Lê Ngọc Lâm, deputy director of the National Office of Intellectual Property of Việt Nam, speaks to Hải quan (Customs) newspaper about challenges Việt Nam faces in turning law into reality
What lessons have been learned in the last 10 years since the Law on Intellectual Property came into force?
The intellectual property rights’ awareness of many organisations, individuals and enterprises has improved considerably among domestic markets.
Over the last 10 years, the number of Vietnamese enterprises that registered their products with the National Office of Intellectual Property of Việt Nam (NOIP) increased by 50 per cent.
Each year, roughly 10-15 per cent more Vietnamese and foreign enterprises in the country apply for trademarks or patents. In other words, now most Vietnamese enterprises fully recognise the benefits of trademarks for their products.
Another point I want to mention is the increasing awareness of the importance of protecting or honouring traditional products by many craft villagers. This is a demonstration that intellectual property (IP) has played an important role in protecting and maintaining brand names for local products.
But the downside is the considerable lack of awareness of intellectual property rights among the general public. As a consequence, either intentionally or unintentionally, many enterprises have violated IP rights. In some few cases, the enterprises have forgotten to apply IP protection to their products, leading to their product names being used by others.
What are the limitations in the implementation of IP law in Việt Nam?
Many things must be improved, particularly work performed by assigned management agencies. At present there are many legal agencies involved in the settlement of IP rights disputes. As a result, when enterprises have problems they don’t know where to go for help.
In addition, psychologically speaking, many enterprises don’t want to take their cases to court and just want help from their nearest administrative office. As a result, administrative settlement has not achieved significant results. But, the positive aspect is the service fees are low and dispute settlement is quicker than in a court.
Though the IP Law has been in force for 10 years, NOIP procedures in appraising new products’ trademarks have been slow, not up to enterprises’ expectations. The main cause of this is their poor facilities, particularly their IT infrastructure. This is food for thought for the NOIP and its representative offices to improve their efficiency.
Meanwhile, the Government acknowledged the important role played by the NOIP and has granted a special mechanism for IP activities to help them catch up with international standards.
How should we revise the Law on Intellectual Property to overcome these limitations?
Việt Nam is a signatory to the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and many other international free trade agreements. All these have forced the country to invest to facilitate the these agreements, particularly legal reforms.
Under our current law, encroachment IP rights are only punished by administrative fines, but now the sanctions must include criminal punishments. This is one of the commitments that Việt Nam has agreed to undertake as a signatory to the international trade agreements.
In addition, we have to improve the building capacity of all State management agencies, particularly the IP implementation agencies to ensure the Law on Intellectual Property is strictly implemented.
Last but not least, we have to launch campaigns to raise the general public and the enterprises’ awareness of the IP Law. — VNS