Laos’s new Law on Intellectual Property No.38/NA of November 15, 2017 was published electronically in the Laos official gazette on May 25, 2018, and became effective 15 days subsequent to its publication. This supersedes the previous Law on Intellectual Property No. 01/NA dated December 20, 2011.

The new legislation brings reform to a variety of areas of intellectual property law in the country, but it is with respect to trademarks where the greatest number of amendments have been made.

A new digital platform is to be created which will publish submissions of new trademark applications. Within 60 days of the publication of a new application, third parties can now oppose the registration of the mark concerned.

This is a fairly substantial innovation when compared to what means have been previously at the disposal of the third-party mark holder – solely cancellation. To achieve this, a cancellation request needed to be filed with the DIP, which could only be done after the mark had been issued its trademark certificate and registered – and within five years of the publication of said registration in the official gazette. Factoring in delays in the publication of registrations in the official gazette, this often meant that successful cancellation actions could only prevail after the mark had been put to use in Laos for a somewhat significant amount of time.

A further important amendment that the new law introduces is to the term of protection of registered Laos trademarks. Trademark registrations will now be valid for a period of 10 years following the filing date. Previously, marks had been valid for 10 years from the date of registration.

Lastly, the updated legislation also expands the range of matters which may be registered as trademarks in Laos. With the new law coming into effect, 3D images and animated images are now registrable.

It is anticipated that regulations will be issued in due course to supply further guidance to mark-holders on the scope and application of the new law. Given the extent of the changes introduced, time will need to be taken to develop infrastructure and train local officers in order to streamline registration and opposition procedures. Nevertheless, the introduction of the new legislation signifies a major step forward for Laos’s trademark regime.