A new intellectual property law in Laos took effect on 9 June 2018. This replaced the former regime on trade mark registration which dates back to 20 December 2011. The reform has brought about a number of firsts and it aims to transform the current registration framework into a more streamlined process.
Introduction of Opposition Proceedings & Digital Platform
The old law only allowed challenges to a trade mark to be made in a cancellation action. Such a challenge could only be pursued after a right to that mark had been formally granted. A cancellation action had to be filed within five years from the date of publication of the registered mark in the Official Gazette. As delays in publishing new marks were common, the trade mark applicant may have already invested a considerable amount of time and resources in building up the brand by the time the mark was published and subject to cancellation.
Under the new regime, a new digital platform has been set up and this acts as a centralized publication system, allowing details of new trade mark applications to be published after they have undergone preliminary examination by the Department of Intellectual Property. Only minimum required documents (official application form, specimen and receipt evidencing payment of official fees) will be examined at this stage. If acceptable then the application will be published. After publication, third parties will then have 60 days to file oppositions to the registration. This requires trade mark owners to monitor the publications closely and be prepared to act swiftly to safeguard their rights.
Similar procedures are being adopted for the registration of patents/petty patents and industrial/layout designs, with the deadlines for filing an opposition being 90 days and 60 days respectively.
Other Key Changes
- The period of protection of any registered mark remains as 10 years, but this period now runs from the date of filing, rather than the date of registration
- 3D images and animated images can now be registered as trade marks, in addition to the already existing categories of words, letters, numerals, packaging of goods, figurative elements, and colour combinations, as well as any combination of these items
- The new operative test to make out a criminal offence has been simplified. Under the previous regime, it was necessary to demonstrate intentional violation and commercial motivation, intentional violation resulting in harm to the health of a person, damage to the environment or to property, or intentional perpetration (copyright piracy or trade mark counterfeiting). It now requires the offence to be intentional only
- Customs officers can inspect imported and exported goods, and they can seize and impound goods that infringe intellectual property rights
- There are also provisions on new plant varieties and copyright