The government of Thailand has announced sweeping efforts to address the country’s infringement problems, in a scheme that will cover the major intellectual property (IP) categories of patents, trademarks and copyright. For the first time, the country will establish a dedicated Operations Centre for the Suppression of IP Infringement, supervised by the Department of Commerce. It is the key step in what Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra has dubbed the ‘Year of IP Protection’.
Thailand already has a National IP Bureau, which will be heavily involved in setting up the new facility. But of late, the Bureau has been beleaguered by its responsibility for clearing counterfeits from Thailand’s streets – an ongoing battle that, in the first three quarters of 2012 alone, led it to seize some 6.2 million items across 8,416 separate legal actions. The Operations Centre will boost the country’s enforcement activities, while the Bureau and Commerce department focus on strategies for redeeming Thailand’s global reputation on IP matters.
Government officials have moved to tackle the issue in the wake of growing concerns that Thailand has appeared on the IP violations Priority Watch List of the US Trade Representative (USTR) every year since 2007. Thai media outlets have reported that politicians are uneasy with the status quo, and are determined to confront it. Deputy Commerce minister Nattawut Saikua, who will oversee the Operations Centre, said: ‘The government pledges to take every action to tackle piracy in its best bid to convince the US to withdraw Thailand from the Priority Watch List in 2013.’
A significant part of the renewed enforcement drive will be to intensify goods seizures and crackdowns on counterfeit traders in 12 sprawling market areas that were cited as ‘hot spots’ in the most recent Priority Watch list. They include Siam Square, Bangkok’s Patpong night market, Pattaya’s IT City and Aranyaprathet’s Rong Klua market, which lies on the Cambodian border.
Nattawut also confirmed that the Operations Centre would carry out detailed analysis of the financial channels that keep counterfeiters going – many of which tend to be linked to money laundering activities. The USTR’s next evaluation period for the Priority Watch List will open in April. Nattawut is hoping that early effects of the government’s new approach will present themselves by then.
Officials signal a dramatic step change in the country’s handling of infringement, in major push to exit the US Priority Watch List