Sunday, February 25, 2018

Government to toughen IP rights enforcement

A government inspector checks a computer for illegal software. vns photo

HCM CITY Improving enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights is now high on the Government’s agenda as part of its efforts to uphold international IP commitments, especially those in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, according to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. 

Earlier this year, Việt Nam became a member of the 12-nation TPP. An area of special interest in TPP is IP rights protection, with serious emphasis on enforcement.

The agreement requires extension of the copyright period to 70 years and calls for  penal actions as part of enforcement efforts, setting some of the toughest norms for IP protection, according to the ministry.

The standards in the TPP are stricter than regulations under the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and the consequence of non-compliance can be severe.

The Government is moving closer toward regional and global practices for IP protection in its effort to offer a sound business environment and attract investment from businesses in the TPP regions,” said Trần Văn Minh, deputy chief inspector of the ministry.

To keep its end of the bargain in international requirements and commitments, the Government has increasingly put in place a legal system that is strong enough to safeguard IP rights.

“Importantly, by joining the TPP, the largest global free trade deal, the Government is moving closer toward regional and global practices for IP protection,” Minh said.

He said there would be more inspections and audits to put the heat on anyone engaging in ownership and related rights infringement, including those related to computer software.

In case of large-scale offences, penal actions will be considered, especially for infringements related to software.

Among the efforts, an interagency inspection team from the ministry’s inspectorate and the Hi-Tech Crime Bureau recently launched a series of raids across the country, targeting companies suspected of using unlicensed software.

Six businesses from Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Việt Nam based in HCM City and Bến Tre and Bình Dương provinces were found using illegal software worth about VNĐ6.5 billion (US$298,000), as estimated by the rightful owners.

The six companies in violation were the Oriental Fastech Manufacturing Company Ltd., Di Hưng International Company Ltd. and Dương Bản Design Company Ltd. in Bình Dương; Tỷ Hùng Company Ltd. and AAA Pharmacy Company Ltd. in HCM City; and Alliance One Garment Company Ltd. in Bến Tre.

At the six companies, the interagency team went through 247 computers and found that more than 500 software programmes of Lạc Việt and Microsoft, as well as Adobe and Autodesk graphic design software being used without legitimate licenses.

Tarun Sawney, senior director for Asia Pacific of BSA The Software Alliance, said: “We highly welcome the Vietnamese Government’s IP rights enforcement for its efficacy and aggressiveness, through the on-going joint programme of action for IP rights infringement control representing nine different ministries. We believe that with strong efforts and smart strategies, Việt Nam is committed to upholding its international commitments towards IP rights protection.”

As reported by the ministry’s inspectorate, between 2006 and 2015, interagency inspection teams spot-checked 541 businesses across the country, with 27,602 computers scanned and numerous software copying found.

Of the 541 firms, 41 were found in compliance with intellectual property laws.

Ministry inspectors issued citations and issued 499 civil offence rulings, collected VNĐ8.6 billion ($392,000) in fines and transferred one case to investigating agencies for further action. VNS

Dong Nai rambutan protected

Farmers harvests rambutan in the southeastern province of Đồng Nai. The National Office of Intellectual Property has granted protection under geographical indication for Long Khánh rambutan, which is grown in the southeastern province of Đồng Nai. — Photo

HCM CITY – The National Office of Intellectual Property has granted protection under geographical indication for Long Khánh rambutan, which is grown in the southeastern province of Đồng Nai.

The designation was given to nhãn and tróc rambutan grown, preserved and packaged in Long Khánh Town, Xuân Lộc, Thống Nhất and Cẩm Mỹ districts.

Nhãn rambutans, which are smaller than other varieties, are considered to have the best taste among rambutan varieties.  

Tróc rambutan has a red or dark red peel, long hairs and a sweet taste. The flesh does not stick tightly to the seed and can be eaten easily.

Geography, climate and soil have created the specific quality of Long Khánh rambutan compared to rambutan grown in other areas, according to the National Office of Intellectual Property.

The provincial People’s Committee will manage the geographical indication protection.    

Rambutan is the province’s second fruit granted geographical indication protection, after Tân Triều grapefruit.

Cultivation area

Đồng Nai has more than 11,000 ha of rambutan grown mostly in Long Khánh Town, Xuân Lộc, Thống Nhất and Cẩm Mỹ districts.

