On 25 May 2017, the Ministry of Commerce in Cambodia launched an online trademark registration system for local and international businesses and individuals to protect their marks against infringement.
Applicants in Cambodia may now upload the required documents and information for trademark registration online, as well as search the Cambodia Department of Intellectual Property database for potential conflicting marks. The old manual system will continue to be available alongside the new e-filing gateway.
The platform was developed by a World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) technical team, with the aim of bringing Cambodia’s IP regime up-to-speed with international standards. Assistant Director-General of WIPO Yo Takagi hailed the innovation as the ‘first step’ to Cambodia establishing itself within the Madrid System – the global market in trademark registration of 110 states, which it joined by acceding to the Madrid Protocol in March 2015. This, he added, will greatly expand the ability of local entrepreneurs and firms to gain IP protection in foreign markets – thus being a huge boost to Cambodia’s burgeoning economy.
Furthermore, what the online platform looks set to surely provide is far greater efficiency in trademark registration from the perspective of the registry and of IP firms handling Cambodian trademark matters. With the portal in place, there will be a lesser administrative burden upon the Department for Intellectual Property and therefore, the ability to register trademarks at a greater rate than previously achieved – Cambodia having registered around 23,000 trademarks in the last five years.
Local trademark agents for foreign clients will be saved time by not having to submit all information through the filing of paper documents. Overseas clients will still need to rely upon local agents in Cambodia, however – the online trademark registration system may only be used through a registered Cambodian trademark agent for foreign applicants. It should be noted that the registry will not accept scanned copies of original documents including notarised power of attorney and priority documents – these will still need to be submitted in hard copy within two months of the filing date. Further, all post-application actions in relation to the trademark do not fall under the purview of the new online system and must be filed in person at the Department of Intellectual Property.
A greater scope for the online trademark system, including the acceptance of scanned documents from overseas clients, is a desired next step for firms in the region – WIPO is providing technical support to ensure that the new technology can be utilised and built upon to ensure further streamlined service.
The new innovation is another step in the right direction for Cambodian intellectual property in 2017, having earlier been the first country in Asia to recognise European patents on its territory under the European Patent Organisation (EPO) by signing a validation agreement with the EPO on 23 January 2017. Development in the IP landscapes of smaller states in the ASEAN economic community can only be a boost to the services provided by the region as a whole, and is sure to lead to further South-East Asian economic growth.
By Gladys Mirandah and Yan Chongshuo