Business risks

Australian companies are advised to spend time investigating the market, obtain professional advice where appropriate and thoroughly investigate the issues in entering the market and before establishing business relationships.

Australian firms wishing to operate in this market should commit to the highest level of corporate behaviour and familiarise themselves with Australia's laws and penalties pertaining to bribery of foreign officials.

Bribery of foreign public officials is a crime. Australian individuals and companies can be prosecuted in Australia for bribing foreign officials when overseas. Further information on the regulations governing bribery of foreign public officials is available.

For further information on frauds, scams, personal and asset security, intellectual property protection and other business risks please read more about legal issues.

Intellectual property protection

The Ministry of Economy handles registration of intellectual property. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has legislative regimes recognising a range of national intellectual property rights, such as patents, copyrights and trademarks. Moreover, recognition of worldwide international property rights is largely ensured by virtue of the UAE’s membership of various international conventions:

  • Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)
  • Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)
  • Madrid Convention
  • World Trade Organization (WTO).

The system can be complex, as for patents, the UAE operates under both national and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) wide systems, whereas trademarks are dealt with at an Emirate level. As the UAE is an importing country, infringement is usually dealt with externally. Confidentiality and protection of trade secrets does not currently have its own law, but general contract law may still protect these. Accordingly, specific legal advice should be sought to ensure your intellectual property is protected in the UAE.

Dispute resolution

Local Courts are the default option and proceedings are conducted in Arabic and a qualified local advocate must be appointed. Cases in these courts can be lengthy and the subsequent enforcement of a judgement can be a difficult process. Although court fees are relatively cheap, the system is not ideal for complex cases.

Arbitration is generally the preferred method of dispute resolution by foreigners and several centres have been established and the UAE is now a signatory to the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards 1958.

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts have recently emerged as another alternative, they practice English common law principles and are administered by international judges in English. Although the courts were established for the DIFC, jurisdiction can be invoked for commercial and civil disputes which relate to a dispute which has arisen outside the ‘zone’. Following internationally recognised standards, these Courts can provide more legal continuity to Australian companies operating in the UAE.