Earlier this summer, several news outlets reported that U.S. fast food conglomerate Yum! Brands, the operator of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), was considering taking legal action against a fast food restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand shockingly called “Hitler.” The Hitler restaurant was selling fast food under a logo similar to KFC’s iconic logo, replacing the face of Colonel Harland Sanders, KFC’s founder with his signature white suit and string tie, with the face of Adolph Hitler, former German Chancellor, warmonger and mass-murderer.
Despite the Hitler restaurant’s subsequent removal of their offensive interpretation of the KFC logo, the incident highlighted legal issues businesses may face in foreign markets beyond the unauthorized use of their marks (aka infringement). I’m talking about foreign trademark tarnishment. Trademark tarnishment is the unauthorized use of a well-known mark that degrades consumers’ positive associations with such mark, thereby harming the mark’s overall reputation.
What does this mean in an international context? Foreign trademark tarnishment can result in reduced foreign demand for a business’ goods or services, and hinder their ability to take advantage of foreign market opportunities. Although protecting against trademark tarnishment is generally difficult, KFC’s recent altercation with the Hitler restaurant shows ways in which foreign businesses can take advantage of foreign national trademark laws to protect their marks against tarnishment—even if such countries do not main specific protections against tarnishment.
Thai trademark law does not providing express protections against tarnishment. However, KFC’s logo likely qualifies for tarnishment-like protections in Thailand because it would qualify as a “well-known mark.” Unlike the U.S. and other common law countries (Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the United Kingdom, among others), Thailand is a “first to file” country, meaning that a mark can normally only obtain full protection under Thai law through registration with the Thai Department of Intellectual Property (DIP). However, Section 8(10) of the Thai Trademark Act (“Act”) acknowledges rights for unregistered well-known marks. Since 2005, an unregistered mark can be designated as a well-known mark under Thai trademark law if it meets several evidentiary criteria upon petition to the DIP’s Board of Well-Known Marks.
Similar to most countries, meeting such criteria in Thailand generally requires that a mark possess nationwide recognition. Article 16(2) of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and Article 16bis of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property require that a mark have nationwide recognition among consumers to qualify as a well-known mark. Likewise, Thailand requires that a mark have nationwide consumer recognition, yet this recognition can be established through predominant use of the mark abroad. Once established, a well-known mark is granted protections in all classes of goods and services.
In the case of KFC, it is likely that their logo qualifies as a well-known mark in Thailand based on KFC’s global and national recognition. KFC has more than 450 outlets in Thailand and approximately 15,000 outlets worldwide—not to mention extensive global advertising and promotional campaigns. These facts likely qualify the KFC logo for well-known mark protection in Thailand (upon petition), giving KFC broad protection under the Act for its logo among multiple if not all classes of goods and services.
By obtaining trademark protection, a trademark owner can normally prevent others from most forms of unauthorized use of such mark. Yet, you might asking yourself, o.k., while supplanting Adolf Hitler for Colonel Sanders is detestable, isn’t it permitted as free speech? The answer varies from country-to-country and from case-to-case. Several major markets including the U.S., the European Union and India, recognize that unauthorized users of a mark may defend against infringement or tarnishment claims through fair use, namely the ability to use a registered mark for legitimate free speech purposes such as parody. In the U.S., such a defense is upheld sometimes in a confusing way. For example, a U.S. Court found that the unauthorized noncommercial use of marks from a L.L. Bean catalogue can be parodied in an adult magazine, but the unauthorized use of the Dallas Cowboys football cheerleading team’s trademark in a pornographic film did not. In terms of Nazis and terrorists, a U.S. Court did allow an unauthorized user to conjure up Nazi and Al-Qaeda themes in their use of Wal-Mart’s well-known mark when such use was non-commercial.
Fortunately for KFC, Thailand does not appear to afford such a fair use defense. Section 109 of the Act prohibits any person who “imitates” a registered mark to mislead the public as to its true ownership, subjecting such user to fines up to 200,000 Baht (approx. US$ 6,250.00) and/or two years imprisonment. Due to the inherent broadness of “imitates” without any express fair use defenses provided under the Act, Thailand appears to possess little to no trademark fair use exceptions for parody or other recognized fair uses. Based on these facts, KFC would likely be able to seek enforcement of their trademark rights in their logo as a well-known mark against the Hitler restaurant.
What’s the takeaway? The moral of this story is that understanding foreign national IP laws can help businesses to find effective solutions to protect against tarnishment and other unauthorized uses abroad, even if such protections are not expressly provided in foreign national legislation. Although few business maintain as well-known marks as KFC’s logo, most businesses can adopt tailored foreign trademark protection strategies to prevent tarnishment or infringement of their marks. Businesses who have tarnishment issues in a particular market should consult with qualified local counsel to understand what protections can be afforded to their marks.
