The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment’s National Office of Intellectual Property tells VIR how important intellectual property registration abroad is for local firms when it comes to brand value protection.
The public has been concerned with Vietnam’s Buon Ma Thuot coffee brand being illegally used by a Chinese firm. It is possible to take back the brand?
The Law on Intellectual Property is almost similar in diverse countries.
In Vietnam, the law regulates priority is given to people with early registration and usage of brands. It also regulates the real owners can take back the brands if the individuals or organisations earlier who registered the brands and got brand protection certifications were not the brand real owners.
China also has clauses standing on the side of brand real owners, so that we can hope for a happy ending for the case.
In the past we took back the Ben Tre coconut candy brand from a Chinese firm through negotiations.
In fact, many Vietnamese brands are illegally used by foreign players, but they could not be taken back. Is that the case?
A number of local firms exporting to China have their brands illegally used by the importers. Claiming those brands back is by no means simple like in the Vinataba case. This tobacco brand was violated in China and some other ASEAN countries. We succeeded in taking back the brand in Laos and Cambodia only.
In China, we got support from official and non-official channels but our efforts were still in vain.
In Thailand, the Vietnam Tobacco Corporation got a lawyer help to with the case. However, hiring lawyers is very costly so that whether the Vietnamese firm continues the lawsuit or not depends on the firm itself.
The danger Vietnamese firms lose their brands is apparent unless we outline concrete strategies on brand protection abroad.
Do Vietnamese agricultural products have geographical indications registered abroad?
The National Office of Intellectual Property statistics show that the country is home to approximately 800 well-established agricultural products and craft villages. Scores of products have their brands or geographical indications domestically registered. However, except for Phu Quoc fish sauce which lodged a petition to the European Union for geographical indication registration, no other Vietnamese products have their geographical indications rubber stampeded abroad.
Local manufacturers need to pay greater attention to intellectual property registration abroad to protect their brand value.
What is the best way to get intellectual property registered abroad?
There are a variety of ways. Businesses can join in the Madrid system for international registration of trademarks in which Vietnam is a member. They are only required to send applicants to International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva, Switzerland. If accepted, their products will have brand value protected in over 80 territories (contracting parties) joining the Madrid system. Going this way helps firms save costs and face fewer procedures.