Legal Environment

flag United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates: Legal Environment

In this page: Business Contract | Intellectual Property | Legal Framework of Business | International Dispute Resolution


Business Contract

General Observation
It is important to clearly stipulate the obligations of each of the parties.
Law Applicable to the Contract
Special attention should be given to the law applicable to contracts since the UAE is not party to the Vienna Convention. Moreover, the local judicial system is very complex and often highly favorable to the locals.
Advisable Incoterms
Language of Domestic Contract
Contracts are valid in English as well as in Arabic. In case of confusion, the Arabic version will be considered. A contract should be prepared in Arabic if it is to be submitted to a court.
Other Laws Which Can Be Used in Domestic Contracts
It is possible to choose for foreign laws to be applicable to a contract, but if these are in conflict with the provisions of Emirati law, the court will refuse to apply the foreign law.

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Intellectual Property

National Organisations
The UAE's legal regime with regard to intellectual property rights (IPR) is generally considered to be fair and consistent with international obligations. IPR enforcement generally takes place at emirate level.

Consult the website of the Intellectual Properties Sector of the Ministry of Economy. As part of ongoing efforts to attract local and international investment, the UAE Government had demonstrated a commitment to strengthening Intellectual Property Rights.

Regional Organisations
The Patent Office of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (Gulf Cooperation Council or GCC) is a regional office for the Gulf Cooperation Council.
International Membership
Member of the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization)
Signatory to the Paris Convention For the Protection of Intellectual Property

National Regulation and International Agreements

Type of property and law Validity International Agreements Signed
Federal Law no. 17
20 years
Federal Law no. 37
10 years
Federal Law no.17
10 years  
Federal Law no.7
- 50 years after the death of the author
- 25 years for art works
- 20 years for radio and television programmes
WIPO Copyright Treaty
Industrial Models
Federal Law no. 17
10 years  

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Legal Framework of Business

Equity of Judgments

Equal Treatment of Nationals and Foreigners
The judicial system of the country does not guarantee impartial justice to foreign nationals.
The Language of Justice
Classical Arabic is the official language of the courts. Gulf Arabic and English can be used in all federal courts. In local courts, only Arabic is used.
Recourse to an Interpreter
Recourse to an interpreter is possible.
Legal Similarities
The two main sources of law are the Sharia (Islamic law), applied to matters of personal status and certain criminal cases, and civil law for other cases. In some emirates, commercial disputes can be judged by Sharia courts.

The Different Legal Codes

Company Code Modalities for creation of a company and its working
Maritime Code Shipping trade law, freight regulations
Commercial Code Commercial Code
Labor Law Labor Law
Penal Procedure Code Criminal procedure, definition of offences,sanctions.
Other Useful Resources
Laws of the Emirates.
Country Guides
English website collating UAE laws.

The Jurisdictions

UAE Union Supreme Court
This is the highest body. It can scrap decisions taken in appeal. It also has the power to cancel the decisions taken by the Emirati municipalities which follow the federal system of justice.
Federal Appeals Court This is the second degree jurisdiction. It has the power to invalidate or confirm the decisions taken in trials court.
Court of Cassation in Dubai Cassation Court is the third and superior degree of litigation in the Judicial System in the Emirate of Dubai.
Federal Courts of First Instance They judge cases on first instance.
Dubai and Ras el Khaimah Courts These two Emirates do not adhere to the federal judicial system and thus have an independent system. It is also organised in three degress of jurisdiction.
The Sharia Courts Sharia is applied by them. They are in general competent in matters concerning personal status of Muslims. However in some Emirates, they can handle criminal cases (specially in case of drug trafficking) or trade issues.

Court Officials

Supreme Court Judges
5 judges who are appointed by the National Supreme Council and the trial judges.
Civil servants
Public Prosecutor
Conducts criminal cases.
Judges of the Sharia Courts
Appointed by the government and trained in Islamic jurisprudence.
The representation contract between a lawyer and the client should be registered at a public notary (Shar el 'aqari).

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International Dispute Resolution

Arbitration is not much used in the UAE.
Arbitration Law
There is no special law regarding arbitration procedures in the Emirates. Arbitration is governed by the principles of the Civil Procedure Code. However, an Amendment of 2010 reinstated the specialized Commercial Agencies Committee which had been revoked in 2006. The Commercial Agencies Committee has original jurisdiction over disputes involving registered commercial agents. Any commercial dispute should be referred first to the Commercial Agencies Committee.
Conformity to International Commercial Arbitration Rules
Party to the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.
Appointment of Arbitrators
The number of arbitrators depends on the contractual clauses.
Arbitration Procedure
The sentence shall be passed in the Emirates within the period agreed to by the parties in the contract. If the parties have not fixed the period then the arbitrator must give his sentence within 6 months following the first audience with the parties. A court can be approached by either of the parties if its is not satisfied with the sentence. Dispute resolution can be difficult and uncertain.
Permanent Arbitration Bodies
Dubai International Arbitration Court

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Latest Update: June 2024