Applications for trademark registration are conducted through the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) and may be made to apply to one or more classes of goods or services as described in the Nice Agreement for Classification of Goods and Services (although Lao PDR is not a signatory to the Nice Agreement trademark registration in Lao PDR uses the same classes of goods and services as set out therein). Trademark applications must be made in English and Lao. The application for trade mark registration must contain the following information/documents:
- A request for registration of the trademark;
- The name and other personal data of the applicant;
- A notarised power of attorney, and if the application is filed through an agency, the agent’s name and address in Laos must be included;
- Drawings or a specimen of the mark;
- A description of the goods/services to which the mark will be applied/used in connection with; and
- Receipt of payment of official fees.
Although not a signatory, Laos applies the Nice Agreement for classification of goods and services. One registration application is valid for only one trade mark but may apply to more than one class of goods/services. Laos applies the first-to-file system for trade marks. Moreover, the same priority requirements apply to trade mark applications. If the applicant wishes to claim its priority rights from a foreign application, the national application must be filed with MOST within 6 months after the filing date of the foreign application.
Determining whether a mark is considered ‘well-known’ for the purposes of determining eligibility of a similar mark is a process subject to the Law and includes how recognizable it is within a relevant industry in Lao PDR, the volume and period of use of the mark, and any goodwill associated with the use of the mark, amongst other factors.
In the registration procedure, MOST conducts formality and substantive examination of the trade mark application. Trade mark applicants do not have to show prior use of the trade mark. Once registered, however, the trade mark must be used in Laos for the registration to be maintained. Rights in a trade mark can be lost through the action or inaction of the trade mark’s owner. Trade mark rights can also be lost unintentionally by the applicant if a continuous period of non-use exceeds 5 years. The period of nonuse required to show abandonment of a mark in Laos is five years.
Any person, legal entity, or organisation may apply for a trade mark certificate. A person, legal entity, or organisation residing in a foreign country, however, must be represented by an authorised representative in Laos (i.e., an IP agent).
Trade mark protection lasts for ten years from the filing date, and at the end of the initial ten-year period, the mark can be further renewed for ten years each time. A renewal fee applies, which must be paid in advance for ten years.
Under Article 4 A (1) of the Paris Convention: [ Any person who has duly filed an application for a patent, or for the registration of a utility model, or of an industrial design, or of a trademark, in one of the countries of the Union, or his successor in title, shall enjoy, for the purpose of filing in the other countries, a right of priority during the periods hereinafter fixed ]. As defined in Article 4 A of the Paris Convention, the right of priority may be enjoyed “during the periods hereinafter fixed” – which periods according to Article 4 C (1) are 12 months for Patents and 6 months for Utility Models, Industrial Designs and Trademarks. According to Article 4 C (2) these 12/6–month “ periods shall start from the date of filing of the first application; the day of filing shall not be included in the period ”. In effect, it means that if one applies for a specific trademark for the first time in Paris Convention signatories, and then, within the next six months, files an application for the same trademark in Laos and claims priority, then the second application filed with the DIP in Laos will be considered as having been filed on the same date as the first application.
To claim priority for trademark applications in Laos, at the filing stage, the applicant is required to provide us with some priority data, such office of priority filing, priority filing date, and application number and name of the country. A certified copy of the priority document must be submitted within three months from the date of the request by the Registrar.