Entrepreneurs in Cambodia deciding on a logo for a new venture, or even established businesses launching a new product line, need to consider whether it will infringe any registered trademarks. They also should determine whether they themselves could register it as a trademark. This is known as a clearance search.

A Cambodian business will first and foremost be concerned about the Cambodian market – meaning whether the logo is on the Cambodian trademark register. We’ve written before on search options, but wanted to point our readers to a few Do-It-Yourself options and tips for conducting a very rough and cheap clearance search themselves.

This could be a first step, as potential logos are being brainstormed and debated. Before being settled on and adopted for a new business or product, we would highly recommend performing an official trademark search, through the Ministry of Commerce’s Department of Intellectual Property Rights. This will provide an official registerability report, clearing the way for a successful trademark application, or indicating what obstacles would need to be overcome.

Here’s how.

The Cambodian Trademark Database is available online through the World Intellectual Property Office’s website: http://www.wipo.int/branddb/kh/en/

Unfortunately, it is not possible to search for logos/devices through that URL. However, strangely enough, the same WIPO database IS searchable for logos through the “Global Brand Database” at http://www.wipo.int/branddb/en/. As the Cambodian database is essentially just a subset of the Global Brand Database, it would seem they should be able to provide the same interface. Alas, they do not.

To search for Cambodian marks, under “Search by”->”Origin” enter “KH” (country code for Cambodia).

You then have three possibilities for searching for a logo:

First, under “image class”, one can search by keywords associated with a logo – such as TREE, BOAT, CIRCLE, etc.

Second, also under “image class”, one can enter the specific “Vienna Codes” used to categorize visual trademarks. For a list of the codes and further information refer to: http://www.wipo.int/classifications/vienna/en/

Third, under “Filter by”, and then the “Image” tab, one has the option to search by uploading an image directly (why this is labelled as a filter and not a search is puzzling). This will purportedly reveal any registrations similar to that of the image searched. However, our testing of the system for Cambodian marks failed to reveal obvious matches in a number of cases. We would therefore recommend relying on the first two methods. Further information about the image search can be found in WIPO’s help desk (http://www.wipo.int/branddb/en/branddb-help.jsp)

With the above search methods, one can obtain a general idea of whether a logo is clearly NOT registerable. However, in most cases there will be a degree of discretion regarding the similarity between the marks and the goods. For a reliable clearance search before deciding on a logo, it is best to conduct an official search with the Department of Intellectual Property Rights.

For more on trademark practice in Cambodia, please refer to our Guide to Trademark Law in Cambodia.