Recognizing the importance of Intellectual property (IP) to the modernization, industrialization and promoting the regional and global status of the country, IP protection and the awareness of intellectual property rights (IPRs) in Laos have been increasing recently due to the support of the Government. As the economy of Laos grows, more and more foreign companies, notably from China, Korea and Japan begin their commercial activities in Laos and it becomes increasingly important for businesses to protect and maintain their competitiveness in the market. As a matter of fact, the number of trademarks consisting of non-Latin characters filed to the Department of Intellectual Property (DIP) of Laos is also increasing through years. The question here is whether non-Latin characters are eligible for trademark protection in Laos. In the framework of this article, we would like to share some aspects of trademark practice in Laos:
1. Types of trademark protection in Laos.
A mark is defined by the current IP Law of Laos as “any visible sign capable of distinguishing the goods (trademark) or services (service mark) of an enterprise”. Signs may be in the form of letters, numerals, words, phrases, shapes, pictures, images, logos, including two-dimensional signs, three-dimensional images or their combinations, presented in one or several given colors. In other words, the mark may consist word signs, which are presented in standard characters or in special, non-standard characters that may pertain to any alphabet, and may have one or more colors. The mark can be figurative signs, that consist of one or more figurative elements. Figurative signs may have one or more colors but will not contain any words, letters, digits, numerals. The mark can also be mixed signs, which consist of a combination of one or more words, letters, digits, numerals or ideograms with one or more figurative sign or non-word element. Non-visible signs, such as sound, olfactory (odor, scent or smell), taste and moving marks are not registrable as a trademark in Laos.
The marks are used to distinguish the goods and/or services of one trader from those of another. They also provide legal protection for your brands and help you guard against counterfeiting and fraud.
2. Will non-latin characters be protected as a trademark in Laos?
In contrast to the neighboring country – Vietnam where IP practice is not too different but characters of languages that are imperceptible and unmemorable to the common knowledge of Vietnamese consumers (unreadable, incomprehensible and unmemorable) shall be considered as indistinctive and cannot be registered there, Laos protects the marks, which contain the non-latin characters, such as characters not of Latin origin: Arabic, Slavonic, Sanskrit, Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Thai characters, etc. The reason may be because Lao Script is also non-Latin characters.
According to the current regulations on trademark protection in Laos, there is no provision prohibiting the protection of trademarks consisting of non-Latin characters. In fact, all trademark consisting of non-Latin characters are easily accepted for protection in Laos.
In different languages, a character can have many different meanings, as a result, when a non-Latin mark is made up of several characters, it will have different whole meanings. In the trademark application form, the meaning and/or transliteration of the non-Latin characters would be required to fully describe, however this description appears to be for the purpose of examining that mark only, it does not determine the scope of protection of that mark; The scope of protection of a mark is determined by the elements shown on the sample of mark.
As a matter of prudence, therefore, to have the proper scope of protection for his mark, the trademark applicant may consider incorporating the transcription and/or English translation into the sample of non-latin mark. On the other hand, in particular case, the trademark applicant should consult the local attorneys for precise advices and to avoid possible risks.
In case you require more information or require advice to register trademark in Laos or Intellectual Property right in Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia as well as other IP matters, please do not hesitate to contact us via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
More information about trademark protection in Laos can be found HERE