A new motorcycle put out this month by a subsidiary of state-owned shipbuilder Vinashin has set off a heated debate regarding design patent and the origin of its engine.
Vu Manh Ha, general director of Vinashinmotor, said that the Diamond Blue scooters use a modern engine produced by the Sundiro Honda Motorcycle Co in China.
Honda Vietnam insisted that the engine was not manufactured by any branches of the Japanese company around the world, and not by Sundiro Honda specifically. Honda Vietnam also said it is the only company that has the right to produce and distribute Honda engines and motorcycles in the country.
Speaking to local news website VTCNews, Ha said Honda was trying to "mess up" with his company and inspire doubts in consumers. He said local authorities verified the origin of the engines when they were imported.
But the engine is not the only question that comes up in the ongoing controversy surrounding the Diamond Blue. There have also been concerns over design patent infringement as the scooter is a definite look-alike of the popular Vespa LX model.
Diamond Blue retails at around VND50 million (US$2,560) while a Vespa LX costs around $4,000.
Ha said the design was provided by a Chinese company and Vinashinmotor has not violated any regulation.
The Italian scooter company, Piaggio, issued a press release saying it has known about "a motorcycle that is similar, in design, to the Vespa LX".
"Many companies have made products based on the design of Vespa but they all failed because their products lack the same design quality and high-tech value as Vespa," the company said in its statement.
Piaggio, however, did not mention Diamond Blue or any intention to take legal action to protect its product. It said "Vietnamese consumers are wise enough to tell the difference between genuine products and copycats."
Analysts say this response is a smart move considering Piaggio has not patented the design of Vespa LX in Vietnam.
To Duc Long, an official at the Vietnam Register, a government body responsible for technical supervision of vehicles, said both Piaggio and the National Office of Intellectual Property of Vietnam had been alerted about the similarities in design. However, both of them confirmed that Piaggio did not have a local patent on the design of the Vespa LX.
The controversy has not affected Diamond Blue sales. Analysts say the bike's reasonable price and the engine claimed to be made by Honda have caught the attention of many consumers.
According to a sales representative for Vinashinmotor, around 300 scooters have been sold over the past three weeks in the northern region. The company's assembly plant will continue to supply 50-70 scooters for the market every day, he said.