The 33rd WORKSHOP
Three weeks after the successful VDF-Tokyo Third Conference, we held a regular monthly workshop for June. This time, we welcomed Mr. Tran Huu Tra, a 2-year Master student of Niigata University, and a patent attorney of Tra & Associates Intellectual Property Law Firm in Hanoi. The main objectives of his presentation were to disseminate information about current status of trademark registration and discuss policy implications for an effective implementation of trademark rights in Vietnam.
The presentation was begun by an overview about the Intellectual Property (IP) Law, and legal documents for registration and enforcement of trademark rights in Vietnam. Going further with specific issues, Mr. Tra presented the definition of trademark, and eligibility and procedures for a trademark registration. It was indicated that Vietnam was trying to update and follow the international standards in this field. According to the presentation, the number of trademark applications and registrations from both Vietnamese and foreigners had been increasing significantly since 2001, in which Vietnamese registrators were dominant. These numbers demonstrated that trademarks had become increasingly important in Vietnam¾a burgeoning economy in the region and the world.
About enforcement of trademark rights in Vietnam, Mr. Tra showed the acts of trademark infringement, and different procedures to solve the problem, such as civil procedures, administrative procedures, and criminal procedures. These procedures had their own advantages and drawbacks. For clearer explanation, he provided some examples in Vietnam in recent years. Through the analysis, Mr. Tra said that enforcement of trademark rights in Vietnam was still weak due to various problems, such as time-consuming requirements, lack of special forces to deal with intellectual property disputes, and weak coordination among the ministries for protecting trademark owners and preventing or punishing trademark infringers. From the current status, Mr. Tra discussed some measures to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of trademark registration and enforcement in Vietnam.
The Q&A session was started by some questions and comments from Mr. Giang Thanh Long (VDF-Tokyo/GRIPS). He would like to know the background of the amount of money fines for trademark infringement, which was ranged from 20 mil. VND to 200 mil. VND; and what would happen if some infringers could earn more than what they would be fined. Mr. Long also commented that encouraging more activities to increase public awareness of counterfeit products was also another solution to deal with the problem. In response, Mr. Tra said that the amount was based on general development of the country and economic sectors, particularly in terms of per capita income. This amount would not be fixed, and would be adjusted under certain conditions. For the second question, Mr. Tra responded that money fine was just only one action because infringers could be punished with other procedures, depending on how serious the case was. He also agreed with Mr. Long that increasing public awareness of the problem would be an appropriate policy response.
Also being interested in the procedures to punish the trademark infringers, Mr. Yuichi Kimura (GRIPS/FASID) wondered whether substantial difference in quality between genuine and copied products would be one criterion to judge. Mr. Tra answered that IP Law did not mention about this issue, and it was practically difficult.
In his turn, Prof. Kenichi Ohno (VDF/GRIPS) commented that trademark infringement would make both producers and consumers become losers in the market at different levels. Therefore, the most important action now for Vietnam was to promote more effective coordination between policy-making institutions to deal with the problem. He said that, other measures such as increasing public awareness and strengthening special forces were also needed. He wondered how some companies/business groups, which had not been registered in Vietnam, could be protected. In his response, Mr. Tra said that Vietnam was following the Paris Convention so that the well-known companies were protected under Vietnam’s Law, even they had not registered. The fame of each company was evaluated by different criteria, such as revenue and supply capacity.
Mr. Vu Tuan Khai (VDF-Tokyo/YNU) would like to know how many companies currently operating on this field in Vietnam, and whether a market to trade patents. In addition the these questions, Mr. Khai also wondered whether Vietnam had trademarks for well-known local products, such as Hai Duong’s litchi, Hung Yen’s longan, or Phu Quoc fish sauce. Mr. Tra answered that there were 51 companies in the whole country in 2006, but the number of new companies would be increase quickly. Though, there had been no market to trade patents in Vietnam so far. For the last question, Mr. Tra said that it would be extremely difficult to think about granting a trademark to a local product because once it was granted, there would be thousands of producers who needed to be protected under the regulations, and as such, it would be really complicated to deal with trademark infringements. He suggested that the product be registered under each company’s name.
Besides the motorbike industry that was discussed many times in presentation, Ms. Chizuru Tobita (GRIPS Development Forum) would like to know about the current status of intellectual property in other industries, such as garment and textiles. Mr. Tra responded that the Law covers all the industries, and recently many companies in these industries registered their trademarks in Vietnam.
At the end of the presentation, Mr. Tra provided some recent cases of intellectual property disputes in Vietnam, and how they were solved under the current Law. He again suggested further improvement in both registration and enforcement of trademark rights in Vietnam, particularly under strict requirements of the WTO.
We then had an hour for informal meeting. Many research activities were informed and discussed. Next month we will hold a workshop on Saturday, July 21, 2007.Abstract (PDF 10KB) | Slides (PDF 254KB)
(By Giang Thanh Long)
WS Schedule | VDF-Tokyo HOME