Religions marks or symbols play a vital role in everyone’s lives. People place a high value on religious logos or marks, and they are emotionally and religiously attached to things related to their religion. As a result, the likelihood of commerce and business utilizing these symbols as their Trademark to attract consumers rises. Companies and industries have used religious symbols to link their goods to religious marks. Now the issue is whether religious logos or names may be trademarked? This article will attempt to answer this question.
What is Trademark?
Trademarks are one kind of intellectual property. Throughout the globe, legislation is being created to protect trademarks. A trademark is a symbol used to distinguish one’s products or services from those of another. The UAE Federal Law No. 37 of 1992 on Trademarks under Article 2 defines a trademark as “a distinctive mark that distinguishes the products or services of one company from competitors. This includes logos, slogans, hallmarks, packaging, names, words, signatures, letters, figures, images, titles, seals, patterns, announcements, packs, or symbols.”
Is registration of Religious Trademarks allowed in the UAE?
In all Islamic countries, Sharia is the primary source of law. Following Sharia tradition, each Islamic nation has its intellectual property legislation. The values of morality, modesty, and prohibition included in Sharia law impact the registration and enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights. In UAE, some products and services that may seem ordinary to brand owners and customers are prohibited, and trademarks associated with certain goods and services are not registrable.
Article 3(5) of Law No. 37 of 1992 on Trademarks (UAE Trademark Law) states that marks that are identical or similar to symbols with a strictly religious character shall not be registered as a trademark or as part of that Trademark. Trademarks for goods and services that violate religious precepts are not allowed to be registered in the UAE, such as Alcoholic drinks, pork products and, escort services, are among them.
Non- Islamic Religious charities, services, and goods may cause problems if they include or are seen to be symbolic, and they may be rejected for being “same or similar to symbols having a strictly religious nature.” If there are no symbols involved, the application may be approved.
Reasons for prohibiting the registration of Religious Trademarks in the UAE
Marketing of religious signs or marks is prohibited under Section 3(5) of UAE Trademark Law because:
- They are linked to people’s feelings, religions, and beliefs and may be damaged if such symbols are misused.
- Using a mark that may be offensive to religious sensibilities is grounds for trademark registration to be denied.
- Another reason for restricting religious marks as trademarks is the proprietor’s right to trademark registration. If religious symbols are registered as trademarks, the proprietor will obtain the exclusive right to use them, preventing or restricting others from doing so.
Trademarks that are against public order or morals cannot be registered.
Article 3(2) of UAE Trademark Law provides that any mark breaching public morals or violating the public order shall not be liable for the Trademark Registration. International trademark laws acknowledge that signs capable of trademark protection shall not violate morals or public order. Members of the Paris Convention may reject or invalidate the registration of signs “where they are detrimental to morals or public order, and, in particular, of such a character as to mislead the public.”
As a result, regardless of whether the sign has a unique character, its registration application may be denied if it is deemed morally objectionable. Therefore, the government must protect all of its inhabitants equally by maintaining morality and public order in their state to guarantee that individuals live and work in harmony with those of different cultures, traditions and religions.
Registration of word ‘MAKKAH’ as Trademark cancelled by Supreme Court of UAE on the ground of religious symbol
In one of the most famous judgements, the Supreme Court of the United Arab Emirates ruled against a registered trademark in the UAE that included the term “MAKKAH,” ruling that the name “MAKKAH” is a religious symbol that cannot be registered or used. This Court judgement, which is binding on the UAE’s lower courts, addressed in detail for the first time a particular case involving trademarks that depict or contain a religious symbol. This decision surprised several brand owners after years of utilising and commercializing trademarks containing the word “MAKKAH.”
Facts: The Ministry of Economy, acting on behalf of the Trademarks Section and the Trademarks Committee, appealed the Court of Appeals’ decision favoring the owner of the beverage brand MAKKAH COLA, a soft drink marketed in a variety of marketplaces across the Arab nations. The brand owner said that “MAKKAH” as a geographical location in Saudi Arabia does not reflect a religious sign since religious symbols are expressed by the Ka’ba and Al-Haram Mosque, not the whole city.
Held: The UAE Supreme Court overturned an appealing decision of the Court of Appeal, which declared “MAKKAH Cola” to be capable of protection and ruled that “MAKKAH” did not constitute a religious sign. The Supreme Court justified its reversal by stating that the city of “MAKKAH” has many religious sites in addition to the Ka’ba, including “Jebel Arafat,” Mina, and Al Muzdalifa, all of which are religious sites and contribute to the city’s religious character. As a result, the Court determined that “MAKKAH” is a holy city and a religious symbol. It, therefore, cannot be registered as a trademark under Article 3 of the UAE Trademarks Law No 37 of 1992.
The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the subject. The trademark registration procedure in the United Arab Emirates seems to be easy and uncomplicated. However, any mistakes while submitting the application form or during document submission may result in the Trademark’s rejection. As a result, choosing an experienced business consultant familiar with the UAE Trademark Registration Process is preferable. Business consultants like Farahat & co. will provide complete assistance in registering a trademark in the UAE and ensuring that all legal criteria are met. With in-depth knowledge about the business setup, experts can assist and support you in completing the trademark registration procedure appropriately and obtaining a favorable outcome.