Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam:
A legitimate and key concern for U.S. companies
|Full Report: “Intellectual Property Rights in the S.R. Viet Nam,” Feb 10, 2012|
Trade between the U.S. and Vietnam has grown impressively since relations between the two countries were normalized. Bilateral trade has soared from $ 17.5 million in 1994 to $ 22 billion in 2011. For the past 15 years, Vietnam has enjoyed a favorable, and significant, surplus in its trade with the United States. In this context, the fairness of Vietnam’s policies and practices regarding protection for intellectual property rights (IPR) is a legitimate and key concern for U.S. companies already or wishing to do business with Vietnam.
Members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (AmCham) feel the situation with regard to protection of IPR in Vietnam remains troubling. Some specific areas of concern include:
• Counterfeit goods produced in Vietnam, China and other nations can still be found in nearly every rural and urban market in Vietnam. Widely available counterfeit goods include counterfeit garments and accessories, footwear, food and beverages, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, computer software, automotive spare parts (car and motorbike), engine lubricants, consumer electronics, motorbikes, and even fertilizers and gas. It remains common knowledge that it is nearly impossible to buy a genuine DVD in Vietnam.
• Published reports indicate a software piracy rate of 83 percent in Vietnam, one of the highest rates in the world. As noted above, counterfeit DVDs and CDs remain ubiquitous in Vietnam.
• Vietnamese individuals and companies, as well as foreign parties, continue to register domain names containing the prominent and popular trademarks of others under circumstances that suggest bad faith abuse of the “first to register” system employed by the Vietnam Internet Network Information Center (VNNIC).
• Vietnamese individuals and companies, as well as foreign parties continue to apply for trademarks that are the same or confusingly similar to marks that have been used for many years by foreign companies under circumstances that suggest bad faith abuse of the “first to file” trademark registration system that is observed in Vietnam.
• Vietnamese companies, including state-owned companies, and others are copying the appearance of high-profile products manufactured by foreign companies and their Vietnamese subsidiaries. Preferring to “imitate rather than innovate”, such companies are plainly trying to trade on the goodwill associated with the appearance of popular foreign products and confuse the consuming public as to the origin of their products.
• Rather than create their own trademarks, patents, copyrighted works and other proprietary knowledge and technology, some Vietnamese companies and individuals, working alone or with foreign parties, continue to infringe the IPR of U.S. companies and the problem appears to be accelerating.
• Foreign companies are finding that their process patents are being used without their consent. Architectural designs of foreign architects are being copied by local firms without the consent of the copyright owners.
• Inadequate protection remains for confidential tests and other data developed by research-based pharmaceutical companies.
• Television programming signals broadcast via satellite and/or cable continue to be pirated while unauthorized copies of copyrighted films and music are available to the Vietnamese public via Vietnamese owned and operated internet websites.
From the standpoint of Vietnam’s own self-interest, IPR infringement threatens Vietnam’s long-term economic competitiveness and discourages foreign companies from transferring their best technology and proprietary know-how, or engaging in research and development activities in Vietnam.
In 2011, the Vietnamese government announced it would be emphasizing “quality over quantity” in attracting FDI projects. If Vietnam aims to attract high-technology value-added manufacturing, as well as develop its human resources by inspiring innovation and creativity within the Vietnam population as a whole, significant improvement in the enforcement of intellectual property rights is urgently needed. Effective enforcement means punishing infringers of IPR in a manner that will deter them and others from engaging in such conduct in the future. It also means increasing public awareness of the need to respect the IPR of Vietnamese and foreigners alike.
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Theft of software for personal computers leapt 14 percent globally in 2010 to a record commercial value of $59 billion, the Business Software Alliance (BSA) reported today in the 2010 BSA Global Software Piracy Study. That amount has nearly doubled in real terms since 2003. Emerging economies are the driving forces behind the trend, the report finds, because that is where PC shipments are growing fastest.
Software piracy is escalating in value even though large majorities of PC users around the world believe in intellectual property rights and prefer legal software to pirated software, according to surveys of approximately 15,000 PC users in 32 countries, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs as part of BSA’s report.
But a startling finding is that too many people do not realize they are using unlicensed copies.
BSA has created a rich, interactive presentation that shows how these trends play out in 116 countries and regions around the world.
It is featured at www.bsa.org/globalstudy.