Experts Convene To Debate Intellectual Property Rights

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More than 200 business leaders, consultants, lawyers and government officials gathered yesterday to discuss intellectual property rights in an event organised by the European Chamber of Commerce.

A woman stands behind a machine in a toothpaste manufacturing line at a Unilever factory. Reuters

Dubbed “Intellectual property rights forum 2018”, experts shared the latest developments regarding IPR law in the kingdom, with a focus on counterfeit products and parallel imports.

Blaise Kilian, deputy director at the European Chamber of Commerce, said the event was organised following multiple requests from members who have been adversely affected by bootleg products and parallel imports.

According to Mr Kilian, the sectors most affected by this trade are the pharmaceutical, automotive and food and beverage industries, adding that the issue has wide-spread ramifications for the public’s health and investors’ confidence.

“Through this forum, we will work with all authorities to implement the law, and we will transfer the knowledge and technology to build the capacity of the authorities to combat parallel imports and counterfeit products,” he said.

“To combat counterfeiting we need to raise awareness and provide capacity building.”

Soy Monica, senior external affairs manager at consumer goods multinational Unilever, said fraudulent products are a major factor affecting her company’s bottom line.

“For Unilever, counterfeiting has been a problem for many years. Counterfeit and parallel imports limit our revenue by 15 to 20 percent every year, about $4 to $5 million,” she said.

“Fake products are an issue not just for companies, but also for the government – who doesn’t get to collect taxes – and consumers, whose health may be put at risk,” Ms Monica said.

She said the local market is flooded with grey versions of products from the 20 different brands registered under the Unilever group.

Ros Sophea, legal and compliance manager at Coca-Cola Cambodia, said every year two million cases of its iconic product are brought into the country from Thailand, a practice that’s taking its toll on company revenue.

“They are cheaper than the product we manufacture here, so it affects our business performance,” he said.

“For the government, it translates to about 2.5 million in lost tax revenue a year.”

Op Rady, director of intellectual property at the Ministry of Commerce, told Khmer Times that IPR awareness is still low in the country, but that forums like this are helping to spread knowledge.

“We are working hard to enforce the law, but it is hard because our budget is very limited,” Mr Rady said, adding that, despite budgetary constraints, the government is entirely committed to solving the country’s IPR woes.

Meach Sophana, chairman of the Counter Counterfeit Committee of Cambodia, said in order to combat these practices, companies need to cooperate with the authorities, sharing information and samples of their products.

“We are combating counterfeit products, with a focus on medicines to protect the health of the public,” he said.

“We have cracked down on 30 illegal operations, both big and small, and destroyed tonnes of medical and cosmetic products last year alone.”

He said his organisation has brought hundreds of dealers to face justice in court, with many of them now in jail.

“We coordinate with economic police, customs officers and other relevant authorities to carry out our work. We also try to educate people on the dangers, particularly to health, of using fake products.”

This article was originally published in the Khmer Times.