9 June 2017
Intellectual Property Protection in Vietnam
Intellectual Property (IP) rights are territorial in nature and registrations in Hong Kong are not automatically enforceable in other places. When entering the Vietnamese market, either by setting up a business or simply exporting, it is important to register the IP rights.
All IP rights are overseen by the National Office of Intellectual Property (NOIP), which is responsible for developing IP strategy in Vietnam and publishing advice on protecting different forms of IP.
To avoid IP infringement, a company should register its IP with local authorities. Besides, it is also useful to register the business with Vietnam Customs – registration is simple and can be very effective.
Overview of Vietnam’s Intellectual Property Rights
Patents – protect commercial inventions (e.g. a new business product or process)
Vietnam distinguishes between patents (“invention patents”) and utility solution patents (known elsewhere as “utility models” or “minor patents”). Rules for utility solution patents are similar to those for invention patents, but the item is not required to demonstrate an “inventive step”.
Vietnam’s patent law operates under the first to file principle – that is, if two people apply for a patent on an identical invention, the first one to file the application will be awarded the patent.
Registration and fees
Registration is with NOIP. Legal advice will be needed to understand the fees applicable. The time limit to file requests for substantive examination is 42 months for invention patents, and 36 months for utility models, from earliest priority date.
Vietnam is part of the Patent Co-operation Treaty, Paris Convention and ASEAN Patent Examination Cooperation – Hong Kong business could benefit from reduced fees and time spent in registering patents and industrial designs, particularly if registering in multiple countries.
Copyright – protects written or published works such as books, songs, films, web content and artistic works
Scope and duration
Vietnam is a signatory to the Berne Convention on copyright. This sets the minimum protection at 50 years from publication for cinematographic works, photographic works, dramatic works, and works of applied art and anonymous works, and at 50 years after the death of the author for other works. Computer programmes are included within copyright legislation in Vietnam where “computer programs” as such cannot be patented.
Registration and fees
Registration of copyright is advisable (it is free) and can be made with the National Copyright Office.
Trademarks – protect signs, symbols, logos, words or sounds
Domain names are allocated on a first come, first served basis, so they must be registered to avoid “cybersquatting” by abusers.
A trademark is valid for 10 years, after which it may be renewed indefinitely for further 10-year periods.
GIs have indefinite validity starting from the grant date.
Registration and fees
Registration directly with NOIP (which may take between 13 and 15 months) or through the Madrid System. Fees are applicable to register the trademarks/GI and upon renewal. It is advisable to obtain legal advice on both registration and fees.
Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights
Enforcement of IP remains an issue for Vietnam, although IP laws have improved since Vietnam’s WTO accession. If an IP is suspected to have been infringed, three actions can be taken:
1. Administrative action – most IP disputes in Vietnam are handled by the administrative authorities. Sanctions may include warnings, fines, the seizure/destruction of the counterfeit goods, business licence suspension and re-exportation of infringed imported or transit goods.
2. Civil court action – this is rare due to the low level of training of the Vietnamese judiciary on IP matters. Similar sanctions to administrative action are applicable.
3. Criminal prosecution – government authorities, including Customs, can initiate prosecution. On the other hand, IP rights owners may also apply for it. Penalties can involve fines and/or imprisonment.
If concerned about your IP, advice can be sought from Vietnamese IP rights experts such as:
- NOIP – is responsible for developing IP strategy in Vietnam, and publishes advice on protecting different forms of IP.
- The Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) represents the businesses in Vietnam, and promotes trade and investment between Vietnam and other countries.
- Vietnam Customs provides information on import and export procedures, including application for IP protection at the border. Section 8 of the Law on Customs provides the rules and regulations around customs and protecting your IPR.
- Regulatory Environment
- Establishing a Presence
- Intellectual Property Protection
- Staff Recruitment
- Tax Considerations
- Import/Export Procedures
- Further Information