Laos applies the first-to-file principle, meaning that priority is determined by whoever files the patent or petty patent application first, or if priority is claimed, the earliest priority date. An application may contain a declaration claiming priority based on one or more earlier national, regional, or international applications filed by the applicant, either in Laos or in another country, which is a party to the Paris Convention (or another international treaty to which Laos is a signatory). Therefore, applications from convention countries will be granted the same priority date in Laos. In the case of such international applications, the relevant Lao authority only conducts a formal examination of the patent application.
While the authority does not conduct a substantive examination, it recognises and accepts search and examination reports from other IP offices around the world.
The time from the filing date to the granting date is approximately 4 to 5 years (as for patents) and two to three years (as for petty patents). Owners of petty patents, like the ones of ordinary patents, will have exclusive rights to exploit their inventions and grant licenses to others.
The applicant may not apply for both a patent and a petty patent for the same invention. However, in either case, the applicant is allowed to change the type of right applied for, from petty patent to patent and vice versa. Be mindful that this must be done before registering the invention and the issuance of the petty patent or before publication of the patent application.
A patent lasts for 20 years after the filing date of the application. A petty patent lasts 10 years from the filing date of the application. In order to maintain a patent or a petty patent registration, an annual fee, pursuant to the IP Law, must be paid in advance by the rights-holder.
Payment of the annuity fee can be made yearly at the anniversary date of the application or paid on an accumulated basis four times, timed as follows:
- First annuity payment (1st year to 4th year)
- Second annuity payment (5th year to 9th year)
- Third annuity payment (10th year to 14th year)
- Fourth annuity payment (15th to 20th year)