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IPR Enforcement In Thailand’s CIPITC

Many intellectual property rights holders and practitioners outside of (or even inside of) Thailand with whom I speak are surprised to learn there’s a specialized court system here that focuses specifically on IPR enforcement by adjudicating disputes, including infringement and invalidity issues. Launched in 1997 in an effort to attract foreign trade and investment by ensuring “convenience, expediency and fairness of proceedings”, the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court (CIPITC) presently has national jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases involving patent, trademark, or copyright offenses and infringements.

Comprised of roughly 20 judges and more than 150 associate judges overseen by 3 senior justices and the Court Secretary, and complemented by specialized IP prosecutors, the court judiciary has exclusive oversight of IPR enforcement in Thailand. The sole exception to this rule is in the case of juveniles involved with IP crimes or infringements, who will instead be charged in the Juvenile and Family Court. Unfortunately, this is one reason it is not uncommon to see minors hawking counterfeited goods and pirated DVDs on Sukhumvit Road and in other tourist areas: syndicates know that in the event minors are caught and charged, the family courts tend to be more lenient and remedial in their sentencing than the CIPITC.

Though located in Bangkok Thai procedure allows aggrieved rights owners to initiate civil proceedings in the provincial courts where the defendant is domiciled, or where the cause of action arose, while criminal cases may be first submitted to the provincial courts within the jurisdiction where the offense has or is believed to have taken place, or where the defendant is residing or has been arrested, or where the inquiry was held. Complaints are thereafter forwarded by the provincial courts to the CIPITC, and subsequent proceedings can be directed either privately or through the public prosecutor.

Judges are appointed to the CIPITC based on their subject matter expertise and, not having other trial responsibilities, are therefore able to further develop such expertise, which contributes to the quality and expediency of the court’s decisions being issued better and faster than was possible prior to its establishment. Qualified IP experts in specific fields function as associate judges to support assigned judges and help decide cases by filling gaps where needed. This might involve, for example, some with expertise in computer programming helping with matters relating to copyright in computer software, or a chemist helping to decide matters relating to drug patents. Appointed judges serve for terms of no more than seven years, while associate judges may serve for renewable terms of five years at a time.

Procedurally, the CIPITC has authority to summon expert witnesses, issue interim orders including injunctive relief, and issue instructions to internet service providers for blocking access to materials protected by copyright, among other things. According to official statistics, the CIPITC adjudicated almost 600 cases in 2021, the majority of which were criminal proceedings involving trademark offenses. Decisions issued by the Court may be appealed to the Court of Appeal for Specialized Cases, and ultimately to Thailand’s Supreme Court.

Practically speaking, the CIPITC is viewed favorably (if not unquestionably) by local rights holders as a well-intended and progressively evolving institution vital to Thailand’s IPR infrastructure. It’s training programs and seminars typically include national and foreign speakers, as well as representatives from international organizations and professional trade associations active in the enforcement arena. Though not infallible, the CIPITC nonetheless provides sound recourse and assurance to foreign rights owners who may be considering doing business in Thailand.

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