Safeguarding intellectual property rights plays an important role in drawing foreign investment to Cambodia, but enforcement remains weak, US Embassy officials said yesterday on the occasion of the World Intellectual Property Day.
Foreign companies would be more likely to invest in Cambodia, particularly in innovation-intensive sectors, if the country showed a greater commitment to protecting intellectual property (IP) rights, according to Julie Chung, deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh.
“The value of exports from intellectual property-intensive manufacturing is 3.5 times greater than other exports. If Cambodia becomes a leader in intellectual property rights protection, it stands to benefit from greater economic growth and higher paying jobs,” she said. “Those companies don’t want to set up shop in a country where their intellectual property is not protected.”
However, enforcement is Cambodia’s greatest challenge when it comes to IP rights, Jay Raman, public affairs officer at the US Embassy, noted. He added that there are multiple agencies tasked with IP law enforcement, but they act with limited effectiveness.
“Infringement complaints may be made to the Economic Police, Customs, the Cambodia Import-Export Inspection and Fraud Repression Directorate General, or the Ministry of Commerce,” he said. “The division of responsibility among each agency, however, is not clearly defined.”
Sophana Meach, undersecretary of state and president of the Counter Counterfeit Committee of Cambodia, said that so far, his team had worked to increase crack downs on counterfeit products.
Their efforts recently led to the closure of one factory and two warehouses as well as the confiscation of 30 tonnes of counterfeit cosmetic products.
“We found out that there are a lot of counterfeit products in the market, which is not safe and can impact the consumer’s health” he said.
Meach noted that health concerns were particularly serious for medicinal, cosmetic, alcohol, and food products. According to his estimation, over 50 percent of medicine products in the country were fake.
“In order to identify the counterfeit product, we need to have quality scans to compare with original samples of the product,” he said. “We are now trying to gather more data on products in the market and we will take action to look further into counterfeit products.”
A total of 6,719 trademark applications were received last year, with 4,737 active trademarks registered, and 1,160 trademarks renewed, according to the Ministry of Commerce. The figures showed a slight increase compared to 2015.