Brands Train Officials to Detect Counterfeits

With World Trade Organization (WTO) rules on copyright yet to be implemented, about 70 police, customs officers and government officials yesterday received a crash course in identifying counterfeit goods from representatives of several well-known international brands.

Organized by the Ministry of Commerce and Thai law firm Tilleke & Gibbins, the conference in Phnom Penh included presentations by companies such as DuPont, Johnny Walker, Gucci, Shiseido and Rovio, the maker of the popular “Angry Birds” mobile phone game.

“Even though the government takes intellectual property protection seriously, infringers can find a way…so the illegal activity can be highly productive,” Darani Vachanavuttivong, director of Tilleke & Gibbon’s intellectual property division, said in a speech.

But “government commitment alone is not enough,” she said. “Cooperation with the private sector is crucial.”

Ms. Darani said that effective and speedy detection of counterfeit products by police and border officials is crucial to cracking down on Cambodia’s trade of fake goods.

An August 2010 study of Phnom Penh’s markets found that more than half of the stalls surveyed contained counterfeit brands.

One brand whose products are commonly copied in Cambodia is American chemical giant DuPont, a representative of the company said at the training session.

“In the Asia-Pacific, [our] illegal products are most rampant,” said Ooi Kok Eng, DuPont’s head of research and development in Southeast Asia, adding that about 20 percent of the DuPont-labeled products in the region are fake. Mr. Kok Eng said that in Cambodia, counterfeit pesticide is a particular concern.

“It’s a syndicate…they build factories to do that [make fake pesticide],” he said, explaining that counterfeit goods often pose health risks to farmers.

Khemika Ratanakul, brand assurance manager for Diageo Brands B.V., which includes Johnny Walker whiskey, explained how slight differences in bottle shape, cap size, liquid quantity and label color can reveal a bottle of “Johnny Walker” to be a forgery.

But Khon Savuth, chief of the statistics office at the Commerce Ministry’s Camcontrol department, which inspects markets across the country for counterfeit or expired products monthly, said that despite efforts to suppress the sale of fake goods, police have no tools at their disposal to make this process easier.

“If we can’t tell using our eyes, and are still not sure which products are fake or real, we have to send their labels for testing at the Ministry of Commerce,” Mr. Savuth said. He added that the majority of counterfeit items are cosmetic and alcohol products that are made locally.

In June, the government asked the WTO to postpone a 2013 deadline to enforce copyright laws, claiming that it needed another two years to meet the proper standards.

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