A Frenchman went on trial yesterday at Phnom Penh Municipal Court for allegedly breaching the trademark of a company he had been working for in 2011.
Pich Vicheathor, municipal court judge, said yesterday that Thomas Herbaut, 45, former vice president of Smile Dragon Asia, was charged with trademark infringement.
According to the judge, the municipal court found the suspect and his partner, Bruno Dubigeon, 47, former president of Smile Dragon Asia, guilty and sentenced both men in absentia last year while both men were at large.
The court then issued warrants for their arrest. On Saturday, Mr Herbaut was arrested by police in Phnom Penh and requested a retrial.
Tim Sopheap, lawyer for Smile Mini Mart, said that both suspects were originally shareholders in the company she represents, an umbrella company that was founded in 2011 to operate mini marts across the capital.
She said that while working for the company, Mr Dubigeon and Mr Herbaut formed Smile Dragon Asia to be in direct competition with Smile Mini Mart.
She said that the two created the new company under Mr Herbaut’s name in an attempt to hide Mr Dubigeon’s dubious interests.
“They secretly founded many fake Smile Mini Marts in 2012 that violated the intellectual properties of our company, Smile Retail Group,” she said. “After the economic police found out they were violating the law, they changed the name from Smile Mini Marts to Kiwi Mart.”
She added that in May 2012, the pair opened Kiwi Mart stores under Smile Dragon Asia using identical colours, uniforms, signage and logos to that of Smile Retail Group’s chain of mini marts.
Mr Herbaut was arrested in June that same year by the authorities and was ordered to take down all signage resembling Smile Retail Group’s trademarked images.
She said that despite being arrested, both suspects continued to operate their new stores.
During yesterday’s trial, Mr Herbaut admitted his mistakes and requested that the court reduce his sentence.
“I have already written a pardon request letter to the owners of Smile Dragon Asia in 2012,” he said in court. “I realise that I used the company’s trademark. I would like to ask the judge to reduce my sentence.”
However, Soeu Vanny, deputy court prosecutor, requested the judge to uphold the original sentence. According to a court document, both suspects were sentenced in absentia to one year in prison each. A verdict is due on June 6.