Intellectual Property (IP) is a critical concern for every business out there, irrespective of where it operates. The same holds in Vietnam as well. Although the country is a signatory to multiple IP conventions, it is still essential for foreign companies to keep their eyes open for the issues of Intellectual Property Infringement. So, let us now have a crystal clear understanding of how the IP laws operate in Vietnam and what possible measures are available for the foreign companies to deal with the issues of IP violation.
The National Assembly of Vietnam passed the law on Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) in 2005, which was amended and supplemented at a later stage in 2009. After becoming a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and entering into the Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) with the US, Vietnam’s government came up with stricter administrative sanctions in September 2010 for the violations of IPRs. It also made some crucial changes to the IP rules and regulations in Vietnam.
Keeping aside the local IP legislation, Vietnam is also an active member of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, the World Intellectual Property Organization, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Madrid Protocol, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, and the quite recently signed Hague Agreement.
As a member of the WTO, Vietnam has to meet the minimum specific IP standards established by the organization, which further implies that the IP laws in Vietnam are similar to the ones in the developed nations. Vietnam has divided its legal IP system into the following three areas:
- Industrial Property Rights, governed by the National Office of Intellectual Property (NOIP)
- Copyright and Related Rights, governed by the Copyright Office of Vietnam
- Rights to Plant Varieties, governed by the Plant Variety Protection Office
So, let us now delve into the specifics of the three most essential forms of IP in Vietnam.
1. Copyright Protection
The National Copyright Office of Vietnam governs and deals with the mechanism of Copyright Registration and Protection.
In Vietnam, computer programs can’t obtain copyright protection. For photographic works, cinematographic works, works of applied art, dramatic works, and anonymous works, the minimum copyright protection term is 75 years from the date of publication. In the case of the creative works of the authors, the copyright protection term is 50 years after the death of the author. Although no copyright registration is required in Vietnam, many experts recommend registering the copyright with the nation’s Copyright Office to have adequate protection in hand.
2. Patent Protection
The Patent Law in Vietnam operates under the “First to File” rule. The country has made a distinction between a patent and utility solution patent as follows:
- An invention patent has a Patent Protection term of 20 years.
- A utility patent has a patent protection term of 10 years.
Industrial Designs have a protection term of five years, which is renewable twice after consecutive periods of five years.
3. Trademark Protection
Vietnam’s trademark system safeguards symbols, colors, three-dimensional objects, and other visual devices, which uniquely identify the services or products of a business. In Vietnam, the use of a trademark establishes its exclusive rights instead of being formally registered. When it comes to domain names, they are handled on a first-come, first-served basis. The Trademark Protection term is ten years, which is renewable indefinitely for ten-year periods. The entire Trademark Registration process in Vietnam can take up to 15 months to complete.
Enforcement of IP Rights in Vietnam
Business firms and organizations that are seeking to enforce their IP Rights have the following three options in Vietnam:
- Administrative Action
- Civil Court Action
- Criminal Prosecution
The administrative actions handle most of the IP disputes in Vietnam. The relevant government authorities can take actions such as the seizure and destruction of counterfeit goods, issuance of warnings or fines, and so on, to deal with the issues of IP infringement and theft.
The best way of dealing with the IP issues in Vietnam is to have appropriate defense to make sure that the opposition action shall only need to be rarely taken. The defensive actions include registering your IP Rights, having clear and concise IP-related clauses in agreements and contracts, talking to other foreign companies operating in the same industry to learn the best practices, looking out for production overruns, etc.
As a part of the European Union-Vietnam Free Trade Agreements (EVFTA), which shall soon come into effect, Vietnam is all set to further tighten up its IP protection laws. Moreover, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is also encouraging Vietnam to meet high standards in the protection of IP Rights.