Thai companies exposed to IP piracy in regional markets


Thai products have become so popular in the region that they have become the targets of piracy and Thai companies need to do a better job of registering and protecting their trademarks, logos and other intellectual property, the Department of Intellectual Property said last week.

Several Thai products and brands are being registered and sold in foreign markets, particularly in China, without the real owners’ consent, said Nuntawan Sakuntanaga, director-general of the department. Thai companies whose trademarks have been stolen and falsely registered include Malee, Tipco, Tao Kae Noi, Lobo, Red Bull, Mama and Pantai Norasingh. These companies manufacture fruit juice, energy beverages, peanuts, snacks, chili paste, sauce and instant noodles, among other goods.

Thailand’s private sector has increasingly become a driving force for stronger anti-piracy laws within Thailand as the country has become more developed, creative and innovative. Although the United States has been critical of the level of intellectual property piracy within the Kingdom, the involvement of Thailand’s own artists, inventors and businesspeople in pressuring the authorities for stronger enforcement is evidence of how complex the problem has become.

Add to this the problem of Thai intellectual property being pirated in other markets, and it becomes clear that the Kingdom is fighting a war on several fronts with each presenting significant challenges. Many of the ‘knock-off’ brand names goods found on sale in Thai markets have been produced in other countries, including China, and smuggled into Thailand.

Nuntawan said that local agents and traders, some Thai and some foreign, have copied Thai products and exploited loopholes that allowed them to register the products trademark overseas without the knowledge of the true owners or before the real owners were able to register their own goods. Thai companies need to take IPR more seriously amid global trade liberalization, she said. “Thais are less concerned about IPR,’’ she said.

Often, it is only when Thai companies want to expand into new markets in other countries that they find they are unable to do so because foreign players or pirates may have already registered their knockoffs. Unless local firms become more vigilant in safeguarding their IP, they will lose opportunities to grow their businesses.

Thailand is set to join the Madrid Protocol, an international treaty for trademark registration, by the middle of this year. This protocol will allow Thai enterprises to also apply to register their trademarks in many countries that are also signatories to the treaty.

Membership in the Madrid Protocol will reduce the cost of registering individual trademarks, shorten the time taken to register a trademark and provide protection via the protocol network of 97 member countries, Nuntawan said.

The treaty is groundbreaking in that it permits the filing of a single application for a trademark covering more than one country. The process identifies the trademark application to be considered in a large number of countries within a specified period.