Poor vigilance by Vietnamese companies has allowed the trademarks of their well-known products to be mimicked by foreign competitors-a situation that is likely to escalate if left unchecked.
Some 25 per cent of Vietnamese enterprises don’t allocate a budget for branding, while 70 per cent invest a little without forming any strategies and 5 per cent run comprehensive strategies for branding and marketing.
The case against fake trademarks spoofing Buon Ma Thuot coffee in China earlier this year, which involved costly legal proceedings, has reignited a sense of self-preservation in the business community.
Other major brands such as Trung Nguyen Coffee and Phan Thiet Fish Sauce, Vinataba, were also illegally registered abroad to cash in on their fame. It is also extremely expensive and time-consuming for Vietnamese firms to fight against trademark infringement.
These notorious incidents have set a precedent for trademark infringement against Viet Nam’s products, thus damaging the reputation of the genuine product and stealing the producer’s revenue.
If enterprises don’t make a concerted effort to invest in the development and protection of their brands, they may have to pay a much heavier price later on.
However, it seems that Vietnamese companies have not fully understood the significance of this issue, said Vo Tri Dung, an industry expert.
The bulk of the country’s exports, including rice, fruit, and fisheries products, lack major brand names, stated Tran Huu Hiep, head of the South-West Region Steering Committee’s Economic Department.
Hiep noted that the task of creating location-specific brand names for key products with co-operation between the government, farmers, scientists, and corporations had been attempted in the past but had not been very successful.
On the global market, products that are made in Viet Nam are overshadowed by foreign brands; in many cases, they have to rely on these foreign brands to help them penetrate world markets as subcontractors.
Their intellectual property rights are infringed upon by competitors, or they get exploited in foreign markets.
The Viet Nam Trade Promotion Agency (Vietrade) under the Ministry of Industry has suggested that building a national programme to increase awareness and support local enterprises in building, protecting, promoting and developing their brands is an urgent and strategic requirement.
On the other hand, cooperation between the state and the business community also plays an important role in promoting a common image for Vietnamese products, which is seen as a cost-effective, time-saving way to facilitate penetration and to gain a strong foothold in foreign markets for individual Vietnamese brands.
Speaking on issues affecting the export of local products, Fabienne Berger-Remy, a lecturer in marketing and brand management at IAE Paris, pointed out that culture and location were important factors in brand building, which explains why adaptation is necessary when approaching a new market.
However, she warned, enterprises should be very cautious in determining the degree of adaptation they will follow while retaining the signature style of their products. L’Oreal, IBM, Coca Cola, and Apple, as well as Disney are icons of success that Vietnamese companies nurturing dreams of international branding can emulate.