 Britt N. Lovejoy, Tarnishing The Dilution by Tarnishment Cause of Action: Starbucks Corp. v. Wolfe’s Borough Coffee, Inc. and V Secret Catalogue, Inc. v. Moseley, Compared, 26 Berkeley Tech. L. J. 623, 626 (2011) (citing J. Thomas McCarthy, 4 McCarthy On Trademarks & Unfair Competition § 24:89 (4th ed.)).
 See Somboon Earterasarun, Criteria In Determining Well-Known Trademarks in Thailand, Tilleke & Gibbins, (2010), available at http://www.tilleke.com/sites/default/files/2010-AsiaIP-Criteria-Well-Known-TM_0.pdf.
 See Keola R. Whittaker, Trademark Dilution in a Global Age, 27 U. Pa. J. Int’l Econ. L. 907, 937 (2006).
 Department of Intellectual Property Regulations on Recordal of Well-Known Marks B.E. 2548 (AD 2005), Ch. 7, 11.
 Say Sujintaya and Jomjai Jintasuwon, Well-known Trademarks in Thailand – A Bump in the Road, Baker & McKenzie, Mar. 23, 2012, available at http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=ce280c13-d28e-45f6-8a45-e45a9af8a74e.
 About KFC, KFC.com, available at www.kfc.com/about; Yum! Brands, Yum! Financial Data, Restaurant Counts (2012), available at http://yum.com/investors/restcounts.asp.
 See L.L. Bean, Inc. v. Drake Publishers, Inc., 811 F.2d 26, 34 (1st. Cir. 1987); compare Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, Inc. v. Pussycat Cinema, Ltd., 467 F. Supp. 366, 376 (S.D.N.Y. 1979).
 See Smith v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 537 F. Supp. 2d 1302, 1339-40 (N.D. Ga. 2008) (Use of the terms WAL★OCAUST and WAL-QAEDA in referencing Wal-Mart’s trademarks in tee-shirts was held to be protected parodic noncommercial speech).
In recent years, many national customs offices have established notification procedures to allow IP rights holders the ability to alert customs officials of their IP rights in order to assist them in their import inspection activities. Like Internet Service Provider takedown requests on the Internet (more information about these procedures), IP customs office notifications is a tool for IP rights holders to protect their IP rights abroad by reducing the global spread of infringing goods and content by preventing its cross-border transit—and in many cases, assisting in its destruction. However, to utilize such protection measures, an IP rights holder must ask themselves:
- Can you submit such a notification in a particular country?
- Does the country you wish to enforce your IP rights have an IP customs notification system?
- Does such a country’s national IP customs notification system include the type of IP you wish to protect?
- What are the particular foreign customs agency’s IP notification requirements?
Can you submit a IP customs notification? Generally, an IP rights holder can only submit an IP customs notification to a foreign customs office if their IP qualifies for protection in that foreign country. Determining if particular IP qualifies for protection in a country depends on the type of IP the rights holder wishes to protect and to what extent the rights holder has secured foreign legal protections. Here is how it breaks down:
Trademarks. If an IP rights holder wants to submit a foreign customs notification to protect a trademark or service mark in another country, they usually need to have registered that mark in the IP office of that specific country or through a centralized international registration mechanism like the Madrid Protocol (more information about the Madrid Protocol). This is because trademark protection is territorial, meaning that a trademark or service mark registration only grants its owner rights in the mark in the territory of the registering country. So for example, if a U.S. company registers its trademark in the U.S. for particular goods or services and wishes to protect that trademark against infringing imports into New Zealand, it must also register that mark through the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand or the Madrid Protocol in order to submit a trademark notification to the New Zealand Customs Service.
Of course there are some important exceptions to this territoriality requirement to keep in mind. The European Union maintains a community-wide trademark system (Community Trade Mark) allowing one community registration to qualify for customs notification registration in all EU member states (a list of EU member states is available here). The African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI) also maintains a community trademark system where a single OAPI community mark registration is recognized in 16 African nations (a list of EU member states is available here).
Patents. Like trademarks, a patent rights holder must generally have a registered patent in the country to which they wish to register an IP customs notification. Unlike trademarks, however, there are no current community registration exceptions. As a result, patent rights holders must register their patents in the country to which they wish to register their IP customs notifications.
Trade Secrets: Generally, as trade secrets require that their owners keep the content of their secrets confidential in order to maintain its legal protections, any disclosure of such secrets to customs officials likely eliminates such secrets’ protections. Therefore, there does not appear to be any national customs IP notification systems that permit trade secret notification.
