are operating as normal.
Co-authored by Rachel Armstrong.