The Ministry of Commerce’s National Committee for Intellectual Property Management entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) on the implementation of Cambodia’s action plan and supporting policy on intellectual property (IP) and associated technical cooperation.

The MoU was virtually signed on December 9 by Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak and WIPO director-general Daren Tang.

Ministry spokesman Pen Sovicheat told The Post that the signing of the MoU was motivated by demand to review a number of existing cooperative arrangements, as well as the need for additional technical assistance related to the capacity building of officials, various system designs with new technologies, and the preparation of legal documents to respond to major relevant changes.

He said Cambodia already has a number of basic IP-related laws, including legislation on dishonest competition control, new crop protection, geographical indication (GI) and other trademarks, patents, industrial designs, copyrights and related rights.

The ministry is also preparing a law to protect trade secrets and other confidential information, he said, asserting that Cambodia is a regional leader in IP protection.

“In the region, Cambodia is considered a leader in IP protection, meaning that we are most active in the protection of IP. So in the implementation of our obligations under the WIPO, we are a country that is recognised for its best practices,” Sovicheat said.

Hay Ly Eang, CEO of agricultural company Confirel Co Ltd, told The Post that the MoU would further encourage those who work hard on research or creating new works of their own accord, contending that Cambodia is rich in unique products, works of art, and other IP assets.

However, he conceded that even with basic IP protection laws in place, the volume of counterfeit goods, including handicrafts, that infiltrate the bustling market far outstrip the limited resources needed to effectively implement the pertinent legislation.

“We do very little because our society does not value IP,” he said, suggesting that nothing would change “until the authorities have absolute respect for IP”.

Offering an example, he put forward that there is a lot of fraud in the Kampot pepper scene, given the commodity’s GI status and the rising volume of traffic on the market.

Ly Eang asked authorities to further strengthen the enforcement of existing IP laws and optimise effectiveness, to preserve the prestige of registered Cambodian products and brands on the market.

According to the spokesman, IP infringement is punishable by fines imposed by the ministry’s Consumer Protection, Competition and Fraud Repression Directorate-General (CCF), or the General Department of Customs and Excise, whether or not a complaint was filed by the owner of the IP.

Also on December 9, Cambodia became the 180th contracting party to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, which is set to enter into force for the Kingdom on March 9, the WIPO said in a statement.

The UN agency describes the convention as “one of the key pillars of the global copyright system. It ensures that authors around the world control how their creative and cultural works are used, by whom and on what terms”.

Its director-general welcomed the Kingdom’s accession to the Berne Convention, saying: “This is particularly important in a country like Cambodia which has a rich cultural heritage.”

“From the magic of classical Khmer dance and traditional folk music, to the Baremy record label that is promoting and distributing original Cambodian music, to the up-and-coming generation of Cambodian creators like television master chef Chan Kanha and acclaimed sculptor Chhim Sothy – the creative economy contributes over 1.5 per cent of Cambodia’s GDP [gross domestic product] and joining the Berne community will help this to increase.”

“We hope that today’s accession will encourage more Cambodians to explore their artistic talent, and that it will support the creative industries and creators to recover strongly from the disruptions caused by the pandemic,” the statement quoted Tang as saying.