Cambodia Recognizes First Patent Application

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By Dezan Shira & Associates, Singapore Office

Cambodia has recognized its first-ever patent application, marking a landmark for legal services provision in the country. The country has had a patent law in place since 2003, enacted as part of the countries WTO obligations, however it has struggled with the internal mechanisms required to enable it to actively process such applications.

However, in light of the forthcoming ASEAN Economic Community deadline of the end of this year for Cambodian compliance, the nation negotiated an agreement with Singapore’s Intellectual Property Office (IPOS) for assistance in processing such applications. Consequently, the first patent was granted protection and recognized in Phnom Penh on March 4th.

In a statement last week, IPOS said the co-operation between Singapore and Cambodia will enable prospective companies to access the regional common market more effectively, and stated that businesses or inventors seeking patent protection in Cambodia may now do so through its office.

Cambodia Patent Application Process
In Cambodia, patent registration is effected by the filing of a patent application to the Ministry of Industry and Handicraft (“MIH”) and includes the application form, description, claims drawings (if applicable), abstract, information concerning any previous international registrations and evidence of such prior registrations.  As in many jurisdictions, an invention is patentable only if it is new, involves an inventive step and is industrially applicable.
 
 
While official timelines for actions to be performed by the applicant or the patent examiner are stipulated in the Patent Law and applicable regulation, these are generally extendable at the discretion of the MIH.  In practice, and while the Singapore application has been the initial patent granted in the country, it may take around four years for issuance of a patent from the date of application, although the new IPOS relationship may now reduce this.  Application forms must be translated into the national language of Cambodia (Khmer) and this requirement also contributes to the approval process timeline, given a lack of translators and law firms operating in the country to verify these.
 
To date Cambodian patent law is not fully in line with international standards, although the Cambodian law will be familiar to legal counsel experienced in such work. The nation is a signatory to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Intellectual Property. Thus far, about 125 patents are pending with all these being priority applications from existing patents filed elsewhere.
 
 
Accordingly there is great reliance placed on the search and examination reports from the country from which priority is claimed. The new IPOS route with the assistance of Singapore may therefore be considered a preferential route for legal counsel to take for the time being.
 
Cambodia has also instigated Patent Infringement & Criminal Penalties into law, allowing a
 civil infringement law suit against offenders. Cambodian courts have discretion to award monetary damages and order injunctive relief, as well as issuing criminal penalties for infringement of five million to twenty million Riels (approximately US$1,250 to US$5,000), or one to five years imprisonment, or both. Repeat offenders are subject to up to double the fine and imprisonment term.


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