Copyright. Unlike trademarks and patents, a work qualifying for copyright protection in one country may qualify for copyright protection in other countries in order to allow foreign customs notification registration. However, depending on the country, foreign copyright authors may need to file a copyright registration in order to submit an IP customs notification. A work qualifies for international copyright protection under the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (Berne Convention) when it becomes attached. Attachment requires that the author of the work be a national of a Berne Convention country (Berne Convention countries), the author is a habitual resident of a Berne Convention country, that the work is first published in a Berne Convention country, or that the work is published in a Berne Convention country within 30 days after an initial publishing in a non-Berne Convention country. If a work is attached through any of these means, it is treated as if the work originated in each Berne Convention country, and is then subject to each Berne Convention country’s copyright protection requirements in order to qualify for copyright protection in that specific country.
If a work qualifies as an attached work under the Berne Convention and the IP rights holder wishes to register their protected work in a foreign Berne Convention country customs office, they will be able to file a customs registration without having authored the work in the foreign Berne Convention country. Yet, as mentioned above, countries differ on national copyright registration requirements for IP customs notifications. Australia, for example, does not require Australian copyright registration prior to submitting a customs notification application to the Australian Customs Service. However, several major markets, such as the U.S., China and India, require that copyrighted works be registered in their country prior to registering an IP customs notification.
Does the country you wish to enforce your IP rights have an IP customs notification system? Not all countries maintain IP customs notification processes. Some substantial and growing markets, such as Brazil, Canada and Chile, do not currently maintain IP custom notification systems. However, many major markets and transshipment countries maintain various types of IP customs notification systems including Argentina, Australia, China, European Union (EU), Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United States and Vietnam, among others.
Does such a country’s national IP customs notification system include the type of IP you wish to protect? Several countries only maintain IP notification systems for particular types of IP. For example, The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) only accepts copyright and trademark notifications, not patent notifications (the CBP only examines imports for patent infringement based on a Section 337 exclusion order from the U.S. International Trade Commission (more information available here)). In contrast, several other countries monitor and detain imports for possible patent and geographical indication infringement. India’s Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) in particular monitors imports for copyright, geographical indication, patent and trademark infringement.
What are the particular foreign customs agency’s IP notification requirements? Once an IP rights holder verifies that their IP qualifies for legal protections in the foreign country they wish to submit an IP customs notification, and that the type of IP they wish to notify customs about can be registered, the IP rights holder’s customs notification must comply with the foreign customs office’s own notification requirements.
Below are the IP customs notification submission requirements for some of the worlds’ major markets.
Types of IP Covered
|United States||19 C.F.R. 133.1 et seq.
||Copyright and Trademark||Instructions: Copyright and trademark notification (known as e-Recordation) requires:
-The trademark or copyright’s U.S. registration number
-The name, address and citizenship of the IP rights owner
-The place(s) of manufacture of goods bearing the trademark or copyright
-The name and address of individuals authorized to use the trademark or copyright
-The identity of a parent company or subsidiary authorized to use the trademark or copyright (if any)
Fees: US $190.00 per copyright and trademark (per class of goods and services).
Effective Duration of Notification: 20 years.
|e-Recordation Notification Portal|
||Copyright Act 1968, Subsection 135(2)||Copyright and Trademark||General Notes: Australian IP customs notifications are known as Notices of Objection.To register a copyright or trademark notice with Australian Customs Service, an IP rights holder must submit: (1) a notice of objection form; and (2) a deed of undertaking. Both types of forms as well as further instructions are located in the right column.
Duration of Notification: Four years.
|China||Decree of the General Administration of Customs, No. 183||Copyright, Patent and Trademark||Requirements: To file a IP customs notification with the General Administration of Customs (GAC), an application must include:
-a copy of the IP rights holder’s business registration certificate and a Chinese translation
-a copy of the Chinese registration certificate for the copyright, patent or trademark
-Proof of Power of Attorney (if registered by an agent)
-Registration fee (see below)
-Licensing agreements (if any)
-Pictures of the relevant goods and their packaging
Submission: Forms can be filled online or by mail.
Fees:Approximately US $130.00 (800 RMB).
|GAC Online Notification Form (In Chinese)|
|European Union||Council Regulation (EC) No 1383/2003, Article 5.5||Copyright, Geographical Indication, Patent and Trademark||The EU refers to IP customs notifications as Applications For Action. Applications require: (1) a completed application form; and (2) a completed Article 6 Declaration. Both forms are located to the right.
Note: Individual EU member states may maintain their own IP customs notification systems (a link to individual EU member state customs agencies is available here).
|Community Application For Action|
|India||Notification no. 47/2007 – Customs (n.t.)||Copyright, Geographical Indication, Patent and Trademark||Registration: The CBEC requires that copyrighted works be registered with Indian Copyright Office, and geographical indications, patents and trademarks with the Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trade Marks prior to submitting a CBEC customs notification.
Ports of Entry: The CBEC also requires that notifications be submitted to particular ports of entry.
