A US distributor has agreed to stop selling “Nam Vang Noodle” products, which infringe on Cambodian intellectual property rights, and recall merchandise already on shelves across the country, Ministry of Commerce spokesman Seang Thay told The Post citing the Kingdom’s embassy in Washington.
The “Nam Vang Noodle” brand has landed in hot water with Cambodian authorities for using the image of Angkor Wat temple and “Phnom Penh” name on its products without authorisation from the government.
On August 26, the embassy wrote in a letter that it had learned of the distribution of the dried noodles at Asian supermarkets across the US East Coast, which bear an illustration of the iconic “Angkor Wat” temple and the names “Phnom Penh Rice Stick” and “Hu Tieu Dai Nam Vang”.
“Nam Vang” is the Vietnamese appellation of the Cambodian capital and “hu tieu” is the Vietnamese equivalent of “kuyteav” in the Kingdom, vermicelli-like noodles made from long-grain rice flour.
“Phnom Penh Kuyteav”, often referred to as “Phnom Penh Noodle”, was registered as a “collective brand” in 2019.
The embassy ruled out that these products had originated from the Kingdom, and underscored that the Cambodian authorities had not granted permission to use the image or name.
It did not immediately indicate a perceived country of origin of the products. But of note, the labelling on the packaging contains Chinese, English and Vietnamese – the language of the brand name.
The act constitutes a violation of Cambodian law and international treaties and agreements on trademarks, and misleads consumers into believing that the products originate from the Kingdom, the embassy stressed.
Thay told The Post that the commerce ministry, through the embassy and in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, had assigned overseas trade representatives to look into the source of the products.
After the commerce ministry gained a better grasp of the extent of the products’ distribution in US retailers, it advised the embassy’s commercial counsellor to take action, Thay recounted, adding that the counsellor promptly accepted and requested the embassy to meet the distributor directly.
“Our ambassador also issued a letter to the seller to stop immediately,” he said.
“The company then accepted our request to stop sales, and recall the goods with our Cambodian logos, which commonly have images of Angkor Wat or the Cambodian flag, or Khmer characters adorned on them.
“We have previously worked together many times and now we are looking for the producers,” Thay added.
He told Fresh News on August 27 that preliminary evidence indicates Vietnam as the perceived country of origin of the brand’s products.
As part of the registration of “Phnom Penh Kuyteav”, the commerce ministry awarded ownership of the collective brand to the Almond Hospitality Group, under a collective business system.
A collective business system is an organisation composed of businesses, merchants and professionals from the same industry or geographical region. It typically pools resources, shares information and provides other benefits for its members.
The ministry has called on more local businesses to join the “Phnom Penh Kuyteav” system, which was created by the Cambodian Chefs Association to promote local products under the brand.
In May, the foreign ministry sent a letter to Cambodian ambassador to India Panha Pichkhun to look into rice exporter Voyage India over its “Angkor Wat Thai Hom Mali Jasmine Rice” brand of products which feature an image of the temple.
The company purportedly imports milled rice from Thailand and sells it across India and to African countries under the brand name.
Voyage India reportedly stopped operations after a short protest. However, the products are still advertised on the company’s website, as of September 1.