Authorities target 11 ‘notorious’ markets for IP crackdown

2_IP3A team of Thai law enforcement agencies will collaborate to target markets in 11 areas that the United States has called “notorious” for violating copyrights and stealing intellectual property, a Ministry of Commerce official said last week.

Nuntawan Sakuntanaga, director-general of the ministry’s Intellectual Property Department, said the team agreed to use a broader range of laws to try and put intellectual property (IP) violators out of business. “The meeting agreed that to get rid of large illegal goods traders, the government will enforce not only intellectual-property law to punish wrongdoers, but also tax and anti-money-laundering laws, she said.

Thailand has been on the Priority Watch List of the United States Trade Representative concerning IP protections since the Ministry of Health issued compulsory licenses in 2007 to produce generic versions of a few very expensive life-saving, but patented, medicines under the Kingdom’s universal healthcare program. Compulsory licensing is allowed under World Trade Organization rules and several prominent Americans voiced support for Thailand’s decision, including former President Bill Clinton.

Thailand has remained on the Priority Watch List since then despite significant efforts to improve its legal mechanisms and enforcement to curb piracy, and refraining from issuing more compulsory licenses. Among those supporting the government’s efforts to beef up IP protections are Thai artists, inventors and innovators. They have also been strong advocates for stronger IP protections and punishments as they are also victims of piracy.

“I believe that the US will consider upgrading our trade status from the Priority Watch List to the Watch List after we demonstrated suppression of IP violations, passed relevant laws, and increased awareness of IP rights in the past years,” Nuntawan said.

She added that the trade in illegal goods had been reduced as all agencies had helped suppress violations, seizing and destroying counterfeit goods. The Department has also amended the Copyright Act to tackle Internet-based violations more efficiently.

The move by the Ministry of Commerce is part of an approach intended to directly address issues and criticisms raised by the USTR. Ministry officials met with key government agencies including the Royal Thai Police, the Department of Special Investigation, the Customs Department, the Revenue Department, and the Economic Crime Suppression Division. They are drawing up a plan for suppressing intellectual-property (IP) violations that will be submitted to Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan.

Most of the markets named by the U.S. are well known to tourists and visitors to the Kingdom. They include the Phuket markets at Karon and Patong beaches, a slew of sites in Chonburi province’s beach resort of Pattaya, Rong Kluea Market in Sa Kaew near the border with Cambodia. In Bangkok, the markets that will be targeted are Pantip Plaza, Klong Thom, Baan Mo, MBK, the markets along Sukhumvit Road, Patpong Market, and Jatujak or JJ Market.

Also, the Commerce Ministry will ask the owners of buildings and other places where illegal traders operate not to extend their rental contracts.