Technological advancement has revolutionized the use of intellectual property. The internet, in particular, has had far-reaching effects on the exploitation of intellectual property. While the arrival of the internet widened the market for intellectual property owners, it also complicated the enforcement of intellectual property laws. Intellectual property is a term used to describe any intangible creation like music, ideas, literature, and inventions.
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This paper analyzes both international and the United Arab Emirates’ legislation on intellectual property. Material obtained from online libraries was critically analyzed and reported. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the United Arab Emirates websites provided useful information. The analysis indicates that apart from a few areas, there is a striking similarity between the United Arab Emirates intellectual property laws and the WIPO administered treaties.
In conclusion, before the advent of the internet, intellectual property theft was minimal. The internet escalated the problem. The growth of the internet and digital technology has increased the likelihood of one using copyrighted material at some point in life. Most daily activities that the average person undertakes require items that are protected by intellectual property laws. Therefore, as people use technology to meet their daily needs, there is a real danger of copyright infringement.
Technological advancement has revolutionized the use of the intellectual property. The internet, in particular, has had far-reaching effects on the exploitation of intellectual property. While the arrival of the internet widened the market for intellectual property owners, it also complicated the enforcement of intellectual property laws. The internet has raised concern over the protection of intellectual property. This is mainly because the internet facilitates the illegal exploitation of intellectual property. Protected material can be copied and transmitted rapidly and anonymously on the internet. Theft of intellectual property can have devastating economic effects on the intellectual property owners. Intellectual property laws attempt to contain this problem.
Digital piracy has emerged as a major problem in both developed and developing countries. Copying and disseminating movies, music, and games in ways that deny owners their legitimate rights have been identified as major problematic areas. Other problematic areas include copyright violation, sale of trade secrets, and trademark and patent infringement. While examining the nature of the problem is beyond the scope of this dissertation, the area needs a closer look to gain insight into the extent of the problem.
This dissertation will examine the current state of intellectual property laws globally and in the United Arab Emirates. It will also look at the enforcement of the laws in this era of technological advancement.
Material obtained from online libraries was critically analyzed and reported. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the United Arab Emirates websites provided useful information. The keywords used during the search included intellectual property, intellectual property rights, intellectual property violation, and intellectual property laws. The information obtained was scrutinized for relevance, synthesized, and presented.
What is intellectual property?
Intellectual property is a term used to describe any intangible creation like music, ideas, literature, and inventions1. These creations, though intangible at the time of their creation, have a value attached to them. The owner of such creations can monetize this value. The laws give owners of intellectual property rights. The intellectual rights protect the owners from unlawful and unfair exploitation of their creations. These rights ensure that owners of the content benefit economically from their property. The World Intellectual Property Organization recognizes the following items like intellectual property:
- Creations in literature, art, and scientific writing
- Inventions in all fields of human interest
- Scientific discovery
- Performances by all performing artists and broadcasts
- Trademarks and commercial names
- Any other work resulting from intellectual activity
Types of intellectual property
There are two categories of intellectual property. They are industrial property and copyright. The industrial property protects industrial creations like inventions and designs while copyright safeguards works of art and literature.
Industrial property includes trademarks, industrial designs, and patents. Industrial property rights enable the owners to enjoy the monetary benefits of their innovations. Also, it allows an investor to enter into the market without incurring any risks. It may also aid in establishing a market share. Protecting the owner also ensures that the owner recoups the expenditure that went into creating the invention. Counterfeiters mainly target industrial property. It also helps the host country by encouraging innovation.
- Patent: it refers to rights granted to an individual or an organization for an invention. It protects its owner against unfair exploitation of the property. It grants protection only in territories that received the patent application. A patent protects an inventor for a specified period. Each country has its own time limit. However, in most countries, the patent is valid for 20 years starting from the day the patent was granted. Some countries allow patent validity of more than 20 years starting from the day the patent was filed. A patent is usually granted with the hope that the owner will share the invention with the public. Patents have been shown to aid in the development of nations. Therefore, countries grant patents hoping that it will help steer forward the country both technologically and economically.
- Trademark: trademarks include logos, signs, sound, and words associated with a particular individual or entity. The marks are beneficial to both the owner and the consumer. It aids the consumer to distinguish goods from different sources. On the other hand, it helps a company or organization to distinguish itself from others. Business entities need to be clearly identifiable. Trademarks are generally valid for a limited period. However, most are valid for an indefinite period. In most countries, users of these marks are required to apply for renewal after a specified period. Trademark owners can license others to use their trademark. For instance, franchise holders are licensed this way.
