Remarks by Deputy Chief of Mission Julie Chung at the World Intellectual Property Day Forum

Cambodiana Hotel, Phnom Penh
April 25, 2017
(as delivered)

Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.  Good morning and thank you for your participation in this World Intellectual Property Day forum.  We were delighted to work on this event in conjunction with Westec Media.  Thank you to your Excellency Ouk Prachea for representing the Ministry of Commerce today.  I would especially like to thank His Excellency Dr. Sok Siphana for serving as our moderator and for being a steadfast advocate for intellectual property rights.  I’d also like to recognize Lt. General Meach Sophana, for his leadership of the recently revitalized Cambodian Counter Counterfeit Committee.  Welcome to officials here representing the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, Ministry of Interior, and Ministry of Economy and Finance.  And finally, thank you to our panelists and all our private and public sector partners for your support of intellectual property in Cambodia. This is really a joint effort.

This year’s World Intellectual Property Day theme is “Innovation: Improving Lives.”  I love this theme, because it underscores that intellectual property protection doesn’t just benefit the business community.  It benefits each and every one of us, in many ways.  It encourages economic development, science, risk-taking, rule of law, creativity, and cultural expression, to name just a few vital areas.

I’m pleased to say that Cambodia is making strides in many of these sectors. One area in which Cambodia has already made some positive progress is the enforcement of intellectual property for pharmaceuticals.  The proliferation of counterfeit medicine can be life-threatening.  Imagine buying medicine for your child or your grandparent, and then learning that it is ineffective, or worse, harmful.  This is something pharmaceutical intellectual property rights protect us from.  They are also important because medical innovation depends upon legal protections.  The research and development of new drugs is costly.  If companies couldn’t make a profit from their innovative new medicines, they would not have the resources to develop new life-saving treatments.

According to the Intellectual Property Commission’s 2017 report, a conservative estimate of U.S. losses from counterfeit goods, piracy, and theft of trade secrets is $225 billion.  Why should you here in Cambodia care about American losses?  Well, some of the top U.S. industries suffering from competing counterfeit products produce aircraft parts, electronics, and – as I noted already – pharmaceuticals.   I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to fly in an airplane with counterfeit parts.

You may be thinking that this sounds a little dramatic, so let’s look at some other situations.

Why else should Cambodia care about intellectual property?  When we hear IPR, people often think about the entertainment industry and big-budget movie production.  Phnom Penh has some of the nicest movie theatres I have ever been in.  Even nicer than the ones back home in California!  Imagine if nobody went to the movie theaters because everyone just downloaded or bought pirated DVDs.  We would lose a place to spend time with our families over popcorn, and all of the employees would be out of a job.

And then, there is the bigger picture economic impact on Cambodia.  If Cambodia shows its commitment to protecting intellectual property rights, foreign companies would be more likely to invest in Cambodia—particularly in  innovation-intensive manufacturing industries.  Those companies don’t want to set up shop in a country where their intellectual property is not protected.  It also works the other way.  It turns out that the value of exports from intellectual property-intensive manufacturing is 3.5 times greater than other exports.  If Cambodia becomes a leader in intellectual property rights protection, it stands to benefit from greater economic growth and higher paying jobs.

Finally, there is another important issue: the protection of Cambodia’s own domestic intellectual property.  I’m talking about beautiful, original Khmer songs and movies, and more recently technological innovations produced right here in Cambodia.  This country has a promising future in both the creative arts and technology industries.  You and your compatriots should be proud of the home-grown innovation in your country.  In order to keep supporting the next generation of creative minds and inventors, Cambodia needs to uphold intellectual property rights.  Otherwise, the world will never get to enjoy the creations of Cambodia’s next generation of artists, app designers, musicians, filmmakers, and innovators.

Thank you so much for coming to this forum today.  I hope the discussion we have here now continues as we work together to strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights in Cambodia.