Tag Archives: Corporate Commercial

Changes to Customs Tax and VAT Exemptions

During Parliament’s regular session on May 10, a final review of amendments to the Value-Added Tax Law and Customs Tax Exemptions Law were conducted and approved with a majority vote from Parliament members in attendance.

According to the amendments, all imported wood construction materials except oriented strand board (OSB), standardized pre-fabricated wood building structures, and logs will be exempt from customs duty. Other imported wood products, except those related to forestry and horticulture, will be exempt from value-added tax until 2022.

The Amendments to Value-Added Tax Law and Customs Tax Exemptions Law will be effective from January 1, 2018.

Issues with Effective IP Enforcement Actions in Mongolia

Several clients in recent months have contacted the firm requesting assistance in tracking down and stopping intellectual property infringers in Mongolia. After working closely on many of these cases, our Mongolian Attorneys and licensed Intellectual Property specialists are among the forefront of the Mongolian IP enforcement practice in Mongolia. Our team has a few key insights that those doing business in Mongolia should be aware of.

In Mongolia, the systems for investigation and resolution of IP infringement issues is relatively unsophisticated. IP infringement cases often are not able to be resolved or punished effectively due to a lack in the number of state inspectors and the resulting workload for those inspectors who are on the job. Only a few State Inspectors handle IP issues, and such inspectors are obliged to inspect shops or markets selling infringing goods throughout Ulaanbaatar in accordance with the specific demands of each case. It is often very difficult for the state inspectors to identify possible infringers. State inspectors will normally punish known infringers identified during an IP enforcement action by warnings, confiscation of infringing goods, and fines for repeat offenses. General lack of education in Mongolia account IP and the limited effectiveness of such examinations result in infringing products for which sales have been shut down at a particular market showing up again for sale elsewhere at a different shop or different market.

Another problem is that the estimation of intangible asset related damages caused by IP infringement is not clear and is not well defined or regulated under law. Though the law says such damages will be settled under applicable regulations and administrative acts, regulation applicable to estimation of intangible asset related damages caused by IP infringement is unclear in Mongolia. The complaint regarding intangible asset associated damages cannot be resolved properly under such procedure. In fact, it is very few cases which filed complaint concerning the said infringement with IP office and there is no good practice on this issue.

The Mongolian government needs to pay attention on eliminating violations of intellectual property rights and properly compensating damages caused by IP infringement.  Those seeking effective IP enforcement in Mongolia need to come prepared with a large amount of investigation preformed and research compiled ready to be presented in a complaint to the IP Office, and should have a clearly documented and easily calculatable claim for damages caused due to the alleged infringement.

 

Alternative Dispute Resolution: Finalizing Mediation

In a recent post we have previously discussed the practical aspects of mediation in Mongolia. Mediation is one of the better alternative dispute resolution methods for those who are seeking short-term and inexpensive way to settle a dispute. In this article we’ll explore the closing of the mediation process and aftermath.

The mediation process is generally considered more prompt, inexpensive, and procedurally simple than formal litigation. It allows the parties to focus on the underlying circumstances that contributed to the dispute, rather than on narrow legal issues. The mediation process does not focus on truth or fault. Questions of which party is right or wrong are generally less important than the issue of how the problem can be resolved. Disputing parties who are seeking vindication of their rights or a determination of fault will not likely be satisfied with the mediation process.

Nonetheless, if in the mediation process a resolution is reached between parties, a written settlement agreement must be executed. Such settlement agreement is binding for all parties of dispute and considered enforceable contract. As mentioned in our previous post mediation centers operate at courts of first instance (court-based mediation centers), and may operate at government authorities, NGOs and professional associations (other mediation centers). Settlement agreements executed by mediators of a court-based mediation center become a sort of court judgement, as judge of corresponding court issues a court decision confirming such settlement agreement. And if parties fail to voluntarily perform their obligation under settlement agreement, it shall be enforced same as court decision. On the other hand, while settlement agreements executed by mediators of other mediation center are also binding for parties of dispute, these are not enforced same as settlement agreements executed by mediator of court-based mediation center. If parties fail to voluntarily perform their obligations under such settlement agreement, parties have the right to pursue their claims in other forms (such as litigation or arbitration).

However, if in the mediation process parties could not reach any resolution, or parties did not actively seek any resolution, or for other reasons the mediation process could not further proceed, the mediation process shall be terminated. At this point parties of dispute may decide to resolve their dispute through litigation or arbitration.

