An official report issued recently has shown that while Vietnamese businesses are increasingly using the benefits of the available intellectual property registration tools to protect their brands, they seem to constantly fail to do the same abroad. This discrepancy between the use of national IP protection and international trademark registration is putting such traders at a disadvantage in today’s globalized economy.
In the past several important Vietnamese companies such as VNPT (telecom), Vinataba (tobacco), or Keo dua Ben Tre (coconut candy) have seen their IP rights infringed in other countries, but were left helpless due to the fact they had not pre-empted such scenario and registered their trademarks in jurisdictions other than their domestic one.
Lack of international trademark protection is hurting Vietnamese business
And still it seems that Vietnamese groups are yet to take the lessons from these examples, and keep running the risk of losing important opportunities in foreign markets: with there being several hundred thousand trademarks registered in Vietnam, it seems surprising that only four hundred have been registered at foreign intellectual property offices. The effects of such negligence are most visible in neighboring countries such as Laos, China or Indonesia where Vietnamese goods are exported to and where there exists a flourishing, albeit illegal, market for counterfeiting. To fight such unfair competition is only made possible, or at least the chances of success greatly enhanced, with the use of one’s own intellectual property rights held in the jurisdiction the action must be taken, and Vietnamese companies are failing to acquire these.
Particularly discomforting is the fact that competitors from neighboring countries do not seem to be making the same mistake, and the Vietnam National Institute of Intellectual Property (NOIP) is having to deal with a great number of applications for trademark protection from other Asian corporations. For example in the 2013-2015 period, while there were only 49 trademark applications from Vietnamese companies in Singapore, there were up to 306 applications in Vietnam made by businesses located in Singapore.
This imbalance is putting the Vietnamese companies at a stark disadvantage compared to their neighboring competitors. While the recent work undertaken by IP professionals to educate and raise public awareness about the need for sound IP protection seems to be bearing fruits, as shown by the 10% increase in trademark applications registered by NOIP in 2016, the work is by no means over.