Samart Must Recall Pre-Paid Phone Cards, Pending a Lengthy Gov’t Patent Decision

The municipal court in Phnom Penh has found that Cambodia Samart violated an injunction order stopping it from launching its own version of a prepaid billing system using scratch cards, Samart officials said Thursday.

To get around the court injunction, Samart came up with another solution—the Samart card, which was introduced two weeks ago.

But the court said the Samart card is still too similar to a scratch card and found the mobile phone company in contempt of court Monday.

Samart has 30 days to recall all the Samart cards that are on the market, said Samart General Manager Somchai Lertwiset­theerakul.

Because it was thought that competitor MobiTel’s scratch card was patented with the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy in June, the Municipal Court issued an injunction against Samart to prevent it from launching its own scratch card billing system.

But it turns out that MobiTel does not have a patent and the case is now pending in Supreme Court. A decision is expected next week.

Somchai said he hopes the Supreme Court will find in his company’s favor so he won’t have to recall the Samart cards.

“This is the end of the road,” said Somchai, who thought the Samart card was different enough from MobiTel’s scratch card to allow it to operate. “We will respect the decision of the court,” he said.

Kith Meng, the local partner for MobiTel, said Samart broke the law by launching the Samart card. “You must respect the law,” Kith Meng said. “We just want to protect our process. A free market doesn’t mean you can do anything.”

While MobiTel’s scratch card bears a hidden 10-digit code number that customers scratch to reveal and then dial into their phones, the 12-digit code number on the Samart card is sealed in a packet.

The Samart card comes in $10, $20 and $50 versions. Unlike MobiTel, Somchai said, there is no daily fee related to the Samart card. MobiTel has a daily fee of 36 cents.

Ping Siv Lay, deputy director of the Technical Department of the Ministry of Industry, has said the process for using the Samart card is still too similar to MobiTel’s scratch card.

Samart is not allowed to promote its version of the scratch card until a decision has been made as to whether MobiTel deserves a patent for its scratch card, Ping Siv Lay said.

Ping Siv Lay said it would take up to a year to do research to decide whether the company deserved a patent.

If the Industry Ministry de­cides MobiTel doesn’t deserve a patent, then Samart can begin promoting its own scratch card.

Somchai said the Samart card is a temporary solution until the courts decide whether Samart would be able to launch its version of the scratch card.


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