Not too long ago, Cambodia became a ‘validation state’ for the European Patent Convention (discussed here). This gives the option to extend a European patent into Cambodia.
Now Cambodia has introduced another change: a registration-style system based on Chinese patents. This effectively means that if you get a granted Chinese patent, you can apply to receive a corresponding patent in Cambodia without going through a separate examination process.
How will the patent registration system work?
The registration process effectively requires evidence of the Chinese patent (certified copy of the Chinese patent and patent register entry), and a Khmer translation of the whole patent, along with the relevant forms and fees.
Interestingly, the Cambodian system is set up in a way that allows patent protection to be established retroactively. If you have a granted (and in force) Chinese patent that was filed after 22nd January 2003, then you can obtain patent protection in Cambodia. It doesn’t appear that there is any fixed period for doing this.
Importantly, other parties who are already using the invention in Cambodia (or have made serious and effective preparations to do so) will be protected from patent infringement. They will be able to continue to do what they were already doing or going to do, assuming they are acting in good faith. In other words, you can’t register your patent now to stop existing dealings, only dealings that begin after your Cambodian patent enters into force.
Will other countries follow suit?
The Cambodian patent registration system isn’t the first of its kind. A good number of patent offices already place serious weight on the opinions of the major established patent offices in Europe, China and the USA, for example, and it makes sense not to duplicate effort in re-examining the same material.
For example, various patent offices (e.g. in Singapore, Indonesia) offer streamlined examination based on the work of other major patent offices, and there is also the PPH (Patent Prosecution Highway) system, although this does not guarantee grant, unlike a registration system.
The Hong Kong Patent Office runs a registration system for UK or Chinese patents, but that is a two-stage system which often requires you to file before you know whether you will obtain a patent. The Cambodian system doesn’t require such a gamble – you can apply after receiving a granted Chinese patent. In a similar way, it is also possible to register a granted British patent in various other overseas territories after grant, although this is generally limited to former or existing Commonwealth territories.
It is entirely feasible that other countries could start to implement similar registration systems, to avoid the costs of growing their existing patent infrastructure and/or to encourage investment from international businesses. The number of patent applications being filed around the world is increasing year on year, and removing barriers to patenting via registration systems would seem to present an attractive option for encouraging foreign companies to patent and invest in local operations.