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In-depth features

Over the past several years, many international law firms have drawn down their presence in Abu Dhabi in favour of consolidating their work in nearby Dubai. Major international firms which no longer have an Abu Dhabi office include Norton Rose Fulbright, Herbert Smith Freehills, Baker Botts, Hogan Lovells and Simmons & Simmons; all of them serve the country’s other six emirates from Dubai. 

Dubai is the main hub for legal work in the Middle East, though places like Doha, Muscat, Manama and Riyadh are also home to large concentrations of law firms and lawyers. 


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Abu-Ghazaleh Intellectual Property (AGIP) was established in Kuwait in 1972 under the name of T.M.P. Agents at a time when intellectual property protection was still in its early stages of development in the Arab region. However, since the firm’s launch, AGIP has consistently been at the forefront of efforts to improve the infrastructure of IP in the Arab world. It has worked in close coordination with Arab governments and multilateral organizations on introducing an efficient IP system that has brought up significant changes to the region and has supported governmental committees and officials charged in revising and drafting new laws and regulations for the enforcement of IP rights in several Arab countries, including the UAE. 

Al Tamimi & Company is a corporate law firm with 17 offices across nine countries in the Middle East. Omar Obeidat, head of competition and intellectual property and a partner at the firm, is particularly strong on pharmaceutical regulatory affairs and acted for many pharma clients. Although now based in Riyadh, Nick O’Connell, a partner and head of digital and data , is noted for his extensive knowledge media and telecommunications-related matters in the UAE, ranging from regulatory advice on advertising content through to film production and financing, telecommunications regulatory advice and commercial agreements in the telecommunications space. Andrew Fawcett was promoted to partner in Abu Dhabi, where he is a member of the firm’s digital and data team. The firm has UAE offices in Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and multiple locations in Dubai. 

Hatem Abdel Ghani has left The Legal Group, where he was head of the IP practice, to found ATB Intellectual Property, which focuses on IP enforcement, IP prosecution and market research. Abdel Ghani’s portfolio includes more than a hundred high-profile international clients, and he frequently conducts trainings for his clients with IP enforcement authorities across the MENA region. Clients include Scania, Seiko, Toyota, Polo, Levi Strauss & Co., Bathy & Body Works, Brother and Chopard. In November 2023, the firm conducted a successful raid with UAE enfocement authorities against the operation of counterfeit cosmetics and body care products, unveiling three warehouses across two cities.  

Audiri Vox is a Dubai-based, sixth-generation law firm that focuses on work in 50 primarily Islamic countries in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. The firm handles multiple high value global trademark portfolios; all aspects of patents, franchising and enforcement work; and ensures that patents and trademarks can cleared for use before their adoption. Audiri Vox is noted for its IP valuation work through a team of chartered accountants and valuation experts. Sarmad Manto is the firm’s managing partner; he was previously a partner at United Trademark & Patent Services. 

Baker Botts launched its Dubai office in 2005 and has recently doubled the size of its team there. In addition to its intellectual property work, the firm also advises on infrastructure projects, complex real estate and real estate finance transactions, merger and acquisitions, privatization and dispute resolution. Haitham Hawashin joined the firm’s corporate department as a partner in its Dubai office in October 2020. Hawashin has extensive international and regional experience in public and private M&A, capital markets, private equity and complex cross-border transactions across many sectors, including technology and energy. Hawashin joined the firm from Herbert Smith Freehills in Dubai. 

Baker McKenzie parted ways with local firm Habib Al Mulla in 2022, and today operates from offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Although intellectual property is not a focus of the firm’s UAE offices these days, it does have a number of practices which draw on IP and IP lawyers, including technology, media and telecommunications; renewable energy and clean technology; data privacy and security; healthcare and life sciences; hotels, resorts and tourism; and consumer goods and retail. Partner Hani Naja focuses on the healthcare, technology and retail sectors. 