Copyright refers to rights granted to creators of artistic, literary works. The rights granted are exclusive, and only the content owners can permit others to use their work. The rights granted cover reproduction of the material in any form, translation of work into other languages, public performance of a play, adaptation of into another form. Copyright protects several creative works. The creative thinking products that it protects include films, movies, plays, music, choreography, architecture, and books.
Copyright laws also safeguard technical writing, maps, and computer software. This group comprises creative works that are not artistic in nature—copyright grants rights for a specified period. In most countries, the copyright is valid during the owner’s lifetime and extends to 50 years after death. Some countries allow copyright to extend for more than 50 years after the demise of the owner. Copyright owners can sell the rights to distributors. This is because the distribution of such works needs a lot of money. The owner is paid either a one-time payment or royalties. Generally, creative content requires mass consumption to bring economic benefit to the creator. In most cases, the owners of the content do not have the required networks to distribute it.
Intellectual property rights have come to play an important role in international trade. Many countries now include intellectual property rights in trade agreements. However, those who do not currently include them in the agreements may soon do so. This is because failure to include these rights in agreements may discourage investors. Investors often demand that their intellectual property be safeguarded before they reveal their inventions. Inventions improve a country’s chances of development.
Theft of intellectual property is now a global concern. Though it is the responsibility of each nation to protect intellectual property, some countries have not shown sufficient concern. Also, some others do not have the required capacity to fight this crime adequately. There has been concern that property owners lose a lot of money in these countries. It is thought that theft of intellectual property weakens economies. Some researchers estimate that it could be costing the creators billions of dollars.
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Intellectual property crimes
These are crimes of an economic nature. They are considered serious economic crimes because they deny the legitimate owners income. Intellectual property crimes refer to any activity that involves either the duplication or production of protected material for economic gain without the owner’s consent. It is comprised of two distinct crimes. The first is piracy. This term is used to refer to material that has been copied in its entirety.
The second crime is counterfeiting. Counterfeiting refers to a crime in which a product’s trademark has been copied. Intellectual property crimes are not restricted to certain geographic areas only. Due to the emergence of the internet, these crimes now span the entire world. Two criminals who live in different parts of the world can commit an intellectual property crime. The internet has made it possible for criminals to cooperate.
Intellectual property crimes can either be committed by a single individual or by an organized group of individuals. Intellectual property laws are used to curtail these crimes. The laws have achieved considerable success in some countries. However, some countries that are not members of the World Intellectual Property Organization may have weak laws. To facilitate the adoption of these laws, some organizations have lobbied the World Intellectual Property Organization to hold conferences to discuss intellectual property rights in selected regions. Ultimately, enforcement of intellectual property laws requires the cooperation of all countries.
Though it is not easy to approximate the extent of the problem, it is thought that intellectual property theft causes corporations massive losses. The effects are devastating in economies that depend on intellectual property. It is estimated that regional losses caused by intellectual property theft amount to millions of dollars. In this regard, some countries have been singled out as conducive havens for intellectual property criminals.
International agreements related to intellectual property
The Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property2,3
In 1880, a number of countries signed a draft convention during an international conference in Paris. In 1883, diplomats of member states adopted the draft convention. The convention became effective in 1884. Belgium, Brazil, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, and Switzerland were the first countries to sign the treaty. Some other countries signed the treaty before it became effective.
Many countries have since adopted the treaty. The main provisions of the treaty included the right to national protection, the right to priority, rules permitting members to establish property protection laws, and a framework for its implementation. The right to national protection specifies that a member state must grant similar protection to citizens of other member states. The priority right gives priority to citizens of member states with regards to granting protection rights. If a national of a certain member state filed an application for a patent in another country, the original date on which a patent was granted will be maintained. The treaty has been amended several times.
The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works
The Berne convention was prompted by a need to have a unified international copyright treaty. The treaty came into effect in 1886. Since then, several amendments have been made. The key provisions of the convention include the right to national treatment, the right to automatic protection, and independence of protection. Right to national treatment requires member states to accord similar rights to each other’s citizens. Automatic protection requires the treaty signatories to grant protection to each other’s nationals without subjecting them to additional procedures. The independence of protection specifies that an applicant shall be granted protection rights in member states without considering rights granted in another member country.
The WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT)
The WCT was enacted due to the problems posed by technological advancement. Advancements in the digital platform were singled out. The treaty was meant to strengthen the provisions of the Berne Convention. The treaty was ratified in 1996. The important provisions in the treaty include storage and transmission of content in digital systems, limitations and exceptions, digital methods of right management and protection.
