Cambodia Lags in Fight Against Intellectual Property Piracy

Ten years after joining the World Trade Organization, Cambodia is still awash with counterfeit CDs and pharmaceutical drugs, government officials admitted at a conference devoted to enforcing intellectual property (I.P.) laws.

Cambodia needs to root out the “threat” of counterfeit and pirated goods, Commerce Minister Sun Chanthol told conference attendees this week. Ignoring trademarks, patents and copyrights, I.P. infringements create “threats to the health and safety of consumers, the discouragement of investment and the activities of organized crime that are a concern to us all.”

C.D.s and DVDs are on display at a local shop on Friday in Phnom Penh. (Siv Channa)
C.D.s and DVDs are on display at a local shop on Friday in Phnom Penh. (Siv Channa)

Last year, Cambodian enforcement agencies confiscated and destroyed about 170,000 CDs, 26 types of fake medicines and 82 counterfeit trademarks of cosmetics, such as Nivea and L’Oreal.

“It is our hope that the Cambodian people will realize the benefit of purchasing authentic products, as IPR theft harms consumers who waste their money and can put themselves and their loved ones at risk,” said Sean McIntosh, a spokesman for U.S. Embassy, which is providing support to train Cambodian law enforcement agencies.

At Emy’s DVD House on Street 51, the owner said he is aware of intellectual property rights, but that authorities turn a blind eye to the sale of counterfeit merchandise.

Declining to give his name, he said he was granted a license to sell his goods and receives visits from the Chamkar Mon district governor.

Asian IPR SME Helpdesk is a project funded by the European Commission to work with small and medium sized businesses to enforce intellectual property rights.

“Although Cambodia has established many new laws in the field of I.P., it will be a number of years before Cambodia comes into full WTO compliance,” says the group’s latest report.

Jakub Ramocki, a Helpdesk adviser, was blunter. “In Cambodia, there’s a lack of awareness” of intellectual property issues, he said. “There is a common acceptance of fake products and there’s an issue of corruption in the courts and a lack of skilled examiners.”

For many Cambodians, buying a new DVD at a retail price of even $7 is too expensive, said Ung Nareth, president of the Motion Picture Association of Cambodia, an independent body that aims to protect intellectual property.

Mr. Nareth said Cambodia’s I.P. enforcement agencies are doing a bad job and are not serious about confiscating pirate goods.

“You can’t enforce the law upon people and starve them,” he said. “They should find something for the sellers to get on with when they take away their business.”

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