Science issue: How to get a patent in the UAE

Patents were first issued in the Arab world in 1916 in Morocco, followed by Lebanon in 1924 and most of the rest of the Middle East in the 1940s and 1950s.

Ahmed Soliman Hussein, Professor, Poultry Nutrition, Department of Aridland Agriculture at UAE University. Reem Mohammed / The National
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The UAE Government has declared this year the Year of Innovation, with Dh4.5 billion being invested to make Dubai a centre of invention.

But before the UAE’s growing number of innovators get around to commercialising their ideas, they are advised first to patent them.

A patent, the oldest form of intellectual-property protection, is a legal document giving, for a set time, a monopoly on making, using and selling an invention.

Patents were first issued in the Arab world in 1916 in Morocco, followed by Lebanon in 1924, and most of the rest of the Middle East in the 1940s and 1950s.

The GCC Patent Office, in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, provides a centralised system for obtaining protection in all six states of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Since the office was established in 1998, the number of patents filed has been rising steadily. More than 1,000 applications have been received so far this year.

The process

According to Ahmad Al-Zou’bi, a patent consultant at the Abu Dhabi law firm Abu-Ghazaleh Intellectual Property (AGIP), an intellectual property agent is an essential part of the process of filing for a patent, no matter where you live or work.

“They can make the necessary follow-up on filing procedures and annuities with the patent offices around the world,” he explains.

Emiratis are advised to call on the services of the Abu Dhabi Technology and Development Committee, which offers support through its Tamakul programme.

Since 2007, Tamakul has been providing legal and financial assistance for international patent filing across a broad range of sectors, including oil and gas, advanced materials, healthcare, medical, clean technology and information and communications technology.

More than 110 patents have been filed internationally under the programme to date and, although most are by universities and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, individuals are also eligible for help.

Most Tamakul-supported patents are filed in the United States, although many UAE inventors choose to file their patents closer to home.

AGIP, which has 28 offices worldwide, claims to handle a majority of the patent applications filed from the UAE. Al-Zou’bi says most of the inventors the firm works with seek protection first in their country of origin, followed by other territories within a 12-month priority period.

“The applicant should have a clear vision of the marketing area of his invention and he should carefully select the regions in which he can succeed,” he says.

Local applications are filed at the UAE Patent Office in Abu Dhabi, where patent protection is granted for inventions deemed novel, inventive and useful.

“Most patents filed in the UAE are concentrated in the sectors of information technology, petrochemicals [covering mechanical and chemical-related innovations] and pharmaceuticals,” says Ahmad Saleh, regional head of patents at Dubai law firm Al Tamimi & Company.

UAE patent applications must be filed in English and Arabic, accompanied by supporting documents, including power of attorney, an assignment where the applicant is not the inventor, and a commercial licence (in cases where the applicant is a commercial entity).

Applications can be also filed at the GCC Patent Office, which gives protection that is valid in all six GCC countries.

However, Saleh advises careful consideration before going down this route, warning: “There are still uncertainties with regard to the enforcement of a GCC patent in the UAE.”

When an application has been filed in the UAE or the GCC office, it is examined for compliance with a technical- specification format, including the technical background and description of any drawings. The application then receives a filing number and the filing date is secured. A search report is prepared to check whether the invention is new and unique, and substantive examinations are carried out by engineers and experts. If the local Patent Office does not have the required expertise, the application is sent to partners at the Austrian Patent Office.

Any interested party – including other inventors or competing businesses – can file an objection within 60 days from the date of publication in an industrial journal.

Three months after publication, the letters patent or the utility certificate is issued to the applicant, provided no objection has been filed. It then usually takes another four or five years before the patent is granted.

The term of protection is 20 years from the filing date, as long as annual maintenance annuities are paid. No extension is allowed. Annuity for the second year is US$300 (Dh1,101) in the UAE and $635 (Dh2,332) for a patent filed at the GCC office.