The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)
The Patent Cooperation Treaty is complimentary to the Paris Convention. This treaty became effective in 1978. Filing for patents can be difficult for individuals. This is due to the number of resources required to file a patent in each country. The main aim of the treaty was to make the filling, searching, and examination of Patents easy. This treaty is only applicable to nationals of member states. The treaty does not possess the ability to grant patterns. It leaves this for national authorities.
Budapest Treaty regarding patents on microorganisms
It was formulated and signed in 1980. It is complementary to the Paris convention. Its main aim was to make an application for patents that include the use of microorganisms easy. It specifies that an applicant of a patent that requires the deposit of a microorganism as part of the patent procedure need not deposit the organism in every country. A patent applicant only needs to deposit the microorganism in one international depository authority. This treaty reduces the cost of the patent application. It would be very costly to deposit and maintain a microorganism in each of the contracting states.
The Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks and the Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement
This treaty became operational in 1996. The main aim of the treaty was to bring on board countries that were not a party to the original Madrid Agreement of 1891. The key provisions in the agreement were:
- Permission to the base application for registration on national applications
- Permission to refuse an application within 18 months
- Possibility of collection of fees by designated entities in the member states
- Provisions regarding marks that have expired in the state in which it was initially registered
- Possibility of intergovernmental organizations to be enjoined
The Hague Agreement Concerning the International Deposit of Industrial Designs
This was adopted in 1925. It was enacted pursuant to provisions of the Paris convention. The agreement is made up of two acts (the 1934 Act and the 1960 Act). The agreement enables individuals and organizations to apply for industrial design protection once through WIPO. This simplifies the procedure for the applicants. It also reduces the cost of the procedure. It also enables applicants to file applications directly without going through the national application procedure.
The Trademark Law Treaty (TLT)
The treaty was meant to simplify administrative activities surrounding the application for trademark protection. It became effective in 1996. The treaty specifies that the agreements are applicable to marks of goods and services. It also states that the protection shall be effective for a limited period. It grants a period of 10 years with the possibility of 10-year renewals.
The Patent Law Treaty (PLT)
The treaty was ratified in 2000. Its main aim was to harmonize patent application procedures in the contracting states. This treaty is applicable to both national and regional patent applications.
Treaties on Classification
These are several treaties concerned with the classification of intellectual property. The treaties establish classification systems for the various categories of intellectual property. The objective of the classification systems is to organize the material to ease searches, retrieval, and analysis of their content.
Related Rights Conventions (Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations)-(“the Rome Convention”)
The agreement was ratified in 1961. The agreements were designed to protect performers, producers of phonograms, and broadcasters. These are commonly referred to as the related rights. These are rights that accompany technological advancement. The agreements specify that the protection will be applicable for at least 20 years.
United Arab Emirates legislation
The United Arab Emirates, being a member of the World Trade Organization, enacted new copyright laws in 20021,4. The laws can be summarized as follows.
The copyright laws in article 3 spell out what the copyright shall protect. It states that the laws shall protect the idea or content and the expression of that content. It further states that the sale of physical items containing copyrighted material shall not transfer the right but merely signifies ownership of the physical property like a book.
Scope of protection
Article 2, 17, 18, and 19 of the laws define the property that shall be protected by the laws. The laws protect the following: books, computer software, databases, lectures and speeches, dramatic works, musical works, audio, visual and audio-visual works, architectural works, drawings, paintings, sculptures, works of applied art, photographs, maps, and derivative works, sound recordings, broadcasts, and performances.
Rights of the author
Articles 5, 7, 9, 10, and 12 deal with the exclusive economic rights of the author and his successors. The specified rights include the following:
- The right to determine when the work will be first published
- right to be recognized as the author by putting his name on the work
- right to object to the harmful alteration
- right to remove the work circulation
- right to give license for the exploitation of the work
- right to transfer the rights to a third party
- right to seek legal redress if an agreement transferring a right is unfair to the author
The laws have given a comprehensive definition of an author. In general, it recognizes all creators of content. This is regardless of whether one uses their real name or an alias. The laws specify the procedure to be followed when it is difficult to ascertain who the author is.
Article 6 recognizes that any unintended alterations during translations are not a violation. Article 8 specifies that rental right does not apply to audio-visual material and computer programs. Article 12 states that the transfer of rights to computer programs and databases depends on the license mentioned on the programs.
