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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Serendipity defendants vow to put up a fight

Serendipity defendants vow to put up a fight

The American who claimed copyright on the name "Serendipity" and took several

Sihanoukville businesses to court insists he will pursue damages despite questions

over the legitimacy of the decision.

On March 4 presiding judge Tach Kimsia ruled in favor of Charles "Chuck"

Grider, who claimed several bars and organizations had unlawfully used his business

name, "Serendipity," by stating their address as "Serendipity Beach."

Charges against two Cambodian businesses were dropped due to lack of evidence, but

Kimsia said he ordered Erlin Osterhaud, the Norwegian owner of Unkle Bob's bar, to

pay $1,250 to the state budget and $15,000 in damages to Grider.

Owners of another company, Buzz, were fined $250.

"It was an extreme injustice done to me ... I asked for [a total of] $95,000

in damages, the judges awarded me $15,000 for [Unkle] Bob's, $5,000 for Buzz,"

said Grider, 69, who opened a beachside bar called Serendipity in 2000.

"After 60 days [the period given by judge for appeals], he's subject to arrest

if he doesn't pay... he can think about it in jail," Grider said.

Both Osterhaud and his lawyer, however, said they hadn't received any written notice

of the decision and declined comment until they had. Neither attended the court on

March 4.

Kimsia referred further questions about the case to court clerk Tep Dara, who said

the judge had signed a letter on April 7 announcing the decision.

Dara said two copies of the letter had been given to court administrators to send

to Osterhaud and his lawyer, Chhit Boravuth, on the morning of April 7.

Dara, however, could not produce a copy of the letter, saying he had already sent

the only copies he had.

No paperwork had been received by Osterhaud or Boravuth by that afternoon, and the

lawyer said he would appeal against the decision as soon as he received formal notice

of the ruling.

"The accusation against my client is very unjust," Boravuth said. "I

cannot accept it. I will protest until the end."

"[The name] was not recognized by a subdecree or decision from the municipality

to [be] called the beach Serendipity. [So] it is incorrect to say that my client

violated copyright," Boravuth said.

The ruling was made under articles 4 and 64 of Cambodia's 2003 Law on Copyright and

Related Rights, Dara said .

Article 4 states that work covered by copyright must be an original creation of the

author and article 64 prohibits unauthorized reproduction of that work.

But the law defines "work" as "a product in which thoughts or sentiment

are expressed in a creative way, and which falls within the literary, scientific,

artistic or musical domain."

It does not specify whether copyright extends to individual words or place names.

In the United States, titles, names and works consisting entirely of information

that is common property are not covered by copyright, according to the website of

the US Copyright Office.

Grider admitted he had not invented the word "serendipity", but claimed

that because it was used as a business name and was central to the development of

the popular stretch of beach, he had rights over it.

"It's not necessarily created. ... it's just a beautiful word with a lot of

history," Grider said.

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