For the first time, a Cambodian court has fined an individual for violating a corporate trademark, officials said Sunday.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday fined Sok Chamrong $1,710 in absentia for producing fake Marlboro and L&M brand cigarettes at a factory in the capital, Deputy Prosecutor Sok Kalyan said Friday.
About 4,800 cartons of the counterfeit tobacco products were found and confiscated at a factory in Dangkao district, he said. An unnamed Thai national is believed to have collaborated with the Cambodian man to distribute the goods, he said.
“Sok Chamrong apologized to the company and promised not to do it again,” Sok Kalyan said, adding that the apology was the reason the man was not imprisoned under the 2002 Trademark Law, which allows for jail sentences of up to one year.
Suy Chhunhak, a lawyer for the US-based firm Altria, whose Philip Morris division makes both brands of cigarettes, said the defendant made the cigarettes for about three months. The company accepted the apology in February, after filing the trademarks lawsuit with the court in May, he said.
“He produced cigarettes named The Swallow but because of poor profits, he had the bad idea to fake these products,” the lawyer said. “This spoils the reputation of the [Altria] company.”
“This is the first time in Cambodia someone has been fined for trademarks…we should do like this for foreign investors,” said Var Roth San, director of the Intellectual Property Department at the Ministry of Commerce.
“Usually they come to my department to solve the problem, but this time the lawyer wanted a seizure of the equipment and confiscation of the product, which we do not have the power to do,” he said.
Since 2002, the department has resolved 160 cases of trademark infringement, Var Roth San said. Only one other case involving cigarettes has previously come up, and it did not involve outright infringement—just a similarity in packaging to that of a registered brand, he said.