Use of illegal software can hurt exporters to the US, lawyer warns

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Businesses that ship products to the US must ensure full legal observance in the use of computer software if they do not want to get involved in civil lawsuits under new laws passed in two states, a Baker & McKenzie lawyer has said.

"The Unfair Competition Act of Washington State took effect in July 2011," lawyer Da-Fa Feng from the Taipei Office of the American law firm told a workshop held in Ho Chi Minh City on March 10.

"Companies in the state or its Attorney General can start civil lawsuits against those who compete unfairly by using stolen or pirated software programs in manufacturing, distribution, marketing or sale of their products which are sold or offered for sale in Washington State."

A similar law has been passed in the state of Louisiana, he told the workshop attended mostly by representatives of Taiwanese companies operating in Vietnam.

"Failure to observe the Washington State act puts businesses at risk of having to pay damage, having their goods seized and even losing access to the lucrative US markets," he said.

Feng said the act tries to protect the state in trade and benefit those who have already suffered some competitive disadvantages against those who compete unfairly by using pirated software.

He warned that other states in America might have similar laws because the National Association of Attorneys General supports the use of Federal Trade Commission Act to deal with the problem of foreign manufacturers engaging in unfair competition by using illegal software."

"They've urged the federal government to attack such unfair competition," the lawyer said, adding that US President Barack Obama has showed his willingness to do that.

Those who export goods to the US should examine the Washington Act closely as it covers all manufacturers regardless of where they are geographically located, Feng said.

Manufacturers, therefore, should ensure that they have obtained the appropriate licenses for any information technology products used in the whole course of their business, he added.

The workshop was organized by the Vietnam Copyright Office, Council of Taiwanese Chambers of Commerce in Ho Chi Minh City and international organization Business Software Alliance.

"Use of illegal software by businesses in Vietnam may be subject to criminal charges and severe punishments under Vietnamese laws," Vietnam Copyright Office director Vu Manh Chu told the workshop.

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