Counterfeit war rages in the UAE

DUBAI — The battle between manufacturers and traders selling counterfeit products in the UAE market has reached dizzying heights with individual companies now taking matters into their own hands.

By Prerna Suri

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Published: Wed 6 Jul 2005, 10:34 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 7:42 PM

Frustrated by what they call as ‘blatant disregard’ of their products’ trade mark, companies are now cooperating individually with various government departments to nab shopkeepers and dealers selling counterfeit goods.

Cader and Sons Limited, a Hong Kong-based company specialising in rechargeable lamps, claim they lost hundreds of millions of dollars in sales in the UAE market alone due to dealers selling fakes of their patented products.

“Even I can’t make out which product is the fake one, so skilled is their imitation,” says Khuzemah Cader, Director of the company. “The market scenario as a whole and Dubai’s reputation as a tourist destination in particular get maligned by these fake brands. Also, the price difference between the genuine and fake products is such that unsuspecting consumers may actually prefer the cheaper, fake brand over the genuine one, thus hurting our sales base.”

Government bodies including the Dubai Customs, the Ministry of Information and Culture and municipalities have all taken action against the spread of fake products in the market in the recent past. Counterfeit CDs, audio-tapes, electronic disks, watches etc have been found in raids and destroyed.

International companies have also joined hands with the government in tackling this menace. For example, the auto maintenance and accessories subsidiary of General Motors, AC Delco, formulated a strategy to counter the spread of fake parts in the UAE and Kuwait, after a successful campaign in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Another case is that of CK Calvin Klein. Counterfeits of CK products were found and seized from three emirates of the UAE.

In early 1997, a body to fight fake auto parts called Genuine UAE Auto Parts Retailers and Distributors (Guard) was also mooted, though nothing has been heard of it for sometime now.

Another instance is of fake Seiko watches. The Seiko counterfeiting was so virulent that dealers even wrote a letter to the DED asking to cancel trade licenses of shopkeepers who stock fakes. And despite the Dubai Police setting up an exclusive unit to combat economic crimes, the fake goods market seems to be mushrooming in the UAE at an alarmingly high rate.

Consider this: Some 100 cases have been filed in courts for infringement of trade mark rights or violation of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) this year. Ninety cases of trademark infringement were registered with the DED in 2003 with many of them pertaining to sale of counterfeit products. Also, 284 consumer complaints were registered with the department last year for fake products.

According to the local law, any shop found selling an imitation of a registered trademark or a patent of a product will be issued a warning and if they are found to be selling the same goods, they can be fined and even forced to pull shutters in some cases.

But is this enough? Apparently not, say distributors.

“The sale of counterfeit goods does affect legitimate trade and its quite harmful for UAE’s economy. We spend a lot of money advertising our products and provide guarantee to our customers about their quality, but consumers end up buying cheaper imitation which in the long run proves detrimental,” says Khuzeima.

“A faster rate of conviction and more punitive action with heavy fines or closures will clearly send the right message to the market,” opines Sudhir Saraswati, a businessman dealing in watches and perfumes.

In October last year, with the coordination of the Dubai Economic Development Department inspectors, Cader helped identify shops which were selling their products in the infamous Fikhree market in Deira, now synonymous with fake electronic goods.

Raids were carried out against the dealers and criminal charges were pressed against three dealers while civil charges were brought against others.

The DED says consumer complaints and tip-offs are essentials in the clampdown of this practice.

“If we receive any complaints from consumers or traders regarding trademark infringement, we ask the offending shops to explain to us as to why they are selling counterfeit goods. If we find their explanation unsatisfactory, we take stringent measures against them such as imposition of fines and may even shut them down in extreme cases. Most importantly, consumers and distributors should come forward and tell us if such products are being sold in the market,” said a source at the DED.


DUBAI — Counterfeiting is a serious problem for manufacturers and distributors of merchandise worldwide with anti-counterfeit litigation still in its initial stages in Dubai.

The UAE, being a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), issued a decree in 1996 for accession to Paris Convention for the Protection of industrial Property Rights.

According to legal experts, the laws of the country can protect Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) and is compliant with TRIPs (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights).

Legal experts say that the law does not need amendments, but the execution required should be reviewed. Coupled with the complexity of the legal process in different emirates and the attitude adopted towards following it, counterfeiting becomes increasingly difficult to tackle, say distributors.

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