The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has garnered an illustrious reputation of having one of the most robust anti-counterfeiting regimes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The UAE, which is hailed as a desert oasis of opportunities, offers a prime location for the launch and marketing of international brands and is an international center for transit trade in the region. However, the UAE is also inundated by counterfeit goods being sold in marketplaces, both in physical and virtual premises.
In spite of this, online infringers selling counterfeit goods are not able to seek refuge for long behind their screens. In practice, brand owners can rely on the solid foundation that has been implemented through the Court systems. Court actions are available as a remedy for online infringement if the brand owner is able to associate the infringer with a local entity or individual in the UAE (the owner of the webpage should have physical presence in the UAE). In some instances, and with sufficient evidence, such as pictures of the infringing or counterfeit products, being provided to the authorities concerned, this can result in a website being blocked until a decision is reached.
Take for example the Emirate of Dubai, one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, where a specialized taskforce that is the Criminal Investigation Division (CID), operating under Anti-Economic Crimes Department has been established within the Police and is in charge of all electronic crimes. While other Emirates follow similar procedures; however, online services are only available in Dubai.
The definition of an electronic crime includes, but is not limited to, the sale of fake goods on the Internet. As such, the CID taskforce launches an investigation of an alleged electronic crime based on a complaint filed by the brand owner on online marketplaces, e-commerce websites, and even social media accounts and/or pages involved with the sale or promotion of counterfeits. It is worth noting that the above-mentioned taskforce has the legal jurisdiction and technical competence and proficiency to block websites that engage in selling or promoting counterfeit products from being accessed by unsuspecting online shoppers.
By way of background, the Dubai Economic Development Department (DEDD) has successfully shutdown tens of thousands of social media accounts peddling fake and counterfeit merchandise since its inception in 2016. However, it is worth noting that, the DEDD has hesitated to take any measures against online infringement unless the trader or owner of the webpage that is suspected of selling counterfeit products has a physical presence in the UAE and holds a valid trade license. The DEDD will, however, liaise with the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA) to take down a page or an .ae domain name unless the trader or owner of the webpage that is suspected of selling counterfeit products has a physical presence in the UAE and holds a valid trade license.
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