As of 1 March 2018, Cambodia is an EPO (European Patent Office) validation state, making it the first country in Asia to hold such a status.
A validation state is a non-contracting state to the European Patent Convention (EPC) that has entered into a validation agreement with the European Patent Office (EPO). This enables the validation of European patent applications in that state. After validation, the applicant for the patent will have the same protection for their invention as they would for any patent granted by the EPO in any EPC contracting state.
Cambodia is not the first non-European country to become a validation state, though. Morocco and Tunisia are both validation states (having joined in 2015 and 2017, respectively). The Republic of Moldova is the only European state that is a validation state rather than a member state or an extension state. Together with Cambodia these states are unique in that European Patents can be validated for them, in spite of their not actually being members of the EPC.
This marks another step in Cambodia’s recent work in strengthening their Intellectual Property infrastructure. They joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2014 and were the 151st State to join the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) in 2016. Cambodia also joined the Madrid Protocol for trade marks in 2015 and the Hague Agreement for designs in 2016 (see our pages on patent, trade mark and design protection around the world for more information about the respective systems). All of this is impressive work in just a few years, especially given that patent law was only put in place in Cambodia in 2003.
The EPC system can be an especially cost effective one, allowing patent applicants to file just one application at the EPO initially, stating which of the 44 states they would like validation in when the patent is granted. Until grant, the applicant only need deal with communications with one Patent Office (the EPO). Importantly, fees (including renewal fees) are only paid to the EPO before grant and are only paid to the patent offices of the individual validation states after grant. The EPO also carries out substantive examination of patents, leading to potentially “stronger” granted patents than might otherwise be granted in certain states which operate a registration only system.
It’s important to note however, that under Cambodian patent law, pharmaceutical products are currently excluded from protection. This would exclude European patents for pharmaceuticals from being validated in Cambodia, even if they are accepted in other EPC member and validation states. Thanks to Article 70 of TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property) – such patents may still be filed (and will therefore get a filing date, important for assessing novelty) and at a later date, when pharmaceutical patents are no longer excluded, they may come into force.
In the meantime, for most other applications, the addition of Cambodia as a validation state represents an efficient (and typically cost-effective) route to protection in that state that may be more straightforward than direct filing. Protection for many other Asian territories is available via the PCT (as indeed it still is for Cambodia) or via direct filing.
Author: Rebecca Douglas