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Intellectual Property Protection in Cambodia

Intellectual Property (IP) rights are territorial in nature and registrations in Hong Kong or another jurisdiction are not automatically enforceable in other jurisdictions. Hong Kong companies are advised to register their IP as soon as practical.

Cambodia’s 2004 accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) prompted the adoption of several laws on IP rights. However, Cambodia remains nascent in comparison with more developed IP protection regimes and it will take some time before laws governing IP are in full WTO compliance.

IP law in Cambodia is overseen by the Department of Intellectual Property (DIP) under the MOC. While the key information surrounding each IP right is listed in the table below, Hong Kong companies should consult the DIP and/or a Cambodian lawyer specialising in IP law, particularly as the application for IP rights must be completed in the Cambodian language.

Overview of IP Rights in Cambodia

Patents & Utility Models – protect commercial inventions, e.g. a new product or business process

Industrial Designs – protect a product’s special appearance, as long as it is new

Scope

The Law on Patents, Utility Models and Industrial Designs (2003) governs this area of IP.

A protectable invention can be any idea which permits in practice the solution to a specific problem in the field of technology. This Law excludes certain types of inventions, such as scientific theories and mathematical formulae, and any invention which would harm public health or morality, such as illegal narcotics. The Cambodian government has the right to exploit a patented invention itself, or allow a third party to do the same, in order to promote the public interest (e.g. in national defence).

An industrial design can be a composition of lines, colours, a three-dimensional shape, or a novel material. Industrial designs are closely related to both copyrights and trademarks, with possible overlap among them.

Duration

  • Patents – 20 years from filing date and an annual maintenance fee must be paid to keep the registration active
  • Utility model – seven years from filing date and an annual maintenance fee must be paid to keep the registration active
  • Industrial design – five years from filing date and renewable for two consecutive periods of five years each

Registration and Fees

Applications are filed with the DIP under the MOC.

Cambodia is part of the Paris Convention and ASEAN Patent Examination Cooperation, and Hong Kong companies may benefit from reduced fees and time spent in registering patents and industrial designs, in the event of registering in multiple countries or jurisdictions.

Copyrights – protect literary, scholarly, scientific and artistic works, whether published or unpublished. Copyright protection also extends to computer programmes, multimedia works, and databases that are original by reason of the selection, coordination or arrangement of their contents.

Scope

Cambodia’s Law on Copyright and Related Rights (2003) provides protection for original works of authorship. Books, sculptures, architecture, computer programs, paintings, photographs, musical compositions and many other types of work are governed by this Law.

Duration

Lifetime of the creator and 50 years after death.

Registration

Although copyright is an automatic protection, copyright owners may wish to voluntarily register works with the Ministry of Culture & Fine Arts. This may help in enforcing the right in any administrative or judicial proceeding.

Trademark – protects signs, symbols, logos, words or sounds

Geographical Indications (GIs) – protect names or signs used on certain products which correspond to a specific location, where the quality or reputation of the goods is essentially attributable to its place of origin.

Scope

Trademarks and related IPRs are protected under the Law on Marks, Trade Names and Acts of Unfair Competition (2002). This Law lists the steps for registering a trademark and the scope of protection.

GIs are registrable under the Law on Geographical Indications of Goods (2014).

Duration

Both GIs and trademarks are valid for 10 years, provided that the registrant files with the IP office a declaration of use/justifiable non-use within one year following the fifth anniversary of the date of the registration or renewal.

The registration is renewable at the end of each 10th year from registration, so long as the mark is still in commercial use.

Registration and Fees

A trademark or GI application form must be completed, with drawing of the mark, proof of ownership and payment of fees. Applications to file a mark are filed with the DIP under the MOC. In 2017 an Online Mark Filing System was launched for the application of trademarks, and runs in parallel to the manual system.

Cambodia is a member of the Madrid Union and is party to the Paris Convention which Hong Kong companies may be able to benefit from reduced fees and time spent in registering trademarks in multiple countries or jurisdictions.

Enforcement of IP Rights

Enforcement of IP rights in Cambodia is generally considered weak, with different departments in charge of the enforcement of different IP rights:

  • Department of Intellectual Property (DIP), MOC – responsible for the enforcement of trademarks and acting both as an enforcer and mediator.

  • General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE), MOEF – entrusted with IP enforcement at the borders. Protection must be initiated by the right holder, with strong evidence, before GDCE can act.

  • Cambodia Import-Export Inspection and Fraud Suppression Department (CAMCONTROL), MOC – entrusted to enforce IP rights in cooperation with GDCE and the economic police at the borders and in the domestic market.

  • Economic Police, Ministry of Interior – entrusted to enforce IP rights with cooperation with CAMCONTROL in the domestic market and is in charge of criminal investigations.

  • Committee for Suppression of Copyright Infringement – special agency focused on copyright.

  • Judicial Courts – these courts will only be involved if the IP rights infringement is escalated through the court process.

 

A Practical Guide to Doing Business in Cambodia

  1. Regulatory Environment
  2. Establishing a Presence
  3. Intellectual Property Protection
  4. Staff Recruitment
  5. Tax Considerations
  6. Import/Export Procedures
  7. Further information


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