Protection of the Owners of the Neighboring Rights
Article 16 specifies the rights of the performers and their successors. It states the right granted is not assignable. The performers may take action against anybody who distorts their work. In article 17, the laws specify the limitations of the performers.
Duration of the copyright
The duration of the copyright varies depending on the scope of the protection. For example, music copyright lasts the life of the author plus 50 years. Broadcast copyright lasts for 20 years only.
Limitations and exceptions
The laws specify the following limitations and exceptions
- making a single copy of the work for personal use
- making a copy of a computer program to be used in the event of a loss or damage of the purchased copy
- making copies to use in a judicial proceeding
- making a sole copy for research or preservation purposes with acknowledgment of the source
- quoting paragraphs for discussion purposes
- performance of literary material in academic settings
- performance of the material in family gatherings
- use of excerpts for cultural and religious purposes
Copyright legislation on the internet
The law does not mention infringement expressly on the internet. However, the current laws can be used to govern the use of copyrighted material on the internet. The United Arab Emirates being party to TRIPS, can apply international agreements on the subject matter. The world Intellectual Property Organization is the custodian of all the international agreements. It also publishes copyright laws of its member countries online.
Infringement in the traditional context
The law recognizes infringement and has provisions on how to handle the violations. The judges are expected by law to appoint an expert who will determine whether an infringement has occurred. The expert will make recommendations but leave the decision on whether an infringement occurred to the judge presiding over the case. Actions that the copyright owners and their successors can take on infringers include administrative sanctions, civil redress, criminal penalties, and precautionary measures. The courts can penalize infringers by imprisonment, a fine, or both. The prison term shall not be less than two months. The fine imposed shall not be less than 10,000 Dirhams and not exceeding 50,000 Dirhams.
Infringement in the context of the internet
The United Arab Emirates copyright law is largely silent on the matter of copyright infringement on the internet. However, article 38 prohibits the use of devices that are meant to circumvent technological advancement. The United Arab Emirates needs to consider some strategies that have been used by developed countries to deal with infringement on the internet. For example, the use of the creativity of commons and the use of open-source software.
This is to encourage those who have intellectual property that is likely to be stolen to participate in disclosure and protection. The laws also need to be streamlined so that it does not curtail technological advancement. Overly restrictive laws are thought to discourage development in the digital era. Most countries have included provisions in their laws that encourage technological advancement. There are some instances that the United Arab Emirates law appears to be overly restrictive.
For instance, there is no clear provision that recognizes that intellectual property may be used for research. The main aim of the research is to come up with innovations. The laws also appear to overprotect government publications. Government publications should be subject to fair use policies only. It is assumed that government publications are generally meant for public consumption. In any case, government publications are supposed to be widely available. Therefore, it is unlikely that one can use government publications for economic gain.
This paper examined international legislation on intellectual property. It also discussed the United Arab Emirates intellectual property law. Before the advent of the internet, intellectual property theft was minimal. The internet escalated this problem. The growth of the internet and digital technology has increased the likelihood of using copyrighted material at some point in life. Most activities that the average person undertakes are pervaded by intellectual property. As we use technology to meet our daily needs, there is a real danger of copyright infringement.
In some cases, the infringement will be innocent, while the infringement may be deliberate. Countries should use copyright laws to encourage development and innovation. Industrial designs should be well protected to encourage foreign investment. International treaties can also be used to strengthen existing copyright laws. The WIPO has been instrumental in setting up international treaties concerning intellectual property. Countries are free to join or withdraw their membership.
It should be noted that very restrictive copyright law might curtail development. Flexible laws may ensure creativity and innovation. The United Arab Emirates should modify its law to suit current realities.
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World Intellectual Property Organization, ‘Concerning Copyrights and Neighboring Rights’, World Intellectual Property Organization. Web.
World Intellectual Property Organization, ‘International Treaties and Conventions on Intellectual Property’, World Intellectual Property Organization. Web.
World Intellectual Property Organization, ‘IP-related Multilateral Treaties: World Trade Organization’, World Intellectual Property Organization. Web.
World Intellectual Property Organization, ‘United Arab Emirates: IP Laws and Treaties’, World Intellectual Property Organization. Web.
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- World Intellectual Property Organization, ‘IP-related Multilateral Treaties: World Trade Organization’, World Intellectual Property Organization [website]. Web.
- World Intellectual Property Organization, ‘International Treaties and Conventions on Intellectual Property,’ World Intellectual Property Organization [website]. Web.
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