IPR enforcement concerning Geographical Indication
1. Acts of Infringement over Geographical Indication and Remedies
The following acts, if performed without permission of the owner of a geographical indication (“GI”) registered in Laos, shall be considered as infringement of the rights over the registered GI:
(a) Using protected GIs for products which do not satisfy the criteria of peculiar characteristics and quality of products bearing GIs, although such products originate from geographical areas bearing such GI;
(b) Using protected GI for products similar to products bearing geographical indications for the purpose of taking advantage of their reputation and popularity;
(c) Using any sign identical with, or similar to, a protected GI for products not originating from geographical areas bearing such geographical indication, and therefore misleading consumers into believing such products originate from such geographical areas;
(d) Using protected GIs of wines or spirits for wines or spirits not originating from geographical areas bearing such geographical indication, even where the true origin of goods is indicated or GI are used in the form of translations or transcriptions, or accompanied by such words as "category," "model," "type," "imitation" or the like.
As a matter of law, an intellectual property right holder in general and a GI owner in particular shall be entitled:
(i) to take technological measures to prevent acts of infringement of GI rights;
(ii) to request that the accused infringers terminate the infringing acts, publicly apologize for and rectify the infringement, and compensate for damages;
(iii) to request the State competent authorities to handle the GI infringement; and
(iv) to institute a lawsuit before a competent court or arbitration proceedings to protect their legitimate rights and interests.
Geographical indication (“GI”) infringements may be dealt with under administrative route, civil route or criminal route. Goods or their packages bearing a mark or sign which is identical with or indistinguishable from a GI currently protected for those very goods, without permission from the organization managing the GI is defined as GI counterfeit goods. In case GI counterfeit goods are imported into Laos, the GI owner is entitled to take border control measure to monitor inbound shipments and seize GI counterfeit goods at border gates of Laos.
In light of the foregoing, in general, administrative, civil, and criminal remedies are available to enforce GI rights in case of infringement.
3. Border Control Measure
Border measures are provided for under Laos laws and regulations to enable the IPR holders in general and GI owners in particular to effectively enforce and protect their IPRs in Laos.
Customs supervision: A GI owner is entitled to file with the Customs Supervision Department a request for customs supervision measure (“Request for Supervision”) for a 2-year term, which can be renewed for another 2-year term. This measure is implemented at all Laos border gates to detect any alleged counterfeits/infringing goods (“Alleged Infringing Goods”) imported into Laos. The IPR holder can then request for a temporary suspension of customs procedure over such Alleged Infringing Goods once they are detected.
Temporary suspension of customs procedure: In case the Alleged Infringing Goods has been found imported into Laos, the GI owner is entitled to file with a Customs Branch a request for temporary suspension of customs procedure over such Alleged Infringing Goods (“Request for Suspension”). The temporary suspension will, once applied, enable the IPR holder to enforce as well as seek for injunctions against the Alleged Infringing Goods.
As an interim measure, upon court order, goods that are suspected to be infringing a GI may be detained, as can any materials and core equipment used in their production. [ Article 37: Article 37: Detention and Confiscation: The competent courts shall have the authority to order the detention of the goods if there is suspicion that the goods are infringing the rights of the owner. The provision of the first paragraph shall also apply to the materials and core equipment if there is any suspicion they are used in the production of goods to infringe the rights of the owner. The infringing goods which are imported, exported, sold or offered for sale shall be confiscated by the competent authorities through the courts’ decision whether or not anyone has been convicted of the offence ]
Per Article 39, Kenfox advises that criminal punishment of imprisonment from one to five years, plus a fine of two million to twenty million Riels (approximately USD 500 to USD 5,000), shall apply to the following offences:
Misuse of a registered geographical indication for direct or indirect commercial purposes in respect of identical or comparable goods to those of the registered geographical indication where that misuse benefits or could benefit from the reputation of the geographical indication;
Additional criminal penalties apply to legal entities found to be responsible for infringement of the geographical indication. The criminal punishment for legal entities for the above acts shall be a fine from twenty million to fifty million Riels (approximately USD 5,000 to USD 12,500) with additional punishments stipulated in the Criminal Code, such as dissolution and liquidation of legal entities, placement under judicial supervision, prohibition from carrying on activities, disqualification from public tenders, ownership sale and destruction of items confiscated, confiscation of rights of third parties, publication of decisions, and broadcasting of decision by audiovisual communication.