The latest Queen of Pop, Lady Gaga, arrived in Bangkok in May 2012 amid a blaze of publicity and controversy. Shortly after landing in the Kingdom on the latest stop of her “Born this Way Ball” Asia Tour, the pop diva tweeted to her 24 million Twitter followers that she wanted to buy a fake Rolex watch in a “lady market.”
Considering Lady Gaga’s international personality and global influence, the Thai Department of Intellectual Property (DIP) feared that her actions and rash statement would encourage other tourists to visit Thailand with the objective of purchasing fake goods. Compounding the negative perception, Lady Gaga’s tweet was sent out in the same month that the Office of the United States Trade Representative Special 301 Report retained Thailand on its Priority Watch List.
Although the tweet imparted a negative image of Thailand, it did succeed in raising further awareness of counterfeit goods among the Thai youth. On June 6–7, 2012, the Ministry of Commerce hosted an anti-counterfeiting campaign called “Thai Youth Against Counterfeit Products,” at Siam Square in Bangkok. This event was designed to enhance respect for IPR among the Thai youth (especially university students) and to encourage the youth to buy authentic products in order to “celebrate originality and creativity.” Leaders stressed the importance of a strong intellectual property rights system for the Thai economy, condemned the fact that 5,000 arrests have already been made in connection with counterfeiting offenses in 2012, and promised to enhance combative measures moving forward.
In addition to the buzz surrounding Lady Gaga’s tweet, Thailand’s IP enforcement efforts have also been in the news for more constructive reasons. On June 7, 2012, the Global Anti-Counterfeiting Group awarded the DIP its Global Anti-Counterfeiting Award 2012, in recognition of its crackdown on piracy.
Director-General Pajchima Tanasanti, of the DIP, said that cracking down on counterfeits in the country was the department’s top priority. “The award brings pride, and confirms the success of the department and other agencies, and its concerted efforts have been globally recognized. This award will inspire the department and others to further their crackdown activities,” she said.
While IP enforcement challenges in Thailand nonetheless continue, the Thai government has demonstrated its commitment to stepping up its anti-counterfeiting efforts.