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We blogged a few weeks ago about naming your company, and how the Ministry of Commerce will make sure that your proposed name is not already taken by another firm. It was all pretty straightforward, but left a glaring gap: trademarks! The list of registered trademarks and registered company names were totally separate.

Say you’re selling some kind of consumer good through a distributor in Cambodia. You’ve done the smart thing and properly registered all your trademarks. But the distributor gets sneaky, and registers YOUR trademark as his company name. As there was no cross-checking, the company name would probably accepted. Then it’s up to you to try and sue him for trademark infringement, not a fun proposition.

Well, the registrars of companies and trademarks (both within the Ministry of Commerce), are finally talking to each other. From now on, proposed company names will be checked against the list of trademarks. There are still some issues to iron out – like what happens when the company is in an entirely different field from the trademarked goods – but this is a really important step in Cambodian IP law.

You may find that it adds a couple of days to the company registration process but it may save you headache and expense in the longer term.

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UPDATE II [March 21, 2012]: The April 2012 goal has been pushed back again. According to a US government source, petitions won’t be accepted until January 1, 2013.

UPDATE [May, 5, 2011]: As expected, the Government has postponed until April 2012 the acceptance of foreign adoption applications.

An article in today’s Daily reports on the unlikelihood of the 2009 inter-country adoption law being fully implemented next month as originally indicated. Although the government plans to start accepting inter-country adoption applications next month, the law requires that before this can take place, the Inter Country Adoption Administration in Cambodia must conclude agreements with its foreign counterparts.

To date, no such agreements have been concluded. Many foreign governments may be waiting to see how successful the implementation will be. At least one government has indicated it is reluctant to initiate such an agreement until the registration procedure for adoption agencies has been clarified.

The law currently calls for adoption agencies to “apply for authorization and approval by and recognition of” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but no further information is available on how to instigate this application process. Approval may be automatic if the agency has recognized NGO status from the Ministry, but NGO status requires an address (including lease agreement) within Cambodia, both for the NGO office and for foreign and local staff.

This would require an agency to commit to a presence for NGO purposes in Cambodia well in advance of any certainty as to their chances of successfully applying for registration as an adoption agency. Until this issue is ironed out, the situation remains in a catch-22.

The Foreign Ministry recently placed financial and age restrictions on foreign men marrying Cambodian women. According to a diplomatic note sent to foreign embassies, only men making more than $2,550 a month and younger than 50 years old can marry Cambodian women.

Leaving aside the substantive policy questions (why prohibit two 60-year-olds from marrying? or a man with a wealth of assets but little income?), today’s Cambodia Daily reports on possible procedural problems with how this rule has been enacted. The Marriage Law does not spell out any such restrictions, so the question is whether the Foreign Ministry can amend the law through a diplomatic note.

This latest measure is part of ongoing efforts to address abusive practices by some foreign marriage agencies, I don’t suspect we’ve seen the last of this matter. Stay tuned.

Picking a name for a new company in Cambodia is relatively straightforward, though there are a few pitfalls to keep in mind. First and foremost, choose a name that resonates with your customers. This is mostly a question of marketing, though you should also be sure that the name isn’t translated into Khmer to mean something silly or inappropriate.

From a legal perspective, the main concern is choosing a name acceptable to the Ministry of Commerce when you incorporate (see here for more on that). Though there’s no public list of acceptable names, you can submit proposals to see if they’d be approved, before going ahead with the incorporation. The Ministry checks three main things:

  • That the name, or a similar name, isn’t already registered by someone else. This is a good thing, as once your company’s name is registered, the Ministry will prevent others from coming along and registering something too close to your own.
  • That the name isn’t generic or too descriptive. Names like “Rice Processor Co. Ltd.” aren’t registerable because a competitive marketplace needs to allow others to use those terms too. Adding a personal name or some arbitrary words would probably work – like “Mike’s Rice Processor” or “Tiger Rice Processor”.
  • That the name isn’t offensive, absurd, or otherwise inappropriate. The Ministry has some discretion here, but common sense is usually a good guide.

After registering the company, if you’ll be selling products with your name or logo on it, it’s a really good idea to also register them as trademarks. That’s a separate matter, see here for more on that.

On Monday 28 February, the Ministry of Economy and Finance confirmed that the valuation system for the controversial property tax will be implemented by the end of March.

Taxpayers will have to register under the valuation system before the 30 September. But the legislation is still not clear on who is subject to the tax. The definition of taxpayer includes owners, occupiers and financial beneficiaries. How can a lessee avoid being liable for a tax the lessor has registered them for?

The law also causes problems for prospective purchasers of immoveable property who may find themselves liable for a year’s worth of tax on a property that they have only owned for a month. What systems are in place to prevent double taxation upon transfers of title?

As is usually the case there should be more clarity once the new tax starts to be implemented by the tax office.

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The work of a handful of attorneys at BNG Legal, this blog's mission is to keep the world up-to-date on legal issues in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

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