The intellectual property rights existed since 1960s and 1970s in the Kingdom of Cambodia. A number of trademarks were also protected during that period of time such as PERTUSSIN in class 5, filing No. 1973 in the year 1966 and RIBENA in class 5 and 32, with filing No. 10318 in 1973. And then, unfortunately Cambodia fell into the internal serious crisis of civil war resulted in the abandonment of intellectual property field for almost of two decades. With Paris Peace Agreement of October 23, 1991, Cambodia began to restore its national economic infrastructure which brought back the intellectual property sector on track. As a result, the Office of Trademark was created in 1991 under the supervision of Ministry of Commerce with the tasks to register and protect trademarks with technical support and assistance from various countries, in particular, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) based in Geneva, Switzerland.
2. Department of Intellectual Property
On 22 September 1997, the Department of Intellectual Property of the Ministry of Commerce was established under Sub-Decree No. 54 by the Royal Government of Cambodia. Prior to its establishment, the Department of Foreign Trade had duties to register and protect marks. The Department of Intellectual Property had the following duties and responsibilities:
- Studied, researched and gave recommendations on intellectual property policy for Minister of Commerce and the Government
- Coordinated and prepared laws and regulations regarding intellectual property rights
- Coordinated the cooperation with international community regarding intellectual property
- Examined three sectors of intellectual property in Cambodia, served as the focal point of intellectual property and coordinated intellectual property matters with all relevant ministries.
- Promoted by all means to protect the intellectual property appropriately and effectively
- Applied to all obligations as stipulated in various Agreements and Conventions
From 1994 to 1998, the Department of Intellectual Property granted protection of 7,055 trademarks, among of which 198 were domestic marks and 6855 were foreign marks.
Marks that were registered from 1994 to 1998:
Despite the intellectual property was a new field for the Kingdom of Cambodia, but with technical assistance of WIPO in training human resources both domestically and abroad in a short-term period, national workshops or international forums regarding the intellectual property and provision of the technical equipments, the Department of Intellectual Property accomplished its tasks regarding the registration and protection of local and foreign marks.
Under the supervision and leadership of Mr. Ly Phanna from 1997 to 2004 which he afterwards served as General Director of Ministry of Commerce and the Representative of Commerce Minister in Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone, the Department accomplished remarkable achievements recognized by the public both locally and oversea through registration and protection of intellectual property and through law enforcement activities as well as the cooperation with national and international institutions. At that time, the Department consisted of 40 staff in total and two offices namely Office of Mark Registration and Office of Dissemination and Information. However, if comparing with present times, the workload of intellectual property was then still small, receiving only 1500 to 2000 applications for TM registration (predominantly foreign marks) and the registrable marks were 1500 per year. Moreover, both office equipments and staff’s knowledge were still limited, using a typewriter to type the text or documents.
3. Committee for Management of Three Sections of Intellectual Property
Nearly two years later, according to a request by Ministry of commerce and for the purpose of having a single national policy of intellectual property, the Royal Government of Cambodia issued Resolution No. 16 dated 22 February 1999 to establish the National Committee for Management of Three Sections of Intellectual Property chaired by Minister of Commerce and Department of Intellectual Property Rights was appointed as the Secretariat of the Committee, Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy as Deputy Chair, Minister of Culture and Fine Arts as well as Minister of Information as Members. The Committee has the following duties and responsibilities:
- Speed up the drafting of all laws and regulations related to intellectual property rights in order to meet the obligations of Cambodia’s WTO accession
- Coordinate all matters of intellectual property among relevant ministries as mentioned above
Based on the above duties, the Committee and Secretariat convened many meetings on how to speed up the drafting of the intellectual property legislations and divide the duties and responsibilities among relevant ministries.
After serving as Director of Department of Intellectual Property for seven years, Mr. Ly Phanna was promoted to Technical Deputy Director General of Ministry of Commerce and then in 2008 he was promoted to Director General and Representative of Minister of Commerce based in Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone. Mr. Var Rothsan who served as Deputy Director of Department of Intellectual Property at that time was promoted to Director of Intellectual Property to replace Mr. Ly Phanna until now and also served as the Advisor to Minister of Commerce and Head of Secretariat of the National Committee for Intellectual Property. With an effort and intelligence of Excellency Var Rothsan, Department of Intellectual Property made great progress from year to year with receipts of the applications increased double or triple from 3500 to 4000 marks which and the registrable marks were about 3000 marks annually. Hence, revenue obtained from fees payment for TM registration increased substantially.
In the meantime, the cooperation between Department of Intellectual Property and many development foreign partners was tremendously strengthened, receiving both legal and material assistance from time to time leading to the reputation of the Department internationally recognized by WIPO, ECAPII, JPO, and USPTO and so on.
Moreover, the strength of human resource and the size of the Department need to be expanded. Excellency Var Rothsan tried to find a way of submitting a request to Minister of Commerce for additional staff and the creation of additional four offices to be consistent with the situation at that time. On 19 September 2007, Excellency Minister issued Prakas (Ministerial Declaration) regarding organization and functioning of Department of Intellectual Property to establish four more offices namely:
- Office of Post-Registration
- Office of Geographical Indication and Trade Secret
- Office of Litigation
- Office of International Cooperation and Legal Affairs
4. National Committee for Intellectual Property Rights
After Cambodia’ WIPO Accession for eight years, the preparation for complying with TRIPS Agreement was strengthened in line with Rectangular Strategy of Royal Government of Cambodia, Second Phase “Strengthening Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights”. In order to consolidate the policy and enforcement of intellectual property rights, and technical assistance, the Royal Government of Cambodia issued Sub-Decree No.142 concerning the establishment of the National Committee for Intellectual Property Rights dated 18 September 2008 to replace the previous resolution dated 1999, with the Department of Intellectual Property of Ministry of Commerce as the Secretariat. This Secretariat is responsible for making national policy regarding intellectual property rights and cooperation between agencies or various institutions, dissemination of new laws and regulations and serves as focal point to receive technical assistance. It is composed of Minister of Commerce as the Chair and other relevant ministries as the members. This Secretariat has additional duties to the Committee of Management of Three-Sections of Intellectual Property with respect to the collaboration to disseminate the intellectual property law to the civil servants, students, educational institutions in cooperation with competent authorities and the court in order to protect the intellectual property rights from infringement and study the weakness and strength of the international agreements and conventions.
Based on the tasks stipulated in the Sub-Decree, the Department of Intellectual Property, as the Secretariat of National Committee for Intellectual Property, has cooperated with ECAPIII to prepare an action plan consisting of thirty-nine activities for the specific purpose of establishment of intellectual property system in line with international standard of intellectual property and support the trade development objectives of the Royal Government of Cambodia. After the Department, specially, Excellency Var Rothsan sought for overseas assistance and support from development partners, twenty-one activities have been supported by WIPO and World Bank. Then Mr. Director included new activities into the remaining activities up to fifty-two activities. Presently, the Department of Intellectual Property further plans to draft a Sub-Decree regarding the enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights, education and awareness.