It is Songkran season in Thailand! For Thai people, Songkran is one of the most anticipated holidays of the year. As the longest holiday (three days), Songkran is celebrated as the traditional New Year’s Day and commonly known for its fun and friendly water fights which involve soaking each other with buckets of water, hoses, and water guns. The real meaning behind the water splashing is to symbolically wash away sin and bad luck from the previous year. Since April is also the hottest month of the year, the soakings are a great way to cool off.
Since World Intellectual Property (IP) Day is fast approaching (April 26), the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in Thailand wanted to celebrate Songkran this year by collecting some interesting IP-related facts about the holiday:
1. The Festival – In 2014, there was a dispute raised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) against the event organizers in Singapore who tried to plan a Songkran-style water festival event. TAT felt that Thailand held exclusive rights to celebrate Songkran and wanted to know if the festival is copyright protected and owned by Thailand.
The simple answer is “no”. A traditional festival activity is not a work that can be protected by copyright. Not to mention that Songkran is a traditional festival shared by many countries and cultures throughout Southeast Asia. So it is actually very hard to ascertain which country actually started, let alone owns, the festival.
2. Songkran music – One of the most famous Thai Songkran songs, “Ramwong Rueng Songkran”, was composed by Mr. Eua Sunthornsanan, who has been honored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Culture Organization (UNESCO) as a world personality on the list of the Anniversary of World Personalities and Historic Events. Under Thai law, the term of copyright protection is good for 50 years after the death of the composer, so while Khun Eua died in 2007, the song is still copyright protected.
3. Water guns – there are many varieties of water guns used in Songkran activities. However, the one that has become quite popular here is actually based on the Super Soaker® water gun which received a patent in the U.S. filed on September 6, 1990. The Super Soaker® was invented by an American named Lonnie George Johnson. His inspiration for the water gun came when he accidentally shot a stream of water across his bathroom while doing an experiment for the eco-friendly heat pump.
The gun has held its ranking among the world’s top 20 best-selling toys every year since it came on the market. Since patent protection lasts only 20 years from the date of the filing of an application, it is no longer protected under patent law. However, its registered trademark of Super Soaker®, obtained in 1991, is still valid and protectable.
4. Nam Aob – “Nam Aob” is a kind of Thai traditional fragrant water made from dozens of fresh aromatic flowers and spices. It is one of the most common items during Songkran, as you will be able to see (or smell) it everywhere because Thai people will mix it with water and use it in several ways.
There are many brands of Nam Aob in the market, all of which are actively protecting their trade secrets as to the exact ingredients or manufacturing process, but the most well-known is “Nangloy (Flying Angel)®” which provides a unique scent from the combination of its secret ingredients. While the brand was launched almost a hundred years ago, it has been registered as a trademark in Thailand since 2001.
5. Floral Design shirts – Songkran is simply not Songkran without people wearing floral shirts! Intellectual property protection in fashion can be a bit tricky. However, if the floral pattern is original, it is possible to receive copyright protection for it. To enforce that right, you would have to prove that the competitor’s floral pattern design is a substantially similar copy of your protected design.
We hope you enjoyed these fun Songkran IP facts. Check out the USPTO website at USPTO.gov or export.gov/thailand/intellectualpropertyrights/index.asp for Thailand-specific IP information. Also, please join USPTO and the Thai-U.S. Creative Partnership to celebrate World IP Day on April 26 and 27. For more information about activities for World IP Day, contact Mr. Peter Fowler at firstname.lastname@example.org