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Enforcement of IPRs in Laos


Enforcement of IPRs
Laos receives a lot of infringing goods from its neighbour countries like China and Vietnam. The lack of border enforcement is also a prime reason for the existence of counterfeit goods.
Drugs and food items are the goods that most often face counterfeiting and piracy in Laos.
They are as follows:-
  • The Lao IP Law, approved by the National Assembly of Laos on November 15, 2017
  • The Penal Code No.26/NA was adopted by the National Assembly of Laos on May 17, 2019
  • The Law on Drugs and Medical Devices of 2011
  • The Law on Business Competition of 2015
  • The Law on Investment Promotion of 2016
  • The Customs Law, 2005
  • The Property Law, 1990
  • The Decree on Trade Competition (2004)
  • The Decree on Patent, Petty Patent and Industrial Design, 2002
Trademarks, industrial designs, copyright, plant varieties, and patents are the different types of IPRs protected by IPR enforcement in Laos.
Copyright and TM protection are automatic; however, registration is preferred. For all other kinds of IPR, registration is a must, like patents, petty-patents, GIs.
Strong evidence is required to proceed with any enforcement action. Conducting a market survey or investigation into specific shops is necessary to collect evidence for filing the complaint.
A) Government Authorities - Yes
B) Police Officials - Yes
C) Judiciary - Yes
) Customs - Yes
A) Injunctions - Yes
B) Monetary Compensation - Yes
C) Raids – Yes; but only after a formal complaint is submitted to the relevant authorities —the Ministry of Industry and Commerce or the Lao Economic Police under the Ministry of Public Security - depending on the nature of the infringement of each specific IPR.
D) Seizures - Yes
E) Destruction - Yes
Warnings, withdrawal of business licenses for repeat offenders, payment of infringement action, and legal costs.
It is usually a lengthy process.
Civil litigation in Laos is costly and unpredictable.
A) Responsible Authority: For enforcement: The Peoples Court, the Public Prosecutors Office, the Economic Arbitration Offices, the Custom Offices, the Economic Policies, and the Market Control Taskforce. Other agencies for coordinating enforcement are: The Department of IP, Standardization and Metrology of Science, Technology and Environment Agency & the Branch Office of the Science Technology, and the Environment Agency, at the provincial level.
B) Imprisonment Term – 01 to 03 years of imprisonment, or re-education without deprivation of liberty.
C) Monetary Fine - Article 288 of the Penal Code provides criminal sanctions for manufacturing and trading counterfeit goods, including imprisonment of 03 months to 02 years, and fines ranging from LAK 5 million (approx. USD 568) to LAK 10 million (approx. USD 1,136). If the offense is committed repeatedly as part of an organized group or if it causes substantial damage, the offender can be punished with imprisonment of 01 to 03 years and a fine ranging from LAK 10 million (approx. USD 1,136) to LAK 50 million (approx. USD 5,680).
Criminal prosecution in Laos is costly and time consuming.
Generally, dispute resolution can be undertaken by submitting a complaint to the Department of Intellectual Property, which then acts as a mediator.
The remedies available under border control measures (customs) in Laos include the payment of damages or subject to criminal sanctions, which may depend on the nature of each case.
The IP rights holder must bear the costs of customs intervention during enforcement.
Both civil and criminal alternative are fine, but there is a need of a more comprehensive IP Law in Laos to meet the existing and future obligations under various international treaties.
The custom recordal is not a very viable option due to lack of infrastructural development and proper administrative directions.