Alternative Dispute Resolution: Mongolian Approach to Mediation

Mediation a method of alternative dispute resolution parties to any agreement should consider, aside from arbitration. Mediation is essentially a negotiation facilitated by a neutral third party. Unlike arbitration, which takes a form more similar to trial, mediation doesn’t involve decision making by the neutral third party, but seeks to find a mutually acceptable resolution or compromise between the parties. Mediation procedures can be initiated by the parties or may be compelled by legislation, the courts, or contractual terms. When parties are unwilling or unable to resolve a dispute, one good option is to turn to mediation. Mediation is generally a short-term, structured, task-oriented, and “hands-on” process.

In Mongolia the institution of mediation was established by adoption of the Law on Mediation in 2012. Pursuant to Law, mediation may be used in civil legal disputes, individual labor disputes and disputes arising from family relationships, and in some other disputes only if specified by law.

In mediation, the disputing parties work with a neutral third party, the mediator, to resolve their disputes. The mediator facilitates the resolution of the parties’ disputes by supervising the exchange of information and the bargaining process. The mediator helps the parties find common ground and deal with unrealistic expectations. The mediator may also offer creative solutions and assist in drafting a final settlement. The role of the mediator is to interpret concerns, relay information between the parties, frame issues, and define the problems. Unlike the litigation process or arbitration, where a neutral third party (judge or arbitrator) imposes a decision over the matter, the parties and their mediator ordinarily control the mediation process – deciding when and where the mediation takes place, who will be present, how the mediation will be paid for, and how the mediator will interact with the parties.

A mediator is a specialized person, who is certified and registered in the list of mediators. Anyone with higher education may attend training courses for mediators and become a certified and registered mediator. However, currently most certified and registered mediators are usually lawyers or persons with certain legal or economic background. Law on Mediation provides presence of mediation centers at courts of first instance. Law also permits government authorities, NGOs and professional associations to have medication centers in accordance with their direction of professional activity, provided that certified and registered mediators are employed.

Franchising in Mongolia: Licensing your IP

This is the third part of our look at the uses of intellectual property in Mongolian franchises. You can find the first part here, and the second part here. We will discuss the use of licensing agreements as part of franchise IP management.

While in general, franchisors do own their intellectual property, this is not always strictly the case. In many franchise businesses, trademarks and other intellectual property elements may instead be owned by a parent company or even an affiliated company. In such cases, intellectual property is usually licensed from the legal entity that owns it to the franchisor, which then has the right to sell franchises and sub-license the use of intellectual property to the franchisees.

If the franchise agreement has been properly drafted, then this licensing/sub-licensing relationship between parent company or affiliated entity and the franchisor will be reflected in the wording of the agreement. There are quite a few places in a franchise agreement where special care must be given to properly set out who actually owns trademarks and other intellectual property if the franchisor itself is not their owner.

Pursuant to the Law on Trademarks and Geographical Indications, any licensing agreement is subject to state registration with intellectual property authority, otherwise such licensing agreement is deemed invalid.

Whenever someone uses, without permission, a trademark (sometimes even a trade dress) that is the same as or confusingly similar to that of a franchise system, that is a case of trademark infringement. It is becoming increasingly common to find the look, feel and design of one franchise business being copied elsewhere. In some of these cases, there is clearly an intent to pass off the copycat operation as a franchise.

A strong franchise system depends on a strong brand and must therefore protect its trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets and trade dress. For these reasons, franchisors need to spend a lot of time, attention and money to maintain, improve and protect their intellectual property. Their franchisees, in turn, will benefit from a strong protection strategy, as it ensures the rights for which they have paid, over the stated term.

Franchising in Mongolia: Intellectual Property is More than Trademarks

In the first part of this series we have discussed about trademarks as part of franchise system. In this part we will discuss about other elements of intellectual property that may be utilized in franchise system.

Other critical element of intellectual property in franchise systems are copyrights. Pursuant to law copyright protects the fixation of the expression of an idea in a tangible form, whether written, verbal, graphical or other objective forms. Copyright exists in a variety of items commonly used by a franchise: training videos, marketing material, ads, websites, music, logos and software. There is significant value to the copyright-protected materials incorporated into a franchise system and, like trademarks, these elements are licensed by the franchisor to the franchisee for use in the franchised business. And, unlike trademarks, copyrights do not have to be registered in order to be protected.

Trade dress is what makes a franchise system unique and distinctive from others, including the overall visual look, feel and impression of a location. Some part of trade dress may be protected by copyrights.

