Thailand recognises intellectual property rights and, in general, intellectual property protection legislation is consistent with international practice, although there are local peculiarities. Thailand is a signatory to several international agreements and conventions pertaining to intellectual property rights. Despite this legislative framework for the protection of intellectually property rights, many intellectual property right holders complain about the effectiveness of enforcement practices in Thailand.
The Thai Patent Act gives protection to inventions, utility models (petty patents) and designs. Protection under the Act is available only to patentees who register their patents in Thailand. In other words, a foreign patent not registered in Thailand will not enjoy protection under the Thai Patent Act. Once granted, patents are valid for 20 years, utility models are valid for six years, and designs for 10 years. The period of validity commences from the date of application. Only utility models can be renewed up to two times for a period of two years for each renewal. In Thailand, it is possible to grant licences to patents and designs.
Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)
Thailand is the 142nd member of the PCT. The system established under the PCT offers Thai inventors, researchers and exporters seeking patent protection in multiple countries a more user-friendly, cost-effective and efficient option. In using the PCT, applicants are allowed at least an additional 18 months to decide whether and in which countries they wish to pursue patent protection among all 142 member countries when compared to filing directly with individual national patent offices.
PCT applications may be filed with the Thai Department of Intellectual Property at the PCT Receiving Office.
Trade marks, service marks, certification marks and collective marks are recognised under Thai law as trade marks only if registered as such under the Trademark Act. Unregistered trademarks are unprotected under the Thai Trademark Act, but this does not preclude passing off actions. In practice, however, passing off actions can be timely, expensive and problematic. Once registered, trade marks enjoy protection for 10 years, and owners can renew their registrations.
Thai law allows for the licensing of rights in Thai trade marks through written contracts, which must be registered with the Registrar of Trademarks in order to take effect. If the trademark is not registered in Thailand, a license agreement for that trademark cannot be registered.
The acquisition of a copyright is automatic and need not be registered. According to the Thai Copyright Act, the owner of a copyright is the author of the creative work. Care should, therefore, be exercised about ownership of creative works in employment contracts. Furthermore, the Thai Supreme Court has held that works protected by trade mark registration cannot also enjoy copyright protection. Thailand is a signatory to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Copyright in Respect of Literary and Artistic Works and, therefore, provides protection under the Thai Copyright Act to foreign copyrights that originate in other member countries.
In general, a copyright is protected for the life of the creator plus 50 years. If the creator is a juristic person, protection exists for 50 years from the date of creation of the work or its first publication. Copyrights can be transferred or assigned either partially or in whole. They can also be licensed to others.