UAE Patents: Subject Matters and Requirements

February 14, 2024by Saniya Mariam Thomas0

In the UAE, patents play a crucial role in driving innovation and protecting the creative rights of inventors. Here’s a simplified breakdown of what’s new and what remains the same.

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Patents are essential for fostering innovation and safeguarding intellectual property rights. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), specific criteria must be met for an invention to be granted patent protection. It is crucial for inventors and businesses to have a clear understanding of what can be patented in the UAE and the subject matters that qualify for patentability. The UAE has recently enacted Federal Law no. 11 of 2021 (“the Law”), which governs the regulation and protection of Industrial Property Rights. This article provides an overview of the patentable subject matters in the UAE based on the provisions of Federal Law No. 11/2021 and Cabinet Decision No. 6/2022. Here are the highlights of the revised patentability criteria under the new patent law.

Alignment with international standards

Article 5 of the Law defines the requirements for obtaining a patent, stating that a patent shall be granted for each new invention that involves an innovative idea or enhancement, exhibits an inventive step, and is industrially applicable. The Law no longer refers to ‘letters patent’ and introduces a definition for ‘inventive step’. An invention is considered to have an ‘inventive step’ if it is not obvious to an “ordinary craftsman” based on the state of the art. This aligns with international standards, where an invention is generally deemed to involve an inventive step if it is non-obvious to a person skilled in the relevant field. Patents can be granted for new applications or modifications, enhancements, or additions made to previously patented inventions, as long as the conditions set out in the law are satisfied.

Patents Related to Medical Treatment

Similar to the previous law, methods of treatment and diagnosis are still not eligible for patent registration in the UAE. However, the law does not explicitly address the patentability of products used in such methods.

Subject Matter Exclusions

The new patent law in the UAE also outlines exclusions regarding the patentability of certain inventions. Plant varieties, animal species, and biological methods for their production were already excluded under the former law and remain outside the scope of patentability. The new law extends the scope of exclusions to include research on plant or animal species. Notably, the previous law did not mention computer-implemented inventions, but the new law specifically excludes “software” from patentability. But software is protected under the UAE copyright law.

Patentable Subject Matter Requirements in the UAE

In the UAE, patents are only granted for inventions. According to Article 5 of Federal Law No. 11/2021, an invention is defined as any innovative idea or improvement that involves an inventive step and is industrially applicable. It is important to note that subject matters falling outside these categories are not eligible for patent protection.

Exclusions from Patent Eligibility

Certain subject matters are explicitly excluded from patent eligibility in the UAE. These include:

  1. Plant varieties, animal species, or biological methods of producing plants or animals, with exceptions for microbiological methods and their products.
  2. Diagnostic methods, treatments, and surgical methods related to the treatment of humans and animals.
  3. Principles, discoveries, scientific theories, and mathematical methods.
  4. Plans, rules, computer programs, or methods used for conducting business or engaging in purely mental activities or playing a game.
  5. Natural materials, even if purified or isolated from nature, except methods of isolating or purifying them from the natural environment.
  6. Inventions that may violate public order or morals or cause harm to life, health, or the environment.

Novelty Requirement

For an invention to be patentable in the UAE, it must be new, as outlined in Article 5 of Federal Law No. 11/2021. Novelty means that the invention has not been disclosed to the public before the filing date or the requested priority. Prior art, which includes any publicly available information related to the invention, can affect novelty. If the invention has been disclosed in any form prior to the filing date, except within a grace period of 12 months provided by Article 5(4) of the law, it may not meet the novelty requirement.

During the grace period, inventors or those who obtained information directly from the inventor can disclose the invention within 12 months prior to the filing date without affecting its novelty. To rely on the grace period, the applicant must request the Ministry to exclude the disclosed invention from the prior art, providing a copy of the disclosure and evidence that it occurred within the specified 12-month period, as stipulated in Article 17 of Cabinet Decision No. 6/2022.

There are two types of novelty:

  1. Absolute novelty: The invention must not have been published in any printed publication, used in public, or made available to the public before the filing date of the patent application.
  2. Relative novelty: The invention must not have been disclosed in any prior patent application filed before the filing date of the patent application.

Inventive Step (Non-Obviousness)

Federal Law No. 11/2021 requires an inventive step or innovative improvement for an invention to be patentable. An invention must involve an innovative idea or improvement that constitutes an inventive step, which is not obvious to a person skilled in the relevant field, considering the publicly available prior art related to the patent application. The Patent Office examiner evaluates whether the claimed invention would be obvious to a person skilled in the art based on relevant prior art and common general knowledge. If the claimed invention appears obvious, it may not satisfy the inventive step requirement.

Industrial Application

Industrial applicability is an important criterion that determines the patentability of an invention in the UAE. An invention must demonstrate industrial applicability, which means it can be produced or utilized in any economic sector. This requirement ensures that the invention has a practical use and can contribute to various industries.

The industrial applicability requirement is not excessively strict or burdensome. As long as the invention successfully withstands scientific scrutiny and can be effectively employed in any industry to achieve its intended purpose, it meets the criteria for practical applicability. This means that the invention should have a tangible and beneficial application that goes beyond theoretical or hypothetical considerations.

The objective of the practical applicability requirement is to encourage the development and commercialization of inventions that have real-world applications. It ensures that patented inventions can be put into practical use, contribute to economic growth, and offer value to industries and society as a whole.

The UAE recognizes that inventions with industrial applicability can vary across different fields and sectors. As long as an invention meets the criteria of industrial applicability by demonstrating its usefulness and functionality in any economic sector, it can be considered for patent protection.

By emphasizing industrial applicability as a patentability criterion, the UAE aims to promote innovation, support technological advancements, and foster a business-friendly environment that encourages the development and implementation of inventive solutions. This approach encourages inventors and businesses to pursue and protect inventions that have real-world applications, contributing to the growth and advancement of various industries within the UAE.

Understanding the requirements for patentable subject matters in the UAE is essential for inventors and businesses seeking patent protection. The UAE grants patents to inventions that meet specific criteria, including novelty, inventive step, practical applicability, and adherence to the exclusions outlined in Federal Law No. 11/2021. By aligning with these requirements, innovators can protect their intellectual property rights and contribute to a culture of innovation in the UAE. The new patent law demonstrates an alignment with international standards and establishes a framework that encourages and safeguards innovation in various industries within the UAE.


The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the respective authors. ATB Legal does not endorse these opinions. While we make every effort to ensure the factual accuracy of the information provided in our blogs, inaccuracies may occur due to changes in the legislative landscape or human errors. It is important to note that ATB Legal does not assume any responsibility for actions taken based on the information presented in these blogs. We strongly recommend verifying information from official sources and consulting with professional advisors to ensure its accuracy and relevance to your specific circumstances.

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ATB Legal is a full-service legal consultancy in the UAE providing services in dispute resolution (DIFC Courts, ADGM Courts, mainland litigation management and Arbitrations), corporate and commercial matters, IP, business set up and UAE taxation. We also have a personal law department providing advice on marriage, divorce and wills & estate planning for expats.

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by Saniya Mariam Thomas

Saniya is a legal consultant at ATB Legal. She is a law graduate from Calicut University, earned her master’s from Christ University, Bangalore, and is enrolled with the Bar Council of Kerala. She has earned several prizes in national and international moot court competitions.

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