GIs soon to be protected in Thailand

Thailand

The Senate has passed the Geographical Indication Act, despite some concern that it would offer more protection to foreign interests than to Thai products such as Jasmine rice or Thai silk. The bill, which will bring Thailand's law in compliance with Articles 22 to 24 of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, has been returned to the House of Representatives for reconsideration and approval before receiving royal assent. It is expected to become law before the end of April 2004, after which the Department of Intellectual Property will accept applications to register geographical indications (GIs).

The following parties will be entitled to apply for registration of a GI:

  • An ordinary person, group of persons or legal person whose business involves goods used with the GI. These persons must be domiciled in the geographic source of the goods;

  • A consumer group or consumer organization for goods used with the GI; or

  • A government agency, state work unit, government enterprise, local government or other state organization with legal status in the geographic source of goods used with the GI.

Any non-Thai national wishing to apply for registration of a foreign GI in Thailand will have to either (i) be a national of a country that is a party to an international convention or treaty for the protection of GIs to which Thailand is also a party; or (ii) be domiciled or have an operating business in Thailand, or in a country that is a party to an international convention or treaty for the protection of GIs to which Thailand is also a party. A foreign GI that is not protected under the law of its country of origin or is no longer used in that country will not be registrable under the act.

Applications will have to contain at least some details relating to the quality, reputation or characteristic of the goods to which they apply as prescribed in the Ministerial Regulations, which are yet to be drafted. The GI must be neither a generic name, nor contrary to peace and order, good public morality or national policy.

If the application is in accordance with the rules prescribed under the act and the registrar is of the opinion that the GI is registrable, either with or without conditions, he or she will order the publication of acceptance for registration for opposition purposes. Any interested person will be entitled to lodge an objection against the registration of the GI within 90 days of the publication date. The applicant may file a counter-statement within 90 days of the date of receipt of the objection, failing which the application will be deemed abandoned. After the registrar has issued a ruling, a notice of the order will be sent to both the applicant and the objector. Both parties will be entitled to appeal to an appellate board against the registrar's order within 90 days of the date of receipt of the order. If a party is dissatisfied with the board's decision, it will be entitled to appeal to the Intellectual Property and International Trade Court within 90 days of receipt of the decision. If legal proceedings are not instituted within that period, the board's decision will be final.

Vipa Chuenjaipanich and Edward J Kelly, Tilleke & Gibbins International Ltd, Bangkok

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