Not all franchises involve trade secrets (i.e. confidential information), but it is typical to see franchise systems maintaining some aspects of their operations as strictly confidential and maintained as trade secrets. In Mongolia there is no law that regulates specifically trade secrets or business aspects of trade secrets. However pursuant to Law on Corporate secret, any corporate information, document, research, method, solution, project and etc. which holds economic value may be considered confidential corporate secret (trade secret) and may be protected from divulgence. In the context of the franchise arrangement, the need and desire to share information with franchisees competes with the legal necessity of limiting the distribution of true trade secret material. Reasonable steps to ensure the identification and protectability of trade secrets include: confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements and clauses; marking of claimed trade secret material, limiting the distribution to “need to know”, password protected computer systems and databases, and locks on cabinets and doors. In some cases, a franchisor’s trade secrets are not even divulged to the franchisee, such as the specific recipes or bulk ingredients required to create a quick-service restaurant chain’s signature sauces.

Patents are usually not included in franchise systems, but they can be. Patent registrations are intended to protect an inventor’s rights to specific inventions, such as a newly engineered product, medical device, drug or other innovation. Unless a franchise system has specifically developed its own equipment, it generally will not include any patents within its intellectual property.

It is very important for franchisor, as well as franchisee, to take the time to fully analyze and review any franchise agreement, disclosure document and respective attachments before signing them. While the above information serves as a general overview, as always, one should seek their own legal advice when reviewing a franchise agreement. Only then it is possible to obtain specific information and recommendations relevant to particular circumstances.

Establishing a Mongolian Franchise Business: Protect Your Intellectual Property

In a recent blog post we discussed the franchise business model and it’s rapid growth in Mongolia. In a new three-part article series, we will dive deeper into franchise agreements in Mongolia and look at intellectual property, which is one of the most important aspects of a franchise system, and its importance.

Intellectual property law and business law have many areas that overlap. Franchising, in particular, is a unique business model, with the franchisor’s intellectual property at its core.

As such, intellectual property is one of the most important elements of any franchise. Within the franchise agreement, one of the core assets and rights that franchisor will be granting to franchisees will be a license permitting a franchisee to utilize their intellectual property and, in turn, franchisor is declaring to a franchisee that franchisor owns the intellectual property and will protect and defend it. So, it is important for franchisor to make sure that they actually own and can protect intellectual property that they are purportedly licensing to franchisees. Especially, when entering into a franchise agreement with franchisee, who will operate in another country.

These days most people are familiar with the term “intellectual property”, but not everyone understands the differences between various types of it. Intellectual property may include trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, trade dress (i.e. the look, feel and distinctive elements of a franchise system, such as the interior design, layout and other visual aspects of a franchise location) and sometimes patents under which franchise businesses operate.

Trademarks are perhaps the most commonly recognized and well-known element of intellectual property. The Mongolia Law on Trademarks and Geographical Indications defines trademarks as expressions with distinction, which are used by legal entity or individual in order to distinguish their products or services from that of others. Trademarks can include business names, taglines, service names, logo designs and specific color or color combinations, etc. They are among the visual components of a franchise business.

Just because franchisor has used their trademark for many years it does not mean that trademark is legally protectable nor that they own it. First, franchisor needs to properly register their trademark with intellectual property authority. Secondly, if franchisor is entering into franchise agreement with franchisee, who will operate in another country, franchisor needs to register their trademark in the country where franchisee will operate as well. This way franchisor asserts their ownership of trademark and ensures protection of their trademark from other infringers (such as copycats and confusingly similar marks).

Mongolia’s Double Taxation Treaties

Many countries have entered into tax treaties (also called double tax agreements, or DTAs) with other countries to avoid or mitigate double taxationDouble taxation is the levying of tax by two or more jurisdictions on the same declared income, asset or financial transaction. Double liability is mitigated in a number of ways, for example:

  • the main taxing jurisdiction may exempt foreign-source income from tax,
  • the main taxing jurisdiction may exempt foreign-source income from tax if tax had been paid on it in another jurisdiction, or above some benchmark to not include tax haven jurisdictions,
  • the main taxing jurisdiction may tax the foreign-source income but give a credit for foreign jurisdiction taxes paid.

Another approach is for the jurisdictions affected to enter into a tax treaty which sets out rules to avoid double taxation. In the all over the world, over 3000 double taxation agreement (DTAs) are in effect.

