It has been announced that it will be possible, from 1 March 2018, to validate European patents in Cambodia (KH). This development marks the culmination of an agreement between the European Patent Office (EPO) and the Cambodian Ministry of Industry and Handicraft (MIH) first signed on 23 January 2017.
Cambodia will not be a member of the EPC, nor a so-called extension state. Instead, the validation agreement is a bilateral arrangement between the EPO and the MIH. Similar bilateral agreements came into force between the EPO and Morocco on 1 March 2015, between the EPO and Moldova on 1 November 2015 and between the EPO and Tunisia on 1 December 2017.
For users of the European patent system, the practical result of this announcement is that it will be possible to cover up to 44 countries with a single European patent application. Any applicant filing a European patent application (or a PCT application designating Europe) on or after 1 March 2018 will be able to request validation in Cambodia, and a validation fee of 180 EUR will need to be paid to the EPO within the same period as for paying designation and extension fees. The system is very similar in effect to the current extension state system.
One caveat of the Cambodian validation agreement is that it will not be possible to obtain patent protection in Cambodia under this agreement for pharmaceutical products. This is because Cambodia currently benefits from a waiver available to countries classified by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as least-developed country members, whereby those countries can deny patent protection for pharmaceutical products until January 2033. The waiver may be extended beyond this date in the future and the Cambodian government may also withdraw their enforcement of the waiver at any time. For pharmaceutical products, applicants can, however, make use of a so-called "mailbox system” under Article 70.8 TRIPS. According to this "mailbox system", Cambodian legislation authorises the filing of patent applications for pharmaceutical products, despite the fact that they are excluded from patent protection. These applications will not be examined as to their patentability until the waiver expires in January 2033. Following that period, protection may be granted for the remainder of the patent term, computed from the filing date of the application.
Cambodian validation will not be available for European patent applications filed before 1 March 2018, or any European patents resulting from such applications.