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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cambodia still in fight to curb pirated goods

Despite continued efforts to curb intellectual-property violations in Cambodia, weak enforcement and government bureaucracy continue to stymie that progress, experts have said.

Cambodia faces many of the same IP problems as neighbouring countries, but regulation of the black market has proved largely unsuccessful, not least because the Kingdom lacks policing capacity.
Regulators have been unable to put to work the international support networks and aid available to them.

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“When we get aid from other countries, I worry that Cambodia doesn’t have the human resources to implement the project,” Var Roth San, director of intellectual property at the Ministry of Commerce, said yesterday. Still, at an ASEAN-wide IP workshop held last week in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian government said it would launch 45 enforcement projects between 2012 and 2014, he said.

On the purchasing side, Cambodians were often unaware of what intellectual property meant, Var Roth San said.

The lack of understanding – which amounted to little more than a price difference to many in the country – was also a challenge to weaning Cambodia off pirated goods, he said.

IP infringement in Cambodia, ranging from software, music and books to cigarettes, alcohol and pharmaceuticals, is pervasive, according to Sean McIntosh, spokesman for the US embassy in Phnom Penh.
Weak enforcement had failed to significantly reduce the trade, which is thought to include 95 per cent of the computer software in the Kingdom, he said.

The Cambodian government spreads management of IP issues across three ministries.

That separation among regulators was inefficient, confusing and a hindrance to enforcement, Peter Fowler, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) intellectual property attaché for Southeast Asia, said.

“The international trend . . . is to consolidate all IP-related administration and policy functions in a single office or agency,” Bangkok-based Fowler said, adding that Cambodia’s regulation scheme was somewhat unique.

Change is coming, but slowly. Cambodia first moved to bring IP regulation under one roof in 2008, and a draft plan for a single office could be approved within a month, the Ministry of Commerce’s Var Roth San said.

The World Intellectual Property Organisation has pledged to provide technical assistance for the transition.

As ASEAN’s 2015 integration draws closer, IP issues in the region would only become more important, Fowler said.

Yet as Cambodia comes to terms with already weak enforcement, new challenges are emerging with the larger global trade in protected goods and the increasing availability of the internet.

The increased involvement of transnational criminal organisations with the movement counterfeit goods also posed a threat, Fowler said.


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