April 20, 2022
At a working lunch hosted by the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council on 20 April 2022, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Intellectual Property Attaché for the MENA Region, Peter Mehravari, underscored the incredible progress the U.A.E. has continued to make in protecting intellectual property nearly one year following the nation’s removal from the USTR’s Special 301 Report Watch List. Peter lauded in particular the U.A.E.’s recent initiatives with regard to pharmaceutical IP protections, the crackdown on counterfeit goods, and improving licensing of music.
In conversation with U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council President Danny Sebright, Peter shared key updates on the status of IP rights in the Emirates. Underpinning these updates, Peter observed that the U.A.E. recognizes IP as “crucial to a knowledge-based economy” and the success of the country’s far-reaching economic diversification efforts.
Peter lauded the U.A.E. for taking decisive action to be removed from the Watch List. Peter was impressed by the seriousness of these efforts, noting that officials were not just interested in understanding the measures they needed to take to be removed from the Watch List but also understanding those best practices they might implement to make the U.A.E. a leader when it comes to IP protections.
Today, the U.A.E. can claim the “strongest pharmaceutical IP protection in all of the Middle East and Africa,” per Peter. As an example, the U.A.E. offers an impressive 8 years of protection for clinical trial data. Pharmaceutical companies in attendance agreed with Peter and deemed IP protection in the U.A.E. a “success story”, adding that they would like to see the policies implemented in the Emirates also expanded across the region.
The U.A.E. governmental efforts to combat counterfeit goods have been both wide-ranging and expedient, in Peter’s view. Peter praised the earnestness with which Dubai Customs has seized and publicly recycled counterfeit goods. Moreover, he called the U.A.E.’s cleanup of the Ajman China Mall an example of “the best leadership” he has ever seen. Peter recounted that after he relayed his concerns of the Ajman China Mall, it took Emirati officials only four weeks to raid the shopping destination, which had approximately 200 shops selling counterfeit goods. Peter noted that the Mall remains “clean” to this day thanks to continued deterrent measures, including inspectors and signage.
Peter recognized the U.A.E. government efforts to license the music at Expo 2020. Expo 2020 was “the first time the U.A.E. had licensed music at this scale”, spurring optimism for the future of music rights in the Emirates.
Peter explained that this shift towards IP protection has been primarily home-grown and not simply a result of the Section 301 designation. He commended the inter-ministerial efforts from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Health and Prevention and the Ministry of Culture and Youth, among others, for simultaneously pushing IP issues forward and resolving challenges “without the U.S. government in the room”. Moreover, he noted that the U.A.E. introduced three significant new laws on industrial property, trademarks, and copyrights respectively after it was removed from the Watch List.
Peter also highlighted optimistic signs in regard to the Emirates spearheading IP created in-country. The objective for the nation moving forward will be not just be the creation of an IP framework conducive to international companies operating in the U.A.E., but also the indigenous creation of IP and creating IP in partnership with foreign industry. Peter stressed that U.S. companies will be front and center in these partnerships.
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