Lengthy copyright lawsuits worry investors

patent-trademark-news-DUYTHO.jpgLengthy court cases and low compensatory damages are hindering the settlement of intellectual property violations in Vietnam, according to a foreign attorney

“Foreign investors have been disappointed with lawsuits in this area,” Thomas Treutler, international attorney with Baker & McKenzie in Vietnam, said.

Speaking at Wednesday seminar on settlement of intellectual property disputes in Vietnam, Treutler said court cases can take up to two years.

Compensation for losses to the aggrieved party is too small, he said. “Defendants who lose cases are not even required to pay lawyer and court fees. They end up paying very little money to the plaintiff.”

Lawyer fees in one court case can account for up to 60 of expenses, he added.

Citing one case, Treutler said a plaintiff waited about 20 months for a final court decision in a copyright violation case.

Although the court found in favour of the plaintiff, it refused to grant US$15,000 in compensation for damage to the company’s prestige, and $18,000 for lawyer expenses.

The court agreed to compensate the plaintiff for only VND290,000 (US$18) per month for 10 months, the minimum monthly salary of State employees. This amount was considered appropriate under the civil law that once regulated such cases.

In addition, the plaintiff had to pay VND8.9mil ($600) in legal fees, Treutler said.

“Vietnam’s National Assembly recently approved a new Intellectual Property rights (IPR) law, a significant process in fighting against piracy. But State officials must provide detailed guidelines as well as shorten the time that is needed in court,” he said.

He said that businesses and individuals should keep abreast of IPR laws and regulations and register any violations of their trademarks, brand names or designs to the state Intellectual Property Registration Department.

“Early objections will help enterprises effectively protect their copyrights and trademarks,” Treutler said.

Speaking at the seminar, HCM City Civil Court Judge Nguyen Hoang Dat said in the last five years, only 11 lawsuits on copyright violations and 10 others on industrial property rights had been settled in court in HCM City.

“Most plaintiffs don’t want to go to court because it takes too long,” Dat said.

Instead, many companies or individuals prefer to send their complaints to the police or the local market management team.

The police and market watchdog teams have the authority to interrupt business activities of alleged violators, and many cases can be solved at this level, he said.

“To effectively implement the Intellectual Property Law, State officials should simplify the court’s procedures on copyright lawsuits, strengthen co-operation between the court and the state’s Intellectual Property Registration Department, and increase penalties for violators,” Treutler said.

The new law becomes effective in July.

(Source: Viet Nam News)

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