Thailand Seeks To Toughen IP Laws to Punish Buyers Of Pirated Or Fake Goods 19/06/2009 by Sinfah Tunsarawuth for Intellectual Property Watch 6 Comments Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)BANGKOK – Thailand plans to toughen its intellectual property protection law to punish, for the first time, buyers of products that breach copyright and trademark laws, aiming primarily at pirated music and movies and fake brand-name goods, a senior Thai official said Thursday. In an effort to fight increased infringement of local music and movies, the plan includes amending current laws also to penalise lessors of any property used for manufacturing, storing or selling products that violate the copyrights and trademark laws. “Currently, we can only punish producers or sellers of such products,” said Pajchima Tanasanti, deputy director general of the Department of Intellectual Property in the Ministry of Commerce, in an interview with Intellectual Property Watch. “But on the other side of the story, we have people who want to buy these products because they are cheap.” She added: “Under current laws, these buyers commit no offence.” The move would entail amending the Copyright Act of 1994 and the Trademark Act of 1991 – the two current key pieces of legislation that protect copyright holders of music and movies and brand-name trademarks. Pajchima, who supervises the copyright and trademark units of her department, said there have been increased complaints from copyright holders of Thai music and movies of pirated video CDs (VCDs) in the market. “We have to admit that there really have been a huge number of these pirated copies of music and movies flooding the market,” she said. Heavily hit is the Thai music industry as Thai youngsters have recently turned toward a preference for Thai music over Western tunes. Pajchima said about 30 companies that hold rights to the commercial use of Thai country music have recently gone out of business because of losses due to the much cheaper pirated copies available in the market. She said just on Wednesday, Thai police and officials of her department raided a building in a Bangkok suburb that housed a major manufacturing shop of pirated music and movie, and found 40,000 such copies of Thai and foreign music and movies. She added that 80 percent of pirated music CDs is now Thai songs while the other 20 percent is foreign. On pirated movies, Thai and foreign films take up equal proportion. Pajchima said since the current government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva came into power in late December 2008, it has paid greater attention to preventing violations of intellectual property rights. In January 2009, the Abhisit government set up, for the first time, a national committee for the prevention and suppression of violations of intellectual property, chaired by the prime minister. In the proposed amendment draft to the 1994 Copyright Act, buyers of pirated copies of music or movies would be seen as committing copyright infringement and could be subject to a maximum fine of 1,000 Thai baht (about US$29) or doing community service. For lessors of property used for manufacturing, storing or selling pirated products, they could be subject to an imprisonment term of three months to two years, or a fine of 50,000 baht to 400,000 baht (about US$1,470 to $11,760), or both. If these provisions become law, it is likely that in future property leasing agreement in Thailand, lessors would add requirements that lessees must not use the property to manufacture, store or sell any pirated copies of music or movies. In the proposed amendment draft to the Trademark Act of 1991, buyers of products with counterfeit trademark also could be subject to a maximum fine of 1,000 baht or doing community service. For lessors of property used for manufacturing, storing or selling of products with a counterfeit trademark, they could be subject to an imprisonment term of two to four years, or a fine of 200,000 to 400,000 baht (US$5,880 to US$11,760), or both. In the amendments to the Trademark Act, it also proposes a minimum punishment of two years and a minimum fine of 200,000 baht for any counterfeiting of trademarks. Currently, the Act does not specify any minimum penalty, allowing the court to use its discretion in setting the punishment as long as it does not exceed the maximum term of four years of imprisonment and a fine of 400,000 baht. Those who imitate a registered trademark with the intention to deceive the public would also be subject to a minimum jail term of six months and a minimum fine of 50,000 baht ($1,470). Currently, the Act sets only the maximum term of two years in jail and 200,000 baht in fine. Pajchima said the two drafts would now await the approval of the cabinet and then the parliament for approval before becoming law. 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