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People load a sack of counterfeit North Face products onto a truck after police raided a shop in Siem Reap province last year. Tom Yesberger
People load a sack of counterfeit North Face products onto a truck after police raided a shop in Siem Reap province last year. Tom Yesberger

Trademark protection deemed vital for innovation

Newly appointed Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak issued a shot across the bow yesterday at individuals and companies that infringe on the intellectual property of other firms, warning his ministry was ready to take action against violators.

“Intellectual property plays an important role in promoting trade, especially for small- and medium-size enterprises that have intelligent and innovative products,” he said during an event marking World Intellectual Property Day. “The ministry will crack down on counterfeit products in accordance with the law.”

He said enhancing knowledge of trademark protection was vital for protecting Cambodia’s growing entrepreneurial ambitions.

According to the Commerce Ministry, there are 44,636 active trademarks registered in Cambodia, while another 14,651 have expired. Nearly 8,300 trademarks are pending approval.

Sim Sokheng, director of the ministry’s department for intellectual property, said that a total 6,284 trademark applications were received last year, with nearly 1,500 submitted during the first quarter of 2016, a 10 per cent increase compared to the same period last year.

“We have tried to promote intellectual property protection and expect that the level of applications will continue to increase,” he said, adding that Kampot pepper and Kampong Speu palm sugar, as well as Cambodia music, were some of the best-known protected goods.

Bretton Sciaroni, a senior partner with regional law firm Sciaroni and Associates, said that intellectual property protection builds investor confidence, while counterfeit goods undercut brand prestige.

“There are still a lot of problems for enforcing Cambodian and international trademark protection,” he said. “In any market you can find not just counterfeit CDs and DVDs, but also tobacco, alcohol and clothes.”

“If we get trademark protection right, it makes Cambodia more attractive for investors. If we don’t, it will decrease confidence,” he added.

Un Chanboran, sales and marketing director of Kingtel Communications Ltd, a new internet and telecom service provider, said that his company is waiting for trademark approval from ministry.

“Trademark and logo protection is important for our company because we are worried that our market reputation will be damaged by counterfeit uses,” he said.

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