In January 2022, Basma Alaydi Advocates & Legal Consultants joined Clout to form Alaydi & Clout, a UAE-based law firm that provides a broad range of legal services for clients seeking to expand into the MENA region. The firm boasts a growing cryptocurrency practice, noting that “cryptocurrency businesses are still a novelty in the UAE [and] finding the right information on the subject can often be challenging.” Ahmad H. Haddad is the firm’s managing partner; he heads the firm from Abu Dhabi and has an LL.M in Intellectual Property Law. 

Bird & Bird has offices in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Melissa Murray, who is a partner and head of the firm’s commercial and IP practices in the Middle East, has a wealth of commercial expertise in the Middle East across a variety of sectors. She provides advice to international businesses on commercial, corporate and general litigation matters relating to their operations in the UAE and the wider Middle East region. Her experience includes advising on hospitality, IT, IP, franchising, media, data protection, privacy and other matters. At the 2023 Asia IP Awards in Singapore, Bird & Bird was named regional copyright firm of the year.  

BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates is a home-grown Dubai law firm that has grown to include offices in three other emirates, plus in Erbil, Beirut, Muscat and Riyadh. Senior partner Ahmad Bin Hezeem served with the Dubai Police and taught at the Dubai Police Academy; he then served as deputy director general of the Ruler Court of Dubai Government. He has expansive litigation experience. Former partner Munir A. Suboh, who led the firm’s IP practice, has joined Taylor Wessing. Today, Abdalla AlSuwaidi, who is the firm’s head of advocacy, is a good contact for contentious IP matters. 

Cedar White Bradley (CWB) is a regional legal services consultancy that provides intellectual property services through its member firms in the Middle East and North Africa region. Theuns van de Merwe, a partner and head of the firm’s intellectual property, is a trademarks attorney and has served as counsel for some the largest businesses in the world for 15 years. Cameron Crawford heads the firm’s technology, media and entertainment practice; he has acted as lead counsel on the production of several major motion pictures and episodic series, and has acted for NFT marketplaces and cryptocurrency exchanges on product development and compliance. 

Charles Russell Speechlys boasts a full-service technology, media and telecommunications team led by Mark Hill, who long-time Gulf watchers will remember as founder of The Rights Lawyers, an IP boutique he founded in Dubai in 2003. Hill is skilled in handling both contentious and non-contentious work in the creative, technology and related industries. In addition to its Dubai office, the firm also has Gulf region offices in Doha and Manama, as well as the UK, the EU and Hong Kong. Legal Director Lara Haidar is also a key contact.  

Clyde & Co. has more than 60 offices worldwide and has been in the Middle East for more than a quarter century. The firm provides legal advice on copyright and design ownership, exploitation, and infringement, as well as cross-jurisdictional challenges. Its staff has experience assisting clients with patent applications, implementation and trade secret protection. Partner Joycia Young has extensive experience advising a range of clients in the retail sector, including advice on the licensing of IP through traditional franchise models and in the regional development of franchise rights.  

Ownership, formerly Deans IP, is a regional IP specialist founded by Rob Deans in September 2020, but which has recently undergone an expansion and rebranding. Deans, a former long-time partner at Clyde & Co., is widely-respected in the Middle East for his work on trademark portfolio management, managing cross-border disputes and providing other IP advice. With the addition of several East- and Southeast Asia lawyers from Spruson & Ferguson, Ownership has recently opened offices in Hong Kong, Beijing and Singapore. Adam Cusworth, who joined the firm at its founding, is now a principal based in the UAE. 

Paul Allen has developed an award-winning IP team for DLA Piper in the UAE. Allen has assisted software developers with development, distribution and reseller agreements, has undertaken major intellectual property assignments for innovation incubators, including an intellectual consultancy for a research-based university, and advised on an A$200 million (US$148 million) corporate takeover. Saba Al-Sultani has recently joined the firm as a partner following several years at Cedars White Bradley. She specializes in providing clients with legal advice on IP matters throughout the Middle East region, with a particular focus on managing worldwide IP portfolios, providing strategic advice on both contentious and non-contentious matters and handling multi-jurisdictional disputes. She leads the firm’s MENA trademarks practice. The firm maintains offices in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. 

