USTR Annual Review on Thailand Intellectual Property Protection 2023

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) conducts an annual review of intellectual property (IP) protection and enforcement in U.S. trading partners worldwide. Countries are categorized based on their IP infringement rates, with priority given to addressing issues in countries with high rates of infringement (Priority Foreign Country: PFC), i.e., countries on the Priority Watch List (PWL), and countries on the Watch List (WL).

Thailand was previously categorized as a country on the Priority Watch List from 2007 to 2017. However, on December 15, 2017, the USTR upgraded Thailand’s IP protection and enforcement status to the Watch List. Currently, Thailand remains on the Watch List along with 22 other countries. The USTR’s Notorious Markets Report for 2022 identified the MBK Center as the only market in Thailand with a high rate of IP infringement.

The USTR’s report acknowledges that Thailand has made progress in improving IP protection and enforcement. Efforts have been made to seize counterfeit and pirated goods, combat the sale of counterfeit goods online, and enhance cooperative measures among governmental agencies. Notable proceedings and plans by governmental agencies include:

  1. Amendment to the Copyright Act B.E. 2537 (1994) to strengthen copyright owners’ rights, allowing them to initiate takedowns or block access to copyright infringement contents on the internet. The amendment also extended the lifespan of photography protection and facilitated Thailand’s accession to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty (WCT).
  2. The development of the Thai Customs IPR Recordation System (TCIRs), an online system where right holders can submit trademark and copyright information to customs officials for verification of authenticity in imported, exported, or transit goods.
  3. Cooperative measures among governmental authorities and organizations to combat the sale and advertisement of counterfeit goods online and online piracy. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been established between right holders and advertising associations to restrict support for websites that infringe on intellectual property.

However, the USTR report also highlights concerns and areas of improvement. The USTR recommends amending the Patent Act B.E. 2522 (1979) to streamline the patent registration process, reduce patent backlog and pendency, and prepare for accession to the Hague Agreement. Additionally, an amendment to the Copyright Act B.E. 2537 (1994) is suggested to address enforcement obstacles and enable Thailand’s accession to the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT).

The Department of Intellectual Property (DIP) is aware of the USTR’s concerns and is taking action to address them. The DIP is currently in the process of redrafting the Patent Act B.E. 2522 (1979) to provide additional protection for right holders, improve the registration process, and align with global standards for accession to the Hague Agreement. Similarly, the Copyright Act B.E. 2537 (1994) is undergoing legislative amendments for Thailand’s accession to the WPPT. Enforcement issues are being addressed through cooperative measures among 17 governmental authorities responsible for seizing and enforcing the law against IP infringers.

Despite ongoing efforts at the administrative, policy planning, and enforcement levels, intellectual property infringement remains a significant challenge in Thailand. The DIP is committed to resolving this issue and working towards removing Thailand from the Watch List countries.

Please note that the information provided is based on the USTR’s Special 301 Report 2023 and other relevant published sources.

Author: Panisa Suwanmatajarn, Managing Partner.

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Thailand – Plan to Accede to WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty  

Following being a member of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Thailand is planning to update the Copyright Act B.E. 2537 (1994) in respect of performing rights in preparation for acceding to WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT).  

RCEP is a free trade agreement that involves 15 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, one of which is Thailand since 15 November 2020. RCEP includes a chapter on intellectual property which encompasses various aspects of intellectual property protection, such as trademarks, copyrights, patents, trade secrets, and geographical indications. As a party to RCEP, countries are expected to comply with minimum standards for intellectual property protection, based on international agreements such as the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and other relevant treaties like WPPT. It primarily deals with the protection of performances and phonograms, which are a subset of intellectual property. Currently, the current Copyright Act B.E. 2537 (1994) does not meet the minimum standards of WPPT. Thus, the Department of Intellectual Property, Ministry of Commerce is proposing the revision of the current Copyright Act B.E. 2537 (1994).  

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What will be changed?  

Originally, performing rights under the current Copyright Act B.E. 2537 (1994) primarily followed the Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms, and Broadcasting Organizations (Rome Convention). The definition of “Performers” under the Rome Convention differs from that of WPPT. Under WPPT, “performers” are actors, singers, musicians, dancers, and other persons who act, sing, deliver, declaim, play in, interpret, or otherwise perform literary or artistic works or expressions of folklore. The latter part of the preceding definition will be imported to the Copyright Act B.E. 2537 (1994). The definitions of “sound recording,” “publicly available,” and “advertising” will also be changed to align with WPPT.  

Increase the performer’s rights to have exclusive rights over the recorded performance. The right to receive fair compensation for the use of sound recordings when such recordings have been uploaded on the Internet, regardless of whether it has a commercial purpose or not. Performers shall enjoy the exclusive right of authorizing the making available to the public of their performances fixed in phonograms, by wire or wireless means, in such a way that members of the public may access them from a place and at a time individually chosen by them.  

Impose fairer remuneration for performers and moral rights for the use of sound recordings in broadcasting or communicating to the public.  

Abolish the minimum penalty rate in the Copyright Act B.E. 2537 (1994) so that the court can exercise its discretion to punish offenders at an appropriate rate.  

The benefits of this revision are expected to enhance the performing rights and producers of sound recordings in accordance with international standards. Currently, the proposed revision is in an early stage. It needs to go through the final stage of the administrative level and then the parliament.

Author: Panisa Suwanmatajarn, Managing Partner.

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