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Update to Cambodia’s Patent Renewals System and a Compendium of Developments to date

Cambodia’s Department of Industrial Property (DIP) of the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation (MISTI, formerly known as Ministry of Industry and Handicraft – MIH) recently announced changes to the country’s patent renewals system, set to take effect on Wednesday, 14 August 2024.

The changes to the patent renewals system entail patent proprietors to promptly provide payments to the MISTI to ensure that patent rights remain in force, or otherwise be required to make payments with additional penalties. Previously, such requirements as set out in Cambodia’s Patent Law were not applied strictly, and patent proprietors had leeway to provide payments for renewals with no time limit, and without additional fees. However, such a practice is set to cease.

Moving forward, pursuant to the issuance of 2023’s Prakas (Declaration) on the Public Service Fees and Prakas on Late Fees, the DIP of MISTI has stipulated that after the twelve-month renewal period of a patent has expired, patent proprietors are still allowed to make payments accordingly during  a six-month grace period. However, an additional daily late fee of approximately USD 0.12 (equivalent to 500 Khmer riels) shall also be imposed. In addition, if so desired, patent proprietors may choose to pay in advance the renewal fees within a three-month pre-payment window.

Failing payment of the renewal fees at the end of the six-month grace period, the patent shall be deemed as abandoned and invalid. In such a situation, patent proprietors have the option of filing a request for restoration during the remaining term of the patent (i.e. before the end of 20 years from the filing date of the patent application). Restoration of a Cambodian patent entails a restoration fee of USD 25, in addition to the late fee calculated daily as above, and any outstanding renewal payments yet to be paid.

A workshop providing details on the changes was organized by the DIP of MISTI on 14 February 2024.

The changes above similarly apply to utility models and plant variety protection.

Despite Cambodia’s status as a “least-developed country” (LDC) by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and absent technical expertise to substantially examine patent applications, these changes are the latest in a series of developments in Cambodia over the years since the enactment of the Patent Law in 2003 to establish efficient procedures for the granting of patent applications, which include:

  • Grant of first patent under cooperation between the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) and MISTI in March 2015. Under the Memorandum of Understanding signed between IPOS and MISTI, patent proprietors with a granted patent in force in Singapore may re-register the Singapore patent in Cambodia, with payment of renewal fees in accordance with Cambodia’s prevailing renewal fee structure, based on the filing date of the Cambodian patent.
  • 151st member of the Patent Cooperation Treaty in 2016, paving the way for national phase entry patent applications in Cambodia.
  • Acceleration programmes for the grant of Cambodian patent applications with the Japan Patent Office (2018), Korean Intellectual Property Office (2019), and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (2020)
  • Validation of Chinese and European patents in Cambodia in 2018.

In 2022, nearly two-thirds of patents granted in Cambodia were from validation of Chinese patents. The validation program for Chinese patents in Cambodia is similar to that of the re-registration programme between IPOS and MISTI. Further, on 1 March 2018, Cambodia become the first, and remains the only country in Asia wherein a European patent may be validated following formality registration in Cambodia.

In 2023, Cambodia celebrated 20 years since the enactment of its Patent Law in 2003. Notwithstanding, the patent system is still relatively nascent and has much potential for further developments ahead.

WTO’s designation of Cambodia as a LDC means that until 2033, patents with subject relating to pharmaceutical products are not accorded protection. However, this could be set to change following WTO’s Committee for Development Policy’s recommendation this year (2024) of Cambodia’s “graduation” from, or leaving the LDC category status. For now, under Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights between member states of the WTO, patent applications relating to pharmaceuticals are treated under the “mailbox” rule, where such applications are not examined for grant until graduation from the LDC category status. Further, patent examination capabilities shall also have to be addressed, and an online database of patent applications and registration for better public access to such information is also in the works, with support from the World Intellectual Property Organisation.