Gowling WLG has been in the Middle East for more than 30 years. Partner Jon Parker is one of the most prominent trademark specialists in the region today, with more than 25 years of experience in trademark matters, including 10 years at the UK Intellectual Property Office. He provides advice on a wide range of matters, including brand creation, filing and protection strategies and their implementation, including the use of the Madrid Protocol. 

Habib Al Mulla and Partners uses its local knowledge to help clients meet the increasingly sophisticated requirements of doing business in the UAE. The firm has been a long-time proponent of IP protection, and today advises clients on a multitude of trademark and other IP matters, including prosecution and domain name protection. Found Habib Al Mulla focuses on litigation and arbitration and has been involved in drafting many of the country’s modern legislative structures. Counsel Kamel Elshendidy focuses on commercial disputes, with extensive practical experience in the TMT sector. In 2022, the firm parted ways with Baker McKenzie; it had previously been the global giant’s UAE member firm. 

Local independent firm Hadef & Partners handles both contentious and non-contentious intellectual property matters, advising clients on the legal, regulatory and commercial aspects of intellectual property in the UAE. James Dunne, who heads the trademarks and brand protection practice from Dubai, has more than a decade of experience in the Middle East, the United Kingdom and Australia. The firm also has an office in Abu Dhabi, and can also provide advice elsewhere in the Middle East. 

Rouse acts for a strong base of local and regional clients, including academic institutions and highly successful Middle Eastern companies operating on a global stage. It has an affiliation with a firm in Saudi Arabia to strengthen its practice there and elsewhere in the Gulf. Principal and managing partner Bassel El Turk provides clients with a wealth of knowledge about the UAE and the broader region. 

Saba & Co. Intellectual Property, also known as Saba IP, is a Beirut-based IP specialist that was established in 1926, at a time when intellectual property was still in its infancy, particularly in the Middle East. Today, it has offices in more than 30 jurisdictions and, unlike many firms based in the Middle East, is not a family-owned business, which makes the lawyers you’re likely to work with shareholders in the firm rather than employees. Partner Hady Khawand provides sound, practical advice.  

Partner Raza Rizvi heads the Simmons & Simmons ICT and intellectual property team across the Middle East. Rizvi has been based in the Middle East for more than a decade, providing specialist commercial, regulatory and transactional advice to clients in the TMT and life sciences sectors. He advises businesses that are concerned with technology, data and IP (including FinTech) across the Middle East and Africa. 

The intellectual property practice at Taylor Wessing benefited from the recent addition of partner Munir Suboh, who joined the firm from BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates. Suboh is a leading lawyer in IP, media, trademarks, copyrights, cyber security and technology-related matters in the Middle East market; he has been extensively engaged and heavily involved in works that relate to media and entertainment in all areas. He has advised many high-net-worth clients on setting up regional strategies for the protection of their IP rights; he represents a range of clients in sectors including media, FMCG, tobacco, industrial, pharmaceuticals and others. 

Hatem Abdel Ghani has left The Legal Group, where he was head of the IP practice, to found ATB Intellectual Property. The Legal Group does not currently focus on IP, although it does handle contracts and other agreements, compliance and regulatory matters, M&A and dispute resolution, as well as providing strategic business advice. 

United Trademark & Patent Services is a top-notch regional law firm which offers the full realm of intellectual property services and domain name services. The firm is led by the well-known Yawar Irfan Khan, Hasan Irfan Khan and Maria Farrukh Irfan Khan. In addition to the UAE, the firm has offices in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Lebanon, Jordan and Bahrain, as well as in part of North African and South Asia. One of the firm’s most well-known cases involved the successful seizure of the Middle East’s largest counterfeit consignment ever: With the help of Dubai Customs, a consignment of counterfeit medicines worth AED5 million (US$1.36 million) was intercepted while entering Dubai. 

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