What Are The Potential Costs Involved In Working With Customs Officials To Protect A Brand’s Intellectual Property, And How Can These Costs Be Managed Effectively In Laos?
To safeguard IP rights in Laos through the customs system, rights holders generally allocate a sufficient budget for strategic actions and measures. These expenses cover the custom recordal and the inspection and suspension procedures for counterfeits at Customs.
Under Article 32 of Law on Custom, revised in 2019, if a rights holder possesses reliable information that imported, exported or transited goods infringe their trademarks or copyrights, they can submit a request to Customs for inspection and temporary seizure of such goods. Prior to inspection and suspension, the rights holder is required to deposit of a security of 10,000,000 Kip (about US$485) for the customs handling.
Moreover, the rights holder must prepare a reasonable amount in the event of pursuing a judicial action before the courts. If the ruling by a competent court is unfavorable, meaning the suspected goods are not deemed to infringe on IP rights, the rights holder might be liable to compensate the owner of the goods for damages suffered.
To avoid incurring potential costs to customs authorities as well as engaging in civil court cases, rights holders are advised to conduct thorough searches and investigations to learn about the importer as well as the extent of the suspected shipments. Subsequent approaches such as delivery of a cease and desist letter, obtaining agreement with the importer to destroy the counterfeit goods and stop infringement in many cases will benefit the rights holder more than pursuing lengthy and uncertain court proceedings. Many IP disputes find resolutions though warning letters and agreements, facilitating cooperation between IP owner and alleged infringer. Settlement of Agreements and Undertakings can be effective tools for reaching a resolution in these cases.