Duration of Notification: Minimum period of one (1) year.
|Online Notification Submission Portal|
**Note**: The above requirements are meant for comparative educational purposes only. IP rights holders should consult with national customs agencies or qualified attorneys in the jurisdictions they wish to enforce their rights to confirm these and other IP customs notification requirements.
Further Steps. Once an IP rights holder’s IP is registered with a foreign customs office, the foreign customs office will generally notify the rights holder or their representative of any infringing inbound shipments and may detain and potentially destroy infringing imports. However, such detentions may include legal proceedings, as well as additional country-specific enforcement procedures. IP rights holders should obtain qualified local counsel to assist with these enforcement activities.
The Thai government recently pursued two IP reforms that will provide qualifying foreign copyright owners enhanced enforcement protections for their works in Thailand. This will happen through strengthened government enforcement efforts, as well as improved Internet enforcement procedures. These efforts could not have come at more crucial time—for both Thailand and foreign copyright owners. The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office (USTR) placed Thailand on its 2012 Priority Watch List of countries with IP enforcement concerns, and the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) has reported that foreign industries lose several hundreds of millions dollars annually in Thailand due to IP infringement, with the latest statistics available showing that the U.S. software industry in particular lost a staggering $427 million in 2010 due to unlicensed sharing.
So what are the specific Thai reforms and which foreign works qualify for enhanced protection?
New Enforcement Office: Last week, the Thai Department of Intellectual Property announced the opening of the Operations Centre for the Suppression of Intellectual Property. It was established to monitor suspected infringer movements, distribution channels, tax payments, cash flows, and money laundering activities. The formation of the Centre will also assist Thai authorities in increasing prosecutions of IP infringers, which the IIPA identified as being a priority action needed to combat IP infringement.
Proposed Legislation: The Thai cabinet finalized the Copyright Act (Draft Act) late last year, a proposed amendment to Thai copyright law that provides several copyright enforcement reforms, particularly by improving Internet enforcement procedures. According to analysis by Nuttaphol Arammuang, attorney at the law firm Tilleke & Gibbins, the Draft Act provides a copyright owner the ability to petition a Thai Court to compel an online service provider, namely a person hosting or storing data on behalf of a user who infringes the copyright owner’s work, to take down infringing online content. To do so, a copyright owner must submit a petition to a Thai Court. This will be followed by an investigation, and if found sufficient, will compel the Court to order the service provider to temporarily or permanently remove the infringing content.
These judicial takedown provisions will potentially provide foreign copyright owners expanded enforcement rights, yet they may be not as directly efficient or inexpensive as in other countries. The Draft Act’s petition system provides similar means for copyright owners to enforce their rights online against infringers and service providers as found in the U.S. under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and Australia under the 1969 Copyright Regulations. However unlike those laws, the Draft Act appears to not create a notice and takedown system, specifically the ability for copyright owners to directly petition service providers to take down infringing content. Without a notice and takedown system, copyright owners under the Draft Act are less able to quickly remove infringing online content, and instead are required to submit a Court petition prior to obtaining online content removal. The absence of such a system could also potentially burden copyright owners with additional legal costs by requiring them to seek a judicial order rather than submitting a potentially less-expensive extrajudicial take down notice.
Despite these potential concerns, Thailand’s recent entrance into the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations may ultimately result in the Thai government adopting notice and takedown system laws for protected works from other TPP member states. Leaked TPP agreement IP chapter drafts have included requirements for TPP member states to limit liability safe harbor protections for service providers, which may compel Thailand to adopt notice and takedown systems for works from other TPP member states. This may at least provide copyright owners from other TPP member states (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, U.S., and Vietnam) the ability to utilize notice and takedown enforcement protections in Thailand in the future.
Qualifying Foreign Works: To obtain protections provided by these reforms, as well as all other legal protections currently provided under Thai copyright law, a foreign work must qualify as a protected work under the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. A foreign work obtains protection under the Berne Convention when such a work becomes attached, meaning that the author of the work is a national of a Berne Convention country, a habitual resident in a Berne Convention country, or that the author publishes their work first in Berne Convention country or within a Berne Convention country 30 days after an initial publishing in a non-Berne Convention country. A list of Berne Convention countries is available here.
What do you think of these reforms? What IP enforcement issues are you facing in Thailand?
Special thanks to Jessica Taback for her assistance!
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released an Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets on Thursday, December 13, 2012, which identified physical and online markets reported by U.S. businesses and industry organizations as being engaged in substantial intellectual property piracy and counterfeiting. The Review included particular social media, multi-platform, deeplinking, cyberlocker, business-to-business, business-to-consumer, bit torrent indexing, bit torrent tracking, and pay-per-download websites. Specific physical markets in Argentina, China, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Thailand, and Ukraine were also deemed notorious.
Other notable changes in the Review included the removal of Chinese websites Taobao and Sogou as notorious markets, for their efforts to work with rights-holders to identify infringing content on their websites.
A copy of the Review is available here.