Fuad Attyeh, Senior Associate

Parallel importation is genuine product importation from another country without the permission of the intellectual property owner. Parallel import is based on the idea of consuming the intellectual property rights. When a product is first sold on the market territory, parallel importation is authorized to all residents in that state. Some countries allow it, but others do not.

In the UAE, when there is importation of genuine products, the brand owner cannot take any action under the UAE Trademark Law to stop the importation of genuine products to the UAE. There is no such law prevailing to stop this kind of importation. Under the UAE Law, there is no direct term recognized as “Parallel Import”. Parallel import is implied in Article 23 of Federal law No. (18) of 1981 on Regulations of Commercial Agencies, which says:

No person may import any commodities, products, manufactures, or any other material subject to any commercial agency registered in the ministry in the name of another person with the aim of trading except through the Agent. The customs department shall not release such imports brought through another person without the consent of the ministry or of the Agent. At the request of the Agent, the customs department and competent authorities, as appropriate, shall seize such imports and deposit them in the warehouse of the importer until the dispute is resolved, save the material trading which is liberalized under a resolution of the cabinet. The ministry shall remove the commercial agencies in connection with such materials from the commercial agencies register.

Based on this article, the sole procedure to stop the parallel import is to enter into a Commercial Agency Contract with a Local Agent and to get this contract registered in the Ministry as per the Law requirements.

The Ministry of Economy notifies the municipalities, customs department, the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and chambers of commerce and industry in the State of names of agents recorded in the commercial agents register of any change, modification cancellation made to such registration within thirty days of the date of such modification or cancellation.

So, the legal protection is provided to the agents once the commercial contract is registered on the Commercial Agency Register, but the registration itself doesn’t stand as a sole procedure to obtain the full legal protection. The duty of an agent is to coordinate with competent authorities to make sure that these authorities are duly notified, and keep following up with these authorities, showing them that the agent is extremely interested to get the full legal protection. Furthermore, the Agent is also having the right to prevent the import of products included in the agency contract if the Agent is not the consignee.

Exclusive distributors may apply for this legal protection if they register their contracts in the Ministry and such contract matches the Ministry requirements for such protection.

Finally, if you are seeking the right legal protection from parallel import, you have to register you agreement in the Ministry of Economy as agent or exclusive distributer, and to make sure that the competent authorities are duly notified with this registration and keep following up to show the amount of your interest in having the full legal protection. PARALLEL IMPORT can be stopped only in this way.