The protection of intellectual property rights was the main subject at the workshop ‘Branding: the Key to a Successful Business’ host by EuroCham on May 27, 2008 in Hanoi and the trade counselor of the European Delegation to Vietnam, Antonio Berenguer, said that such protection is essential in Vietnam in this new era of international integration.
Registered trademarks and brands are essential to a business if it is to break into the global marketplace and maintain market share in the domestic market. Vietnam is integrating deeply and broadly into foreign markets and increasing exports and building brand recognition are increasingly important to Vietnamese companies. However, Mr. Berenguer warned that the country is under special surveillance by the US and is among those countries that the European Union feels it needs to keep an eye on in terms of intellectual property right protection. These concerns exist while Vietnamese businesses are making an effort to create trademarks and establish brands of their own.
Antonio Berenguer said that last year when Vietnamese science and technology inspection teams paid a visit to 600 businesses and discovered 136 incidents of industrial design violations, 606 incidents of trademark infringement resulting in fines of nearly VND2 billion, 26 incidents of patent violation and in three cases there were geographical indication violations. In 2007, the National Office for Intellectual Property issued 502 warnings pertaining to intellectual property right violations. Market management teams across the country discovered 2,496 violations (of these, 258 concerned industrial design and 2,227 were cases of brand infringement). Fines amounting to VND1.2 billion were collected.
Actually, very few intellectual property right violations are acted upon and for the most part such activity goes on unchecked. Of the software, CDs and DVDs that are being used in Vietnam, virtually all are copies of registered products. Everyone’s numbers show that at least 88 percent have been illegally copied. Counterfeit versions of well-known brands of shampoos, automobile spare parts, IT equipment, lamps, bags and clothing and perfume are the norm and about eight percent of all medicines and 25 percent of the
imported alcohol available in Vietnam is fake.
Foreign experts have been saying for years that ridding the marketplace of low quality fakes is essential for domestic brand development to take place while foreign investors (particular those in the technology sector) want to see some semblance of copyright protection before they attempt to develop a significant domestic distribution network. Multinational groups that have established brands are particularly concerned with this problem. Vietnamese businesses are attempting to establish a reputation for their products and they are becoming aware of the importance of creating brands under a trademark. They are realizing that protecting their own intellectual property rights is now an issue.
Vietnam has been making small but consistent steps towards providing intellectual property rights protection. However, the laws that exist in Vietnam today do not allow proper identification of copyright infringements or sufficient penalties, said Antonio Berenguer. There is not yet an overall concern for intellectual property right protection. The Vietnamese authorities must create a harmonious group of laws that can achieve a set goal. The personnel involved in the detection and enforcement activities need retraining to instill higher ethical standards and promote cooperation among the protection agencies. It has been shown that in Vietnam a law can actually be enforced – this was seen with the law requiring motorcycle helmet use. Let us hope that the authorities will soon enforce the intellectual property rights laws that now also exist./.