Pizza Order Strengthens Trademarks

Pizza Hot, one of Cambodia’s best known examples of alleged trademark infringement, will soon be a thing of the past.

The Thai-owned restaurant, whose name and logo bears a strong resemblance to that of the US chain Pizza Hut, has been given one month by the Com­merce Ministry to change its name.

“We showed them the Thai [trademark] law and told them to remove the mark,” Var Roth San, deputy chief of the ministry’s trademark office, said Tuesday. “They are Thai so they understood and agreed.”

The order was applauded by analysts, with one calling it a “positive step” toward trademark en­forcement in Cambodia.

Intellectual property rights are still a relatively new concept in Cambodia, where pirated videos and compact discs are widely available and companies such as the Sharaton Hotel and KFC fast food restaurant capitalize on the names of well-known international chains.

Var Roth San declined to say if the ministry is considering pressing other cases.

A spokesman at the Regent Park Hotel on Sothearos Boule­vard, where Pizza Hot is located, confirmed Tuesday the restaurant’s name would be changing. But he said he did not know what the new name would be. He said the hotel’s owner, Sathian Banyatpiyaphod, would make that decision when he arrives from Bangkok next week.

Var Roth San said that the order follows a complaint made at the end of 1997 by Pizza Hut. Owners of Pizza Hot initially had agreed to change the name at that time, but never did so, he said.

Finally last week, company representatives were called to a meeting at the ministry and given notice.

Although he declined to discuss current cases being looked into by the department, Var Roth San said his department has been asked by Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh to visit the owner of KFC restaurant on Monivong Boulevard.

“Step by step we have to do this or investors will not come,” said Var Roth San.

But he said action can’t be taken until the US company that owns Kentucky Fried Chicken, also known as KFC, files a complaint.

Cambodia belongs to the World Intellectual Property Organization but has yet to pass an intellectual property protection law.

Despite the absence of a law, the trademark office in the Commerce Ministry has been registering marks since 1991, and by the end of 1997 had more than 10,000 trademarks in its books.

So far, the trademark office has successfully ordered a handful of companies to change names or packaging that they believe infringe on a registered trademark.

Not every dispute has been settled as easily as that of Pizza Hot. No resolution is in sight in the case of cigarette maker British American Tobacco Cambodia and a local tobacco company, Hong International, over two brand trademarks.

British American Tobacco complained in April that the packaging of two brands made by Hong International looked too similiar to its 555 and ARA brand packaging.

Hong International has insisted it has done nothing wrong because it registered its design with the patent office, which is the responsibility of the Industry Ministry.

Var Roth San said no progress has been made in the case. Hong International has said the case would have to be taken to court because they believe they are registered. British American Tobacco, he said, does not want to take them to court.

British American Tobacco’s Corporate Affairs Manager Nigel Venning on Tuesday would not discuss specific details of the case, but said the company continues to believe its trademarks have been infringed and push for a resolution.

“We’re confident the issue can be resolved when authorities are in the position that the [trademark] law can be passed,” he said.

Hong International could not be reached for comment.

 

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