The matter was raised on Wednesday during the National Assembly (NA)’s debate on an amendment to the Law on Intellectual Property.
In response to questions raised by Assembly members, Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Mr Houmphanh Intharath described the situation concerning the registration of newly invented items.
He said the owners of micro-businesses were unaware of the need to register their inventions and invented products, or how they might benefit.
This led to the loss of their product patents, he said, citing the example of a chilli paste that was made in Luang Prabang and a khaonom pan sweet that was made in Khammuan province, but which had been registered by producers in other countries.
Mr Houmphanh said Laos has only 2,000 micro, small and medium enterprises (SSMEs) while Asean has registered around 40,000. He said the number of SSMEs in Laos should be more than 2,000, but the rest were not registered.
The deputy minister also told NA members about difficulties in persuading businesses to form collective groups that would better enable them to find markets.
Also speaking during the debate, Assembly member for Vientiane, Ms Valy Vetsaphong, explained why some SSMEs, especially rural family-run businesses, were ignoring registration.
She pointed to the registration fee, saying that if a micro business produced 10 products and had to pay one million kip to register each product, the business would have to pay 10 million kip.
“For a micro business this amount is a huge burden,” she said.
Ms Valy also gave the example of food producers, saying that if they wanted to register a product which they believed complied with the standards set by the Food and Drug Department, they would have to pay about 1,800,000 kip. They would have to pay more for other items.
“Chilli sauce sells for 10,000 to 15,000 kip a packet. They told me how many packets of chilli sauce they would have to sell to recover the cost of the registration fee,” Ms Valy said. She also explained that start-up businesses have other expenses, which have to be factored into the production cost.
Ms Valy said the government must show how joining a group is advantageous over operating alone, and how much importance the government places on such groups.
Article No. 41 of the draft amendment stipulates that the cost of considering an application filed for inventions is the responsibility of the applicants.
Assembly member for Savannakhet province, Dr Souvanpheng Bouphanouvong, asked the drafting subcommittee to review the policy.
She said the public sector must help applicants with technical services, but the amendment called for applicants to pay for technical services and other related expenses.