The Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) has reported that the UAE Ministry of Economy signed an MOU to implement KIPO’s patent automation system to manage the online processing of patent and design in the UAE (including the online handling of the application, examination and registration steps, as well as fee payments). The deal is worth USD4.5 million to KIPO and work was set to commence last month and be concluded by the end of this year. The same system has been implemented in Mongolia, Azerbaijan and ARIPO (the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation).

The examination of both patent and design applications has been very slow for many years. However, the Ministry has been aware of the seriousness of the problem for some time and has taken various steps to improve the situation – this latest one probably the most significant of all. No design applications were published for opposition purposes in 2015 and for the same period only 237 patents were published. The patent examination delay is around 5 years and in some cases much more. In January this year, the UAE issued Industrial Property Journal no. 32. The first accepted patent application of a group of 36 applications published for opposition purposes was filed in 1996 – 20 years ago. Other applications published in this Journal were filed between 2003 and 2011.

In 2014 the UAE Ministry of Economy tried to improve further its processing of patent and design applications by seconding 5 patent examiners from KIPO. KIPO also undertook an analysis of the UAE patent administration system.

Although not expressly reported by KIPO, the local UAE press mentions that the MOU with KIPO also involves establishing a Patent Examination Centre. Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs, Mohammad Ahmed Bin Abdul Aziz Al Shehhi, is quoted as saying that the new centre for the examination and issuance of patents “will represent a quantum leap in terms of strengthening the supportive and motivating environment for creativity and innovation”.

The idea of establishing a patent examination centre with the assistance of KIPO goes back to a 2014 MOU with KIPO. The news of the centre was reported in the local UAE press at the time, together with comments from the Director of the Intellectual Property Department at the Ministry of Economy that 1500 pending patent applications will be examined during the two year term of the MOU. During 2014 and 2015, 317 patent applications were published – of course many more may have been examined (and rejected or not yet accepted).

By 2021, the UAE aims to be a competitive knowledge economy and has established various benchmarks to achieve by this time (see: https://www.vision2021.ae/en/national-priority-areas/competitive-knowledge-economy). For example the UAE aims to be in the top ten in the Global Competitiveness Index produced by the World Economic Forum (it is currently 17th). R&D and business innovation will be necessary to diversify the economy and achieve sustainable future economic growth, the Forum has said.

(Sources: KIPO website, new items from 26 February 2016 and 14 February 2014; Al Emarat Al Youm (Arabic), 28 Feb 2016; Emirates 24/7 (English), 8 May 2014).