What Is The Typical Process For Confiscation Or Further Investigation In The Event That Lao Customs Officials Identify Potentially Counterfeit Goods?
In the context of customs procedures, in case of suspecting counterfeit goods at the Customs followed by the customs recordal, the below activities are involved:
- Customs officials inspect and compare goods with the information provided in the customs declaration and customs recordal, which has been registered in the Customs database. This includes examining photos, description, and characteristics used to identify genuine goods to determine whether the goods are counterfeit or if they are suspected of infringing IPRs;
- If the grounds for determining goods are suspected of being counterfeit or infringing IPRs are not sufficient, it is required to carry out further verification and investigation;
- In the event of detecting suspected goods, customs officials will detain the goods and isssue notices to both the products’ owner/importer and the rights holder, informing them of the presence of counterfeit products for each party’s confirmation.
- Upon receiving notification, the rights holder is allotted a period of 3 working days to confirm whether the suspected goods are indeed counterfeits. In the absence of evidence provided by the importer to prove otherwise, the counterfeit items will be subject to destruction. However, if the importer disputes the infringement claim, asserting that their goods are not infringing, and no mutual agreement is reached with the rights holder, the rights holder may opt to initiate the process for suspension of the suspected goods under the inspection and suspension procedures outlined below. It’s worth noting that during the temporary suspension of alleged infringing goods, both the owner of the goods and the applicant have the opportunity to access the goods and inspect them to obtain relevant information.
- Upon the expiration of 3-working-day deadline from the notice date, if the right holder fails to give their confirmation of the counterfeits, customs officials willrelease the suspected goods.
Inspection and suspension procedures
Under Laos IP Law and the Instruction on customs measures for the protection of IP rights, if the custom officials notify the rights holder about the suspected goods during a customs recordal inspection, or if the rights holder has valid grounds for suspecting that certain goods infringe upon their IP rights during imporation, exportation, or transit, they can request customs handling through an inspection and suspension procedure. This process involves the following steps:
The rights holder files an application to the customs authority for inspection and suspension of such goods, using the form as issued by the Customs Department. Additionally, a deposit of a security of 10,000,000 Kip must be included with the application.
Upon receiving the application, the Customs authorities shall, within 3 (three) working days, issue instructions along with the application and supporting documents to the relevant customs officer(s) for inspecting the suspected goods. Otherwise, the Customs shall serve the applicant a written notice with reasons in case of rejection.
If customs officials discover the suspected goods, they shall immediately issue an order to suspend the goods. Within 24 hours, a written notice of such suspension will be sent to both the relevant importer or exporter and the rights holder. Additionally, a copy of the notice will be forwarded to the Customs Department or pertinent regional customs office.
Customs may maintain the suspension for a period of ten (10) working days. However, the suspension period maybe extended if the applicant provides evidence that judicial action has been initiated.
The applicant must initiate judicial action with the People’s Court against the owner of the allegedly infringing goods within ten (10) working days upon receipt of the notice of suspension. Failure to initiate judicial action within the statutory time entitles the customs officer to release the goods immediately.
Outcomes of court decision:
Where a People’s Court decision rules that the suspended goods are infringing goods, the owner of the goods shall be fined in accordance with the Customs Law. However, if the People’s Court decision rules that the suspended goods are not infringing, the customs officer shall utilize the applicant’s security (deposit) to cover any expenses and damages resulting from such suspension, as per the People’s Court decision.