More than 6,700ha of rambutan in these areas are under geographical indication protection.

Long Khánh Town has about 2,800ha of rambutan. Many areas have used advanced farming techniques to improve yield and quality.

Trần Mộng Thành, deputy chairman of the Long Khánh Town People’s Committee, said: “The town has helped farmers establish a model of growing rambutan under Vietnamese Good Agricultural Practices (VietGAP) standards in Bình Lộc Commune.”

The model is now used by other farmers.

“We are strengthening the link between companies and farmers to guarantee stable rambutan outlets,” he said.

Đoàn Quốc Sang, who grows rambutan in Xuân Lộc District, said Đồng Nai rambutan was delicious and well-known in the domestic market, but the outlets were unstable. 

“We hope the geographical indication protection will result in better prices and stable outlets,” he said.

The province’s rambutan orchards are now in peak harvest season, with an average output of nearly 20 tonnes per ha, lower than the previous harvest.

Orchard owners attributed the lower yield to the impact of prolonged drought in the dry season.

This year rambutan was harvested about one month later than in other years.

Đồng Nai rambutan is exported to several countries, including Japan and France. –VNS

IP rights must be ensured

Deputy minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology Trần Việt Thanh said that intellectual property (IP) was an unlimited resource and the result of people’s innovation, unlike limited resources such as labour, capital and land.– Photo

HCM CITY – Protection of intellectual property will be an essential factor to further innovation and economic growth of the country, an official with the Ministry of Science and Technology has said.

Speaking at the International Innovation Business Forum held in HCM City yesterday, deputy minister Trần Việt Thanh said that intellectual property (IP) was an unlimited resource and the result of people’s innovation, unlike limited resources such as labour, capital and land.

Protection and trading of IP rights would bring great benefits not only to businesses but to the entire economy, he said.

The role of IP is critical as Việt Nam integrates more deeply in the global economy.

Thanh said that IP would be a decisive factor in strengthening the competitive capacity of enterprises as well as the entire economy.

Around 1,500 patents, 15,000 industrial designs and 160,000 trademarks of businesses in Việt Nam are protected currently.

By trading their own intellectual property, businesses could recoup their expenses for creating, developing and protecting IP, and, at the same time, increase IP value, Thanh said.

He noted that foreign organisations had recognised the value of several Vietnamese companies’ intangible assets.

For example, the Vinamilk brand last year was valued at US$1.1 billion, accounting for 22 per cent of the company’s wealth. The Viettel brand was valued at $580 million and Vinhomes at $343 million.

A recent survey by the ministry showed that in the 2000-14 period there was an increase in the number of intellectual asset licenses among businesses in Việt Nam, he said.

The number of Vietnamese intellectual assets transferred to foreign investors was also on the increase, with sales in 2014 rising by 20 times over the figure in 2006.

Sales of intellectual property mainly occur in industries such as pharmaceutical, pharmaceutical chemistry, processing, food preservation, garment and textile, engine manufacturing, electrical equipment and medical equipment.

The entry of foreign investors from South Korea, the US, China, Thailand, Japan and other countries had contributed to the promotion of commercialisation of intangible property of Vietnamese firms, he said.

Lại Tiến Mạnh, director of Mibrand Việt Nam, noted that brands were the most important intellectual asset of a business.

Products with a good brand name can command prices 10 times higher than one with a weak brand, even though the product may be similar, he said.

Total brand value in Việt Nam, however, remains very low compared to other countries.

The total value of the country’s 50 leading brands is only $5.5 billion, slightly higher than a Singaporean brand (BBS bank valued at $4.4 billion), he said.

Many local firms had not protected their intellectual property, he said.

Without IP protection, a company’s investment in research and development, product differentiation, and marketing could be stolen or copied.

He said that Vietnamese companies should focus on improving their brand value and become more aware of intellectual property rights.

The Government should also develop a legal framework that allows adding a company’s brand value to its total asset value, he said.

Thanh said that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement would set high standards on intellectual property protection.

But the enforcement of such regulations would be a challenge for many Vietnamese firms, he added.

In the long run, however, better protection of intellectual property is expected to provide stronger incentives for businesses to invest in creative industries that Việt Nam is seeking to develop, Thanh said.

The forum was organised by the Ministry of Science and Technology, Business Association of High-Quality Vietnamese Goods, Business Studies and Assistance Centre, and Leading Business Club. - VNS

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