Vietnam encourages producers to register brands overseas

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Vietnamese producers' associations should register their members' collective brands overseas as soon as possible to avoid foreign legal battles and the risk of losing the rights to the country's trademark products, an official told Thanh Nien.

Tran Huu Nam, deputy head of the National Office of Intellectual Property of Vietnam, said Vietnamese associations had not yet paid enough attention to registering collective brands and geographic indications, which belong to the community of producers within a locality.

At the moment more than 800 Vietnamese products, mainly agricultural, are well-known globally, but none of them has been registered as brands overseas, according to government statistics. Meanwhile, just 30 collective brands have been registered locally, Nam said.

Without overseas brand registration, Vietnamese companies risk lawsuits or having their products blocked from entering certain countries if brands for their products have already been registered in the import countries by other foreign companies, he said.

Lawyer Nguyen Minh Huong, vice chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Association of Intellectual Property, also said local authorities had the responsibility of registering geographic indications overseas.

The indications are national intellectual properties and the government has assigned local authorities to act as the representatives of the properties' owner, according to Huong.

Nam said that with the support of his office, it is simple and convenient for associations to register their brands via the Madrid System for International Registration of Trademarks, of which Vietnam is a member.

Usually it takes between US$1,000-2,000, and at least 14-16 months to have a brand registered overseas for ten years, he said.

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But, reclaiming the rights to brands already registered by other companies in foreign countries is not easy, according to Nam.

Moreover, in the most of foreign countries, brand reclamation takes place in court, not through diplomatic means, he said.

In related news, Doan Kim Ca, secretary of the Buon Ma Thuot Coffee Association in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak, said that his association is seeking legal advice on how best to ask Chinese authorities to revoke the registration of a Vietnamese coffee brand granted to a Chinese company.

Meanwhile, they will also apply for rights to the brand in 16 countries, including the US and Japan, Ca said.

The Buon Ma Thuot coffee brand was one of several recent cases in which Vietnamese brands were registered by foreign companies overseas.

The famous brand of Phu Quoc fish sauce, which is owned by the Phu Quoc Fish Sauce Association in the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang, was also recently registered by a Hong Kong-based company in China.

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