Investigations are continuing after Siem Reap’s economic police conducted four raids last Saturday on shops selling knock-offs of products from US-based outdoor apparel and equipment brand The North Face, police sources said yesterday.
The raids were conducted on four stores – Cambodia Outlet, Duty Free Outlet, Cardomon Clothing and Brand Outlet – in the temple town’s Old Market area, said Soeun Sen, chief of Siem Reap Economic Police.
The police action was taken, he said, after a complaint was received from the American brand in late September, and marks the second round of raids this year.
“Last week we raided four shops and found that they were selling counterfeit products,” Sen said. “So they were operating against the Trademark Law.”
The economic police confiscated more than 1,000 items comprising 10 types of products, including bags, sweaters and socks, he said, adding that several employees had been taken into custody and that the investigation was ongoing.
“We have sent the general manager from Duty Free Outlet and Cardomon Clothing Company to court. For the other two stores, there were only a few non-managerial staff there,” he added.
The raids follow similar swoops by the economic police in July. Those raids, the result of a complaint made by The North Face in April, resulted in the confiscation of T-shirts and backpacks with The North Face branding, with one person being detained.
“We made a contract and ordered them not to sell any fake The North Face merchandise anymore and now they already stop selling it,” Sen said, referring to the stores raided in July.
Ly Tayseng, managing director at HBS Law, said the raids were conducted after the American brand asked his law firm to take up the issue with local authorities.
“Our client instructed us to complain to the Siem Reap court to stop these stores who are selling counterfeit [products],” he said.
Tayseng said he could not divulge whether more retailers of counterfeit The North Face gear were known or would be targeted.
He said, however, that apart from the retailers, it was important to look at the manufacturing and distribution network to identify the source of these products.
Despite Cambodia’s small but growing market size, internationally-recognised brands were concerned about the “dilution of their trademarks and brand image,” said Simon Burlinson, legal advisor at regional law firm Sciaroni & Associates.
“This contention is evidenced by an increase in the reported enforcement procedures being conducted and the [Ministry of Commerce’s] response to brands’ concerns being addressed via, among other initiatives, greater transparency in the enforcement mechanisms available to [intellectual property] rights holders,” he said.
As awareness about intellectual property protection increases, Burlinson said, the “relatively nascent laws and enforcement mechanisms” will continue to develop.
“The lack of clarity in the enforcement procedures available to rights holders is an issue we face with clients, but the authorities are being proactive in trying to resolve inefficiencies in both law and practice,” Burlinson said.
He added that the Ministry of Commerce and local law enforcement were looking to increase resources to address the concerns of foreign investors.