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Intellectual property regime getting better in Vietnam
Well-known international trademarks are automatically recognized in Vietnam and legally protected as registered brand names even if the owners have yet to apply for protection, a senior official has said.

Tran Viet Hung, General Director of the National Office of Intellectual Property (NOIP), said this practice in Vietnam’s Intellectual Property Law has been in effect since June 2006.

Hung told Thanh Nien Daily that Vietnam joins WTO member nations as well as international organizations of intellectual property (IP) like TRIPS, the Madrid agreements and protocol, and the Paris Convention to help protect intellectual property internationally.

According to Hung, the Intellectual Property Law defines well-known trade-marks in terms of eight criteria.

He went on to elaborate that international trademarks must be recognizable to the local people.

The trademarks have to create a specific sum of revenues for their owners or appear in public advertisements with a specific number of frequencies.

Additionally, trademarks must be legally approved by governments or international IP organizations.

Hung said it is not necessary for trademark owners to meet all the eight criteria, but the more they meet the greater their chance to get protection.

Some well-known trademarks like McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, KFC, and Toyota are protected in Vietnam and have been for some years.

However, Hung said that his office rejects applications from unauthorized foreign businesses who want to own the well-known trademarks in Vietnam.

Vietnam is considered to be among the weakest countries in intellectual property protection.

The issue has caused a great deal of tension as Vietnamese officials try to resolve the matter and enforce reasonable punishments. Vietnam spent more time than expected in negotiations for acceptance into the WTO because of this issue.

More than 30,000 IP applications have been submitted to NOIP for protection so far this year, an increase of 30 percent year-on-year.

Sixty percent of them are Vietnamese trademarks while 40 percent are from foreign businesses.

Some 1,000 trade-marks of Vietnamese businesses have been registered abroad.

Trademark assessment

Hung says NOIP, a body of the Ministry of Science and Technology, will set up a trademark assessing unit that will assist businesses involved in mergers or takeovers.

He says that businesses, especially state-owned enterprises (SOEs), are difficult to assess as a result of their lack of experience.

Over 3,000 SOEs have undergone equitization since 1992 with some of them asking for brand name assessments and IP protection while others do not add the trade-marks and brand name values into their chartered capital.

However, value can be regained through auctions or initial public offerings.

Trademark assessment will become NOIP’s pivotal function according to proposals set forth by the finance and culture and information and sports ministries. NOIP is only responsible for IP registration and protection.

Source: Thanh Nien – October 2007 - Reported by Minh Quang
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