Violations of intellectual property (IP) in Vietnam have become serious while no effective solution has been found to stop them.
Doan Nang, Director of the Ministry of Science and Technology’s (MST) Legislative Department said that incomplete legal framework and ineffective procedures among state management authorities were the main reasons for poor policing of IP violations.
Analysts cite the case of the ‘Misa Bear’ massage cream as a typical example of overlapping power among state management authorities. Quang Minh Pharmaceutical Company and Truong Son Oriental Medicine Company had a dispute over the packaging, industrial design and label of the popular cream. The former had registered with the Copyright Office of Vietnam (COV), while the latter obtained a certificate for IP protection at the National Office of Intellectual Property (NOIP).
As both documents were valid, the dispute could not be settled and the two companies became mired in legal proceedings, all the while losing business.
According to Vuong Tien Dung, Deputy Head of the Hanoi Market Control Sub-department, the case showed gaps, inconsistencies and duplication in the law.
Too many cooks spoil the soup
There are five state management authorities assigned to implement IP protection: local people’s committees, police agencies, market control departments, customs agencies, MST inspectors and culture and information inspectors.
Among the five agencies, only the customs officials implement IP protection at border gates. The other four concentrate on the domestic market. Mr Dung pointed out that the four other authorities don’t cooperate with each other and no authority comes forward to coordinate the operation. Nor do any take responsibility for the work.
As there have been no common procedures for IP protection, different procedures are applied by different agencies. As a result, enterprises hesitate to take legal proceedings to ask for the protection.
Legal analysts have also pointed out that weak punishment is a main reason for increasingly serious cases of IP infringement. The high ratio of repeat offences has shown that fines in their current state do not provide sufficient deterrent.
IP protection, together with commitments on goods trade and service trade, is one of the three pillars of the WTO. The implementation IP protection is a compulsory requirement for Vietnam to join international agreements. Partners have thus called on Vietnam to urgently complete a legal framework as soon as possible.