On December 24, 2019, the Ministry of Commerce issued a notification on the filing and recording of letters of exclusive importation and distribution of trademarked goods. This notification supplements the 2016 Prakas on the Procedure to Record and File Letters of Exclusive Importation of Trademarked Goods, which required importers with the exclusive right to import goods bearing specific trademarks to record that exclusivity in order to enforce their rights against third parties.
The new notification informs trademark owners and distributors with exclusive import and distribution rights that they must file and record a letter setting out those rights, and laying out the specific models that they are authorized to import and distribute, with the Ministry of Commerce. This notification is therefore particularly relevant to importers that handle multiple product models, such as those in the business of importing vehicles, electronic devices, and so on.
The specific list of goods and models can either be provided as an annex to the short-form template letter of exclusive importation and distribution (provided by the Department of Intellectual Property Rights of the Ministry of Commerce) or in a short-form agreement of exclusive importation and distribution. If a trademark owner and a distributor have already filed an exclusive importation and distribution agreement, then they can file an updated letter, including a list of models, when the current approval letter expires.
Once the letter is approved by the Ministry of Commerce it is valid for two years, or for the validity period stated in the letter, the trademark registration certificate, or the permit to import, whichever is earliest. If the trademark owner and the distributor want to renew the approval letter after expiration, they must do so no earlier than three months before the expiry date with a new valid letter of exclusive importation and distribution.
This requirement should allow trademark owners and distributors to enforce their rights more effectively—especially against parallel imports. Cambodia adheres to the national exhaustion doctrine of trademark rights under the Law on Marks, Trade Names, and Acts of Unfair Competition, so if a trademark owner or distributor has recorded an exclusive importation and distribution agreement with the Ministry of Commerce, either the trademark owner or the distributor can take enforcement actions against such parallel imports.
It should be noted that exclusive importation and distribution agreements that relate to secondhand goods, pharmaceutical products, or goods prohibited by law, cannot be recorded under this notification.