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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - UN begins fact-finding mission on IP rights

UN begins fact-finding mission on IP rights

Cambodia has long way to go towards compliance, official says

UNITED Nations experts began a one-week fact-finding mission Wednesday in a bid to assist Cambodia conform to World Trade Organisation (WTO) requirements on intellectual property law.

Representatives from the UN Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNTAD) investment and enterprise division will meet with government officials, schools, software developers, NGOs and pharmaceutical enterprises to find ways to improve implementation of intellectual property rights this week.

Ly Phanna, director general of the Ministry of Commerce, explained that at the moment Cambodia has four main intellectual property laws in place: one concerning trademarks, trade names and acts of unfair competition; the law on patents, utility model certificates and industrial designs; the law on copyright; and the law on plant variety protection.

The government wants to draft more legislation, Ly Phanna added, including moves to protect geographical indicators, which explain the origins of certain products, trade secrets, and a law allowing companies to bypass medical patents.

In 2004, Cambodia joined the WTO. As part of the agreement, it must conform to certain requirements, including the creation of laws to protect intellectual property.

Var Roth San, director of the commerce ministry’s IP rights department, told the Post Wednesday that the results of the mission will be submitted to the WTO in order to harness resources from donor countries to develop intellectual property rights in Cambodia.

He said that a lack of understanding of intellectual property rights and money concerns are hurting the sector.

“Intellectual property here is a new concept and awareness about the issue is among Cambodians is still low, so it’s hard to implement the laws,” he explained. “We lack everything in this area including financial resources, technical assistance and human resources.”

Ly Phanna confirmed: “Public awareness of IP is still far below the desired level. We do not have the funds to promote IP by advertising through the media – which is the best means of creating a common understanding of IP.” He added that there is also lack of intellectual property learning materials in Khmer language.

Kiyoshi Adachi, legal officer for UNTAD, said law enforcement is an important factor in improving the status of intellectual property. He declined to discuss the challenges facing Cambodia’s companies further, stating that the fact-finding mission had only just begun.

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