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March 2, 2021

Laos Provides Much-Needed Clarity on Patents

Informed Counsel

A new regulation in Laos provides significant practical clarity on procedures and contingencies related to patents and petty patents. Published in the Official Gazette on December 23, the Decision on Patents and Petty Patents no.1714/MOST, dated December 15, 2020, is the latest step in Laos’ ongoing efforts to improve the utility of its system for patents and petty patents.

Laos has steadily built up its patent regime since the early 2000s by issuing laws and regulations defining the key elements. These continued to be updated after Laos joined the Patent Cooperation Treaty in 2006, and in recent years, various regional and bilateral cooperation has helped accelerate some patent applications. However, even after the amended Law on Intellectual Property took effect in June 2018, the process could still be prohibitively time-consuming.

The new decision, which replaces a 2012 decision on the same topic, addresses this by clarifying and simplifying many key points, the most significant of which are detailed below.

  • Priority date. Applications filed under the PCT have a 31-month time limit for entering the national phase, counting from the priority date. This is a small change from the 2012 decision, which set the time limit at 30 months.
  • Submission of original documents. If the pre-filled, unsigned form for the power of attorney (POA) and deed of assignment (DOA) is submitted, scanned copies of the notarized POA and DOA must be submitted within 15 days (down from 60 days under the 2012 decision). However, the original documents must still be submitted within 60 days.
  • International classification. Applicants can ask the Department of Intellectual Property (DIP) to indicate the international class of patent and petty patent applications. If there are amendments to the class, applicants can file an amendment form with the DIP free of charge. International classification was not mentioned in the 2012 decision.
  • Publication timeline. Applications for patents or petty patents will be published in the 19th month after the application filing or priority date. The 2012 decision, in contrast, did not mention the publication timeline.
  • Opposition. The procedures, timeframe, and required documents for an opposition to a patent or petty patent application are clearly and concisely indicated in the new decision, whereas opposition was not mentioned in the 2012 decision.
  • Examination. While the 2012 decision gave only a broad description of examination, the new decision provides clear guidelines on the procedures, requirements, and timeline of this phase. The applicant must request substantive examination within 24 months after the filing date for patent and six months for petty patent. International substantive examination results can be filed within three months of their receipt.
  • Claims. The number of dependent claims was reduced to three, from the 15 allowed under the 2012 decision. The number of independent claims remains 15.
  • Cancellation and withdrawal. Third parties can file cancellation applications with the DIP within five years after the relevant publication date in the official gazette. If more than five years has elapsed since the relevant patent’s publication date, the application should be filed with the court. The 2012 decision had only addressed this issue broadly.
  • Annuity payments. There is a six-month grace period for renewal and annuity payments.

While securing patents in Laos has tended not to be an area of emphasis for many companies operating in the jurisdiction, some of the ambiguity that surrounded the practice has been cleared up by this decision. Consequently, participation in the Lao patent protection regime is becoming a more viable and worthwhile option for companies looking to protect their proprietary technology and intellectual assets.

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