Basics of Initial public offering (IPO) in Mongolia

In recent years several Mongolian private companies have gone public, or conducted an initial public offering (IPO), very successfully. This shows that interest and knowledge about IPO is growing both among companies (businesses) and public (investors).

As you may know, an IPO is when a private company or corporation raises investment capital by offering its stock (shares) to the public for the first time. Initial public offerings are often issued by growing companies seeking capital to expand, but they can also be done by large privately-owned companies or corporations looking to become publicly traded. Prior to an IPO the company is considered private, with a relatively small number of shareholders made up primarily of early investors (such as the founders) and professional investors. The public, on the other hand, consists of everybody else – any individual or institutional investor who wasn’t involved in the early days of the company and who is interested in buying shares of the company. The Law on Securities Market requires that to conduct an IPO the issuer must offer its stock to at least 50 and more investors.

In an initial public offering, the issuer, or company raising capital, procures the assistance of an underwriting firm (underwriter), to help determine the offering price, amount (number) of shares and timeframe for the market offering. When a company initiates the IPO process, a very specific set of events occurs. The chosen underwriter facilitates all of those steps. Primarily, an external IPO team is formed, consisting of an underwriter, law firm, audit company, appraiser company, and other experts if required. The external IPO team compiles information and documentation regarding the company (issuer), including financial performance and financial statements, expected future operations, corporate governance and corporate documents, and prepares IPO prospectus, legal opinion, audit report, asset valuation report and other necessary documents respectively that are to be filed to Financial Regulatory Commission of Mongolia (FRC). After the company files its prospectus and other necessary documents with the FRC, it sets a date for the offering.

Going public can be a great way to raise money, increase your company’s profile. However, there are number pros and cons in going public. So, when considering conducting an IPO, one must do all proper researches, calculations and analysis. In doing so we advise to seek professional advice and services from FRC listed underwriters, law firms, audit companies and appraiser companies.

Our law firm is FRC listed. Here at LehmanLaw we have FRC certified lawyers, who will provide you with qualified legal assistance.

Mongolia is Introducing E-Filing System for Intellectual Property

The Mongolian Government’s Action Plan for 2016-2020 aims that the state functions have been introduced the online system for establishing reliable, accessible and express public services based on paperless services. The most ultimate source is that the article 8 of Patent law sets forth the filing an electronic application for invention, industrial design or innovation.

 

In April 26, 2018 as the World Intellectual Property Day, IPOM publish (Online Data system) and E-Filing (Online Filing System) were introduced for developing the use of the intellectual property database and facilitating the filing process for IP rights.

 

Above-mentioned systems allow to register the invention electronically and obtain electronic information on patents and trademarks.

 

In today’s highly developed IT platform, the filing electronic application for IP rights and the obtaining of patent information for the research work are an important part of saving time and paper. Furthermore, the researchers, inventors and producers are able to find the similar researches with their research work in online Intellectual Property database. It will definitely helpful to develop more competitive way of creating the inventions as well as avoiding any risks in the future.

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.

New Law Needed to Protect Internet Domain Names as Intellectual Property

Many companies wish to utilize a national top level domain in their online “URL” to indicate that the company, and products or services offered are local to a specific country. For example, a Mongolian company may utilize “.mn” to indicate to the world it is based in Mongolia, while an international company may establish a separate “.mn” website to target the Mongolia market.

Datacom LLC, a Mongolian company, holds the right to issue “.mn” domain name and has been doing so since 1996. Also, Erdemnet issues “edu.mn” domain name for educational organizations and National Data Center issues “gov.mn” domain name for government organizations.

Currently, there is a domain name registration system operated by the the National Data Center. However, there are many violations of the domain registration process because there is no legislation regarding registration and use of domain names in Mongolia. Many in the Mongolia IT sector have advocated for such a law as it is required to establish the legal basis for registering, possessing and using domain names. Having such law is also critical to avoid and mitigate potential for intellectual property rights infringement.

Illegal circulation of intellectual property in the internet or electronic environment is widespread. In particular, copyright ingringement, namely the music and film are widely copied illegally and available online.

Both the General Authority for Intellectual Property and the State Registration and Communications Regulatory Commission of Mongolia fight againt the copyright’s infringement in the internet and have authority to shut down the domain names which are found to use or make available intellectual property without constant of the owners. However, there is a continous cycle in which a site which finds it’s domain name shut-down quickly re-openeds and posts copyrighted contend under a new domain name. A formal domain name law would help to stop this process.

The Mongolian Parliament adopted the Resolution /No.11/, “List of Laws and Regulations need to be updated by 2020” on 12 January, 2017. According to the resolution, Law on Domain Names is scheduled to be enacted in the near future.

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.