Companies should use professional legal services to protect their intellectual property and popularise their trademark, a conference heard in HCM City yesterday.
Speaking at the conference held to discuss challenges and ways to protect intellectual property rights (IPR), experts said many Vietnamese firms were not even aware of the importance of protecting IPR, an important competitive tool.
Viet Nam passed the Intellectual Property Law in 2005, but piracy remains rampant.
The National Office of Intellectual Property of Viet Nam (NOIP) said the number of cases of industrial property violation in 2010 had increased by 40.5 per cent to 215 compared to 2009.
The country has also approved and enforced international IP conventions like the Madrid Protocol, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.
Many bylaws to guide IPR-related laws have been introduced but only a small number of businesses realise the importance to protecting their IPRs, with the result many others lose their trademarks.
Focusing IPR protection was one of the factors for the success of Tan Hiep Phat, a leading group with revenues growing by trillions of dong annually, said its director, Tran Uyen Phuong.
The company, which has more than 40 beverage products in the market and an average of 40 per annual growth since 2007, had seen its products pirated hundreds of times and resolved them with the help of the law, she said.
Le Thi Nam Giang, general secretary of the HCM City Intellectual Property Rights Association, said IPR law violators could be fined up to VND500 million (over US$23,800).
"Vietnamese enterprises do not use legal services to help them deal with the violations or to protect their IPRs," she said.
However, enforcement of the law had been poor and there was a shortage of lawyers with expertise in IPR, she and other experts said.
Tran Quang Hung, deputy general secretary of the Viet Nam Electronic Industries Association, said few lawyers in Viet Nam, a member of the World Intellectual Property Organisation, had expertise in IPR, adding that most did it on the side.
The NOIP had been co-ordinating with the HCM City University of Law to train lawyers in IPR protection, said Nguyen Van Bay, head of the former's research and training centre, admitting the programme had been discontinued last year due to financial difficulty.
Enterprises also complained about the long and cumbersome procedures involved in registering for IPR.
But the low awareness of IPR protection notwithstanding, the number of firms registering for it has been increasing, going up from 5,600 in 1995 to 29,000 in 2009.
The number of IP licences issued in that period quadrupled, according to the NOIP.
The number of applications had been increasing by 20-25 per cent every year in the last 10 years, Bay said.
Though the NOIP has more than 300 staff, up from 140 in 2004, it still does not have enough personnel to deal with them.
"We are overwhelmed by the large number of applications," Bay said.
It was a good sign that more and more Vietnamese businesses were becoming aware of the importance of intellectual property, he said.
"But there remains a lot of work for us to make enterprises become fully aware of intellectual property," he admitted.
Medicines, milk products added to price stabilisation programme
The HCM City Department of Industry and Trade decided to add medicines, some milk products, and education-related items to this year's price stabilisation programme at a meeting on Thursday.
The programme will last from April 1 to March 31 next year.
Baby formula, milk for pregnant women, fortified milk products, notebooks, school bags and uniforms, and 13 groups of locally-manufactured drugs used to treat some common and chronic diseases join the list which already has nine essential items – rice, sugar, cooking oil, meat, poultry, eggs, processed foods, vegetables and fruits, and aquatic produce.
Besides, fragrant rice and jasmine rice have been added to the rice items in this year's programme.
Le Ngoc Dao, deputy director of the department, said the volume of goods sold under the programme would account for 25 to 50 per cent of their total supply in the market, a 15-30 per cent increase from last year.
Every month 5,650 tonnes of rice, 2,470 tonnes of sugar, 1,005 tonnes of cooking oil, 3,950 tonnes of pork, 3,150 tonnes of poultry meat, 1,315 tonnes of processed food, 1,700 tonnes of vegetables and fruits, 437 tonnes of seafood, and 24 million eggs will be supplied.
During Tet (the Lunar New Year) in early 2013, the supply of goods will increase by 10-15 per cent from a year earlier.
At the meeting, 48 more enterprises signed up for the programme to sell the four new categories of goods added to this year's list.
Some drug and dairy firms have even declined the interest-free loans offered by the city under the programme.
Despite the increase in the number of participants, the loan amount has dropped to VND332 billion (US$16 million), VND104 billion lower than last year.
Goods sold under the programme must comply with quality, safety and hygiene standards and help foster the "Vietnamese consuming Vietnamese goods" programme.