Calls to increase penalties for brand counterfeiters

October 16, 2023 | 09:35
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Reports of trademark infringement of the Bia Saigon brand have reappeared in the provinces of Binh Duong and Binh Dinh.

Counterfeiting of a brand can create confusion, leaving consumers unable to distinguish between genuine and fake products, leading to a loss of trust, according to the Saigon Beer-Alcohol-Beverage Corporation (SABECO).

The beer maker proposed creating a healthy business environment that offers protection for consumer rights and the legal rights of brand owners by dealing with acts of trademark infringement strictly, particularly in cases of intentional counterfeiting.

Calls to increase penalties for brand counterfeiters
-Local authorities tighten their grip on counterfeit goods scammers

In a case of copyright infringement in the Vietnamese beer industry that concluded in March, Le Dinh Trung, of the Saigon Vietnam Beer Group JSC and a former employee of SABECO, was fined by a Vietnamese court for making and selling almost 9,000 boxes of beer with branding that infringed on the Bia Saigon trademark.

Despite this recent enforcement of copyright law, counterfeit beer continues to appear. This strongly suggests that administrative sanctions may no longer be enough to deter those whose profits from producing counterfeit beer make it worthwhile.

Bia Saigon is a large and renowned Vietnamese brand with a 148-year history in the market, offering a diverse array of product lines. The blue label symbol with the image of a flying dragon is trademarked and has been deeply engrained in the minds of Vietnamese consumers.

Tran Huu Linh, general director of the Vietnam Directorate of Market Surveillance under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, said, “People who produce counterfeit goods are very sophisticated.

They research the law carefully to find loopholes. Many counterfeit products are similar, or almost identical, to the real thing and are also copyrighted. In these cases, it takes a lot of time to resolve disputes, and sometimes the authorities are even sued by the subjects.”

“Businesses urgently need to send information related to counterfeit beer to the local Market Management Department or to the General Department of Market Management.

This will help us to protect the legitimate interests of businesses but also people’s health, as the safety of counterfeit goods for consumption cannot be guaranteed” added Linh.

According to data from the Vietnam Directorate of Market Surveillance, in the first six months of this year alone, there have been 4,686 cases related to counterfeit goods, goods of unknown origin, and goods infringing on intellectual property rights.

It is hoped that by increasing the likelihood of criminal prosecution for the violation of these rights, the number of prosecutions, public awareness of intellectual property rights, as well as reducing infringement cases, the business and investor communities in Vietnam will gain confidence in the country’s business climate.

With a total of 148 years of brewing history, Saigon Beer – Alcohol – Beverage Corporation (“SABECO”) has established itself as one of Vietnam’s leading companies.

The beverage company now has a total of 26 breweries and 11 trading subsidiaries alongside a significant distribution network consisting of hundreds of thousands retailers across the nation.

SABECO is proud to offer a brand portfolio that consists of some of the most well-loved beer brands in Vietnam, including Bia Lac Viet, Bia Saigon Chill, Bia 333, Bia Saigon Special, Bia Saigon Export, Bia Saigon Lager, and Bia Saigon Gold.

Calls to increase penalties for brand counterfeiters

In March 2023, Ba Ria-Vung Tau People’s Court ruled against Saigon Beer and Le Dinh Trung in a criminal case, based on allegations of the infringement of industrial property rights. The related penalty issued by the Court fined Saigon Beer Group Vietnam JSC (Saigon Beer) and Trung, severally, a total amount of VND 3.7 billion ($157,000). Saigon Beer has since shut down its operations.

According to the investigation records, after many years of experience working at Saigon Beer-Alcohol-Beverage Corporation (SABECO), Trung quit and established Saigon Vietnam Beer Group with the purpose of making beer products with similar designs and trademarks to SABECO’s products and then bringing them to the market, according to the investigation.

The issue was first raised in June 2020 when it was found that over 4,700 cases of beer, nearly 117,000 cans (330 ml types) and over 3,000 beer cartons showing signs of infringement of SABECO’s trademarked products. The value of the products was estimated to be more than $61,000. According to calculations, for each barrel of beer brought to the market, the company was earning profit of about VND29,000 ($1.25).

During the investigation, local authorities also found thousands of Bia Saigon Vietnam boxes in the southern localities of Binh Phuoc, Soc Trang, and Can Tho as well as the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak. The beer is distributed by Saigon Vietnam Beer Group, which is not a subsidiary of SABECO.

The act of producing counterfeit beer and trademark infringement affects the investment environment, businesses and consumers.

Based on the case file, the court found that the defendants’ actions infringed on the trademark protected under SABECO’s Trademark Registration Certificate Nos. 221596 and 225588 and qualified as famous trademark, according to the provisions of Clause 1, Article 129 of the Intellectual Property Law. At the same time, canned beer products, beer cans, beer cartons of Saigon Vietnam Beer Group JSC were counterfeit trademark goods according to the provisions of Clause 2, Article 213 of the Intellectual Property Law.

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