Vietnam likely to take back patent to coffee brand: lawyer

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Vietnam stands a chance of claiming back the patent right to its famous Buon Ma Thuot coffee brand, which has been recently granted to a Chinese company in China, a lawyer told Thanh Nien Thursday.

Pham Vu Khanh Toan, head of Pham & Associates the law firm contracted to represent the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak in taking legal actions against China-based Guangzhou Buon Ma Thuot Coffee Co. Ltd., made the statement on the sidelines of a conference on protecting the brand held in Dak Lak on November 3.

He said Chinese laws dictate that a brand isn't eligible for patent registration if its product is found not to have originated from the same place as it is showed in the brand's geographic indications.

In fact, a prestigious Chinese firm that specializes in intellectual copyright said the two brands BUON MA THUOT and Chinese characters, and BUON MA THUOT COFFEE 1986 granted to the Chinese company would probably be invalidated, because Buon Ma Thuot coffee brand's geographic indications were already recognized and registered in Vietnam, Toan stressed.

Buon Ma Thuot Coffee Association will provide evidence showing that the Chinese company used to do business with local businesses that helped it gain awareness of the brand and therefore registered it later in China, the lawyer said.

Additionally, Buon Ma Thuot is a geographical name in Vietnam and its Chinese translation makes no sense, Toan said. He said the patent to the brand was granted in Vietnam back in 2005, while it wasn't registered in China until last year and this year.

In a report published Thursday, Tuoi Tre said that Guangzhou Buon Ma Thuot Coffee Co. Ltd was granted the 10-year patents to the brands in November 2010 and June 2011.

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According to Toan, he is trying to win the case at Chinese State Administration for Industry and Commerce's Trademark Appeal Board to avoid bringing it to court which is more time-consuming and costly.

The lawyer anticipated that the proceedings would take between two and three years, but he also said with support from Vietnamese diplomatic agencies, it would be shorter.

Previously, Doan Kim Ca, secretary of the Buon Ma Thuot Coffee Association, said that his association would apply for rights to the brand in 16 countries, including the US and Japan.

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