In recent times, Cambodia has gradually become one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Along with the increasing young population, many preferential policies, low taxes, and especially no restrictions on foreign exchange or money transfer, Cambodia is now a preferred destination for many foreign investors and is considered a promising land for the expansion and development of many businesses in Asia.
This is also evident when Cambodia is one of the countries that has recovered strongly after the Covid pandemic. The traditional strong industries of Cambodia such as garment, footwear, tourism, and agricultural exports have almost returned to normal.
With the development of the economy, the Cambodian government also focuses on building and amending laws, including regulations on intellectual property. Although the content of the amendments is sometimes not progressive (even controversial), this shows that Cambodia is actively integrating and making efforts to create a clear, transparent, and comprehensive legal environment on intellectual property to attract more foreign investors.
The typical recent example is that the Trademark Office under the Ministry of Commerce of Cambodia has issued notifications about significant changes related to trademark registration procedures and submitting the Affidavit of Use/Non-Use of trademarks in Cambodia.
The content of these texts is summarized as follows:
1. Notification No. 2510/R/DIPR dated 01 August 2023: Applicants are now required to file only one application for either single class or multiple classes to reduce unnecessary documents for trademark filing procedures. In other words, filing concurrently multiple single-class applications instead of one multi-class application is NOT acceptable in Cambodia from 1 August 2023.
It can be seen that filing trademark applications for multiple classes is not a new issue in Cambodia, but if in the past the applicant had the right to choose to submit separate applications (for the same trademark) corresponding to each class or submit only one multi-class application, as long as it is appropriate for protection purposes, business strategy or simply a matter of managing trademark registration costs at each time, now they only have the option to submit one multi-class application for the same trademark.
We believe that this amendment is a “step backwards” in the reform of trademark registration procedures in Cambodia, because in addition to unreasonably limiting the rights of applicants, it also causes damage and increased costs for applicants in the following aspects:
- Even though there is no longer the option to submit applications separately for each class and it is required to submit applications for multiple classes, the application fees remain unchanged. Specifically, the fees for trademark registration are still calculated based on the number of class of goods/services submitted in the application, rather than the number of trademark applications as filed.
- In a multi-class application, if one or more classes are rejected and the applicant wishes to proceed with registration for the accepted classes, he must withdraw the rejected class(es). This action causes time and money expenses for the applicants, which would not occur if the applicants were still allowed to submit separate trademark applications for each class of goods/services as before.
2. Notification number 2652/R/DIPR dated 11/08/2023: The trademark owner must submit an Affidavit of Use or Non-use of the trademark within the prescribed deadline of the law. This notification serves as a reminder for the trademark owner to comply with the deadline for submitting the Affidavit of Use or Non-use of the trademark to avoid the trademark being removed from the registration system.
The provision (registered trademarks will be removed from the registration system if the trademark owner does not submit an Affidavit of Use or Non-use within the permitted period) is specified in Article 21(4) of Decree No. 64 dated 12/07/2006, but in practice before, the Affidavit of Use or Non-use could be submitted late until the next renewal period. However, according to Notice No. 2652/R/DIPR, late submission will no longer be allowed and trademark owners must comply with the regulations specified in Article 21. Therefore, trademark owners are recommended to submit overdue Affidavits of Use/Non-use to the Trademark Office as early as possible to avoid the risk of being removed from the registration system.
We consider this to be a positive amendment regulation of Cambodia as it enhances the awareness of preserving the established trademark rights of owners, thereby emphasizing the value of trademark registration and maintenance. This notice is also an important legal improvement because in the past, the Cambodian Trademark Office did not strictly enforce the submission of the Affidavit of Use or Non-Use within the prescribed time. With the issuance of Notice 2652/R/DIPR, trademark owners will always have to pay attention to meeting the requirements for submitting the Affidavit of Use on time if they do not want to lose ownership rights for the registered trademark.
Co-authors: Nguyen Trong Tu – Tran Thi Anh Thi