On 23 January 2017, the Cambodian government signed an agreement with the European Patent Office (EPO), which will allow applicants to extend their European patent rights to Cambodia.
The agreement is predicted to enter into effect on 1 July 2017, by when relevant changes in Cambodian national law will have been made to accommodate it. The initial term of the agreement is five years.
Validation in Cambodia will only be possible for European patent applications filed after the date the agreement enters into force. It is important to note that validation of European patents on some pharmaceutical subject may not be possible in Cambodia. This relates to the fact that Cambodia benefits from a World Trade Organisation waiver (until 2033) which allows the world’s least developed countries to import and produce medicines without regard to IP rights.
Cambodia has one of world’s newest functioning patent systems, with the first patent granted as recently as 2015. However, Cambodia is rapidly developing its intellectual property infrastructure in order to attract foreign investment. On 8 September 2016, Cambodia acceded to the Patent Convention Treaty (PCT), allowing Cambodian nationals, residents and corporate entities to file International patent applications. Additionally, nationals, residents and corporate entities of other PCT contracting parties have been able to designate Cambodia for national phase entry from applications filed since this date. Cambodia also acceded to the Hague Agreement, which concerns the registration of designs, on 25 February 2017. Cambodia has also been a member of the Madrid Protocol, for international registration of trademarks, since 2015.
It is not presently clear what the formalities will be to validate a European patent in Cambodia. However, assuming the system is similar to that presently in force for Morocco, it will be necessary to designate Cambodia as a state when the designation fee is due, and pay a validation fee. Grant of the Cambodian validation may require the submission of claims translated into the Khmer language, as well as payment of a further fee. The EPO has indicated that it expects around 2800 Cambodian validations to be filed each year.
The Cambodian economy has reported strong GDP growth in the past decade, albeit from a low base. The major export industries are textiles and footwear. Cambodia has significant unexploited oil and natural gas reserves, which are considered to be important for the country’s long-term economic outlook.
The other current validation states available at the EPO are Morocco and Moldova. An agreement has also been made between the EPO and Tunisia, although this has not been brought into effect to date.