Case Study 16 – Seizure of counterfeit goods in Laos
A manufacturer of engines for agricultural activities had its trade mark duly registered in Laos. Lately, then found out that counterfeit products bearing its registered trade mark were being commercialized in several local retail stores. The issue was only discovered when the company received complaints about the product quality from buyers who mistakenly bought the counterfeit products which they thought were originals. This affected the company’s business and brand reputation.
The trade mark owner requested the local authorities in Laos take administrative action against the sellers of the counterfeit goods. Initially, warning letters were sent to each infringing retail store. The first raid action took place and counterfeit goods were seized and disposed of for destruction. The series of raids were conducted in both Vientiane and Savannakhet.
The relevant authorities warned the sellers not to infringe again or else they would be fined. No other punishment, such as fines, was imposed on the infringers as first-time offenders are usually not penalised in Laos and this was the first known counterfeiting offense for each infringer. If an infringer is a repeated offender (i.e., they have infringed more than two times), the local authorities may consider taking the case before the criminal court which could lead to imprisonment or to a fine.
After the raid was conducted, local newspapers and radio stations publicized the results. A large amount of counterfeit engines was seized and removed from the market. The reputation of the trade mark owner was gradually rebuilt.
- Counterfeit products can seriously affect a company’s business along with its brand reputation and cause economic loss.
- Among different avenues for IP enforcement, administrative actions are swift and effective at creating public awareness of an IP owner’s rights.
- IP owners can work closely with the Department of Intellectual Property of Laos to enforce their rights. Efforts will be made to protect their rights and to stem the tide of counterfeit goods. SMEs should always consider taking administrative action to tackle trade mark infringement in order to avoid costly litigation and to raise public awareness of their IP rights in Laos with the help of local media.
- Besides seizures of counterfeit goods in the market, customs seizures are also available in Laos and in other South-East Asian countries. EU SMEs shall consult with a local lawyer to understand customs seizure procedures and liabilities.