Level up branding, register for IP protection abroad – Vietnamese firms told
09 August 2021
Vietnam’s National Office of Intellectual Property (NOIP) encourages local business enterprises to register their intellectual property assets, including trademarks, in countries where their products are exported to secure protection overseas.
Doing so will help Vietnamese firms to build their brands in foreign markets.
“Because businesses rely on their reputation to attract new customers and grow their business, a strong brand can be one of their most valuable assets. Branding is therefore critical for any business venture entering foreign markets with different cultures, demands and rules. Formally establishing IP rights in a foreign market can be the first step in entering a new market,” said Tran Kieu Hoa, Of counsel at Baker McKenzie in Hanoi.
She emphasized that branding is not limited to large corporations alone. Even small firms should engage in branding not just locally, but internationally. They can start off by determining the IP rights associated with their brand - whether patents, copyrights, trademarks, design, etc.. Next, they should ensure that these are properly protected in Vietnam and any potential foreign market.
“We have observed that Vietnamese businesses, particularly large enterprises, are aware of the benefits of IP protection,” said Tran. “However, compared to national applications for IP protection, the number of applications for IP protection in foreign markets remains limited.”
There are varying reasons for this, according to Tran.
First, it seems Vietnamese businesses lack a strategic and proactive regional/international IP plan.
A number of Vietnamese brands have already figured in trademark disputes abroad in the past including Trung Nguyen Coffee, Ben Tre coconut candy and Phu Quoc fish sauce; one would expect Vietnamese businesses have learned their lesson by now.
But, it seems they haven’t.
“Vietnamese businesses are still reactive in protecting their IP assets abroad, taking action only when there is a real risk of losing their assets to a third party in a foreign market,” said Tran.
“This is most likely due to a lack of awareness about using IP rights as a business development tool. Consequently, organizations and businesses have not yet taken an interest in developing IP policies or managing IP assets. In this regard, we believe that Vietnamese companies should learn from the success of international companies that have a clear strategy for each market, particularly regarding the broad protection of their IP assets prior to their official penetration,” she added.
Second, the differences in legislation among foreign markets may pose an obstacle to Vietnamese firms. For example, the United States adopts the first-to-use doctrine in trademark registration. Meanwhile, China follows the first-to-file doctrine. This may add to the difficulty of registering IP rights in such countries.
Linguistic barriers can also worsen matters.
“Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the high cost of protecting IP rights in a foreign country creates a barrier for Vietnamese companies,” Tran added, “particularly small and medium-sized enterprises seeking IP protection abroad.”
Espie Angelica A. de Leon