Mongolia has entered into “The Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital” with other 25 jurisdictions as of 2017. Namely,

Country In force since
1 The People’s Republic of China Jan 01, 1993
2 The Republic of Korea Jan 01, 1993
3 The Federal Republic of Germany Jan 01, 1997
4 The Republic of India Jan 01, 1997
5 The Socialist Republic of Vietnam Jan 01, 1997
6 The Republic of Turkey Jan 01, 1997
7 The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Jan 01, 1997
8 The Republic of Hungary Jan 01, 1997
9 Malaysia Jan 01, 1997
10 The Russian Federation Jan 01, 1998
11 The Republic of Indonesia Jan 01, 1998
12 The Republic of France Jan 01, 1999
13 Czech Republic Jan 01, 1999
14 The Kingdom of Belgium Jan 01, 1999
15 The Republic of Kazakhstan Jan 01, 2000
16 The Republic of Kyrgyz Jan 01, 2000
17 The Republic of Poland Jan 01, 2002
18 The Republic of Bulgaria Jan 01, 2002
19 The Swiss Confederation Jan 01, 2002
20 Ukraine Jan 01, 2003
21 Canada Jan 01, 2003
22 The Republic of Singapore Jan 01, 2005
23 The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Jan 01, 2005
24 The Republic of Austria Jan 01, 2005
25 The Republic of Belarus May 28, 2001

Mongolia’s double tax treaties with United Arab Emirates and Kuwait were terminated from 1 January 2015 and 1 April 2015 respectively. Mongolia’s double tax treaties with Luxembourg and The Netherlands were terminated from 1 January 2014 due to failure to provide for the balance and equity rights of parties.

The Mongolian Government Going Online

Mongolia may have a reputation of a sparsely populated nomadic country, but the Mongolian government in increasingly adopting the technologies of the 21st century to reach and serve the people even in the furthest reaches of the steppe. Several major government agencies have implemented systems to provide services online with great success. Foreign investors are able to take advantage of these systems to make doing business in Mongolia more effective and efficient.

The tax authority is one example. In 2014 the tax authority implemented a new online tax filing and tax payment system. A digital signature issued by the tax office is required to access the online tax portal. An individual authorized by a company to sign financial statements and tax returns must apply for a digital signature in order to be able to access the online tax portal system. The online tax filing and tax payments have proven to be more cost and time saving. The social insurance office has taken inspiration from this system and is now also online.

Recently several government bodies, such as Ministry of Finance, Bank of Mongolia, General Tax Administration, National Transportation Department and others, have collaborated and launch a website www.smartcar.mn. Through this site vehicle owners, both individuals and organizations, can pay vehicle taxes, driver’s insurance payments, traffic tickets and receive other vehicle related services.

The General Authority for Intellectual Property and State Registration recently announced that they are in process of preparation and implementation of a “One citizen, one registration” project. According to officials, one of the main purposes of this project is to create a unified national registration database for ownership and property related information of natural personas and legal entities. This project aims to eliminate duplication and discrepancies in information over multiple platforms and create a unified national registration database. Such database is planned to accessible online both for internal access for government bodies as well as to general public with certain limitations. This project envisages the use of digital signatures by individuals to obtain online services from government bodies. Currently, digital signatures used only by legal entities for online tax filing and public tenders (bidding). While this project is in planning stages and has yet to be approved by the Government, we have high hopes for successful implementation. Officials claim that, if this project gets approved, this will decrease the amount of paperwork, will be cost and time saving both for general public and government bodies, government services will be easier, more accessible and closer to general public, and for foreign investors.

At such rate of increasing online government services, it looks like in coming years we should expect less bureaucracy and more accessibility from Mongolian government bodies, which should contribute to increasing economic activity in the developing nation.

What You Need to Know About Registration of Foreign Pharmaceuticals in Mongolia

Pharmaceuticals imported to be sold within Mongolia are required to be registered with the Ministry of Health prior to import. The law provides for an “Express” registration process, as well as a “Regular” track. Express registration includes a sub-track “A” and “B”.

To be eligible for Track A Express registration, a pharmaceutical product must already have approval from a national regulator from a country recognized internationally as having effective pharmaceutical review and control processes, and must be sold on the market in that country. Such recognized bodies include the FDA in the USA, The European Medicines Agency (EMA), European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare in Japan. Track A Express registration provides for formal registration of the product within 30 days of the filing of the application for registration.

Track B Express registration provides for formal registration within 60 days of the filing of the application for pharmaceuticals which have been previously approved by relevant authorities of states which are party to Pharmaceutical Inspection Convention and Pharmaceutical Inspection Co-operation Scheme–PIC/S.

If a pharmaceutical product does not meet the requirements for Express Track A or B, it will be required to proceed with a regular registration process. The regular approval process will take 3-5 months, however this time may be extended if required.

Applications for pharmaceutical approvals in Mongolia are submitted to the “Human Medicine Board” which will make a decision as to registration of the pharmaceutical for sale within Mongolia. Products approved under the Express process are granted approval for 3 years, while products registered via regular process will receive approval valid for 5 years, after which the registration is required to be renewed.

If you are seeking to import a medicine product to Mongolia, our Mongolian lawyers are able to assist with all required registration actions.