Thailand has always had the reputation as a country where counterfeited goods are easy to find, where licenses and brand rights are ignored, and where intellectual property is not respected. Walking through the streets, anyone can see why Thailand has such reputation. In shopping malls, at night markets and with street vendors, counterfeited goods, from purses to clothing, watches, electronics and many other categories, can be easily found. Or at least, this was the case until a few years ago.
After the 2014 coup, the military regime, and the Government they support, set giving Thailand a new face as the top of their political agenda. That meant tackling some of the country’s most notorious traits, including footpath-hogging food vendors, prostitutionand fake goods. As a result of this policy, travelers have found that in their main sources of counterfeit goods, shopping malls like MBK and Pantip Plaza or open markets like Pratunam and the Chatuchak Weekend Market, counterfeiters have been completely replaced by trademark-respecting retailers. The Thai Ministry of Commerce recently announced that, in the last few years, the number of counterfeit products on the market has been reduced by more than 85%, and that operations will continue until the reputation has changed.
Those accomplishments were recognized by the United States Trade Representative (USTR), who removed Thailand from the Priority Watch List in last year’s annual report. The agency praised the establishment of the National Committee on Intellectual Property Policy and a subcommittee on enforcement of IP protection laws. The fact that the Prime Minister himself and a Deputy Prime Minister are leading these committees, demonstrates the extent of the government’s commitment to tackling copyright infringement. This task force fostered coordination among government entities, enhancing and sustaining the fight against counterfeiting, whilst also promoting a more streamlined process for acquiring patents and trademarks. Although progress is evident, the USTR has kept Thailand on the second tier Watch List, as there is still much room for further improvement. The agency urged Thailand to continue its fight against the pirated goods industry, amend the Copyright Act to meet all USTR requirements, provide a system that helps protect undisclosed data from unfair commercial use, and to increase transparency with stakeholders and owners of intellectual property.
With the efforts of the Thai Government and the support of the USTR, Thailand is making strides towards overcoming intellectual property violation. This progress lays the foundation for welcoming intellectual property owners and investors to the kingdom.