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
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.