Is counterfeiting through ecommerce platforms a concern in the UAE?
In fact, the retail landscape worldwide has been continuously evolving and developing through this new era of what is referred to as ‘ecommerce’.
It is these platforms that allow any individual to buy and or sell any kind of merchandise and/or services from the comfort of their own chairs in their offices or their homes.
The United Arab Emirates market is not at all new to ecommerce, which has been experiencing a substantial growth in the region and it is very well known that along with any legitimate trade, increasing illicit trade and mainly counterfeiting activities are witnessed.
How does the UAE help brand owners concerned with infringements happening online and on ecommerce platforms?
The UAE government has been trying to follow the pace of ecommerce and online activities by issuing several specific regulations and laws aimed at organising this field of trade and protecting consumers and rights holders from any misuse or infringements in that direction.
In addition to general provisions that already exist, such as Federal Law No 15 of 1980, which is known as the Publishing Law, some specific regulations have been issued in the past few years addressing issues that are specifically related. These include the Cyber Crimes Law (Federal Decree 5 of 2012), as well as the Electronic Commerce Law of 2006 (Federal Law 1 of 2006).
Also, it is important to mention the criteria for media content issued by the National Media Council under Resolution 20 of 2010. Consequently, all traders and users of online portals, and more specifically of ecommerce platforms, especially those that are based within the UAE territory or those who are offering their services to customers residing in the UAE, are under the obligation to be in full compliance with the provisions of the applicable laws in the UAE, and in particular the laws and regulations mentioned.
By not doing so, infringers will be subject to the penalties that are stated therein, ranging from being very severe, in particular if the matter is in violation of the Cyber Crimes Law, where fines can reach up to AED 1 million ($272,000), to being somewhat modest in some cases.
Is the onus on the ecommerce platforms or brand owners to take the necessary steps to stop infringement?
I would say whenever we are faced with infringements and counterfeiting, the matter becomes of interest to all concerned parties, from both the public and private sectors.
In specific issues related to infringements appearing on ecommerce platforms, the owners of these platforms should be the first to make sure clear policies and enforceable agreements are put in place with any trader to forbid them from using the platforms for any kind of illicit trade.
Consequently, the owners of ecommerce platforms should be in a position to take measures to prevent and stop any kind of infringement that might occur as part of any of their transactions. In fact, several of the reputable platforms are being very cooperative in similar issues and once verified, infringing listings and so on are being taken down or prevented from publication.
In this instance, it must also be noted that some international non-governmental organisations have been successful in creating a structure of collaboration with the international suppliers of credit card payment systems, aimed at cutting payment access to websites that are proven to be selling counterfeit goods. Being a very recent initiative, it has not been tested in our part of the world yet, but we hope that the mechanism put in place will be available for brand owners in our region.