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Lax patent laws cramp research

Update: January, 21/2013 - 09:47
Workers check a coffee polishing machine invented by engineer Bui Trong Nghia. Intellectual property law shortcomings have resulted in scientists and inventors choosing not to disclose and patent their ideas. — VNA/VNS Photo Manh Linh
HA NOI (VNS)— Significant problems with Viet Nam's intellectual property right laws have resulted in domestic scientists and inventors choosing not to disclose and patent their ideas for fear that they will be stolen.

This reluctance has led to a slump in the country's product research and production that will continue until the law protecting patents is strengthened, according to a key representative from the National Office of Intellectual Property of Viet Nam (NOIP).

Phung Minh Lai, who also acts as director of the Institute of Patent research, told local media that developing countries such as Viet Nam have had to take many short-cuts to build their technology sector – including importing technology from other countries and transferring technology licensing - because of the lack of domestic progress.

He added that patenting more ideas and focusing research in this direction is the most effective path for the country's technological advancement, which will require strengthening patenting laws and ensuring ideas are safe from theft.

A 2012 report from the Ministry of Science and Technology revealed that last year 58 cases of alleged intellectual property infringement were investigated. Eighteen of these were found to be violating the law and total penalties reached nearly VND800 million (US$38,400).

The Department of Intellectual Property (IP) has confirmed that despite the issues there are currently more than 30 million patents registered in Viet Nam – although not many are concentrated in the country's crucial development sectors – but the resources needed to turn ideas from paper into reality are limited. Currently the research and production stages are rarely completed.

Occasions where ideas have moved seamlessly from the planning to production stage have often been thanks to the work of a few outstanding individuals driving progress, rather than the efforts of enterprises, according to the NOIP.

They have said that few Vietnamese enterprises are interested in co-operating with scientists from universities in research to improve existing products and create new ones because they can buy the machines and equipment needed for their business from abroad.

A high-level representative of the IP department told a recent HCM City conference that intellectual property right violations of are usually made by individuals and businesses who are not fully aware of the depth and value possessed by this property.

He also called for laws to be reviewed and strengthened. "The establishment and protection of intellectual property rights would not only help businesses succeed but would also form an important legal basis for the authorities to protect their legitimate rights and interests under business law," he said.

The Government must also play an important role in supporting the exploitation of inventions by creating policies and a legal environment that make it possible for the required investment and development-oriented research to take place, he added.

Recent conferences have suggested that invention trends are changing in the country.

At the Techmart 2012 convention, which unveiled some of Viet Nam's latest technological developments, there were many inventions on display created by innovative farmers who, while not professionally trained, undertook their own research to solve problems in agricultural production. Their inventions were mostly small-scale and designed and produced for practical and not commercial purposes.

The Prime Minister, Nguyen Tan Dung, recently chaired a science and technology conference in Ha Noi, where high quality rice and and equipment used for national defence were designated as official national products, among others.

The conference decided that a legal framework must be put in place to allow the development of these industries and products further so that significant progress will be achieved by 2020. — VNS

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