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Official Gazette

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

IPR protection and enforcement in Vietnam is not as strong as it should be

Updated: 10:04’ - 03/05/2018
Adam Sitkoff
Executive Director, AmCham Hanoi

This year, the American Chamber of Commerce celebrates 24 years serving as the “Voice of American Business” in Vietnam and our members remain committed to helping improve business conditions in order to strengthen the private sector and promote economic and social development here. AmCham is proud of our contributions to the development of Vietnam’s economy. Trade between our two countries passed USD 55 billion last year and see US companies and investors active in almost every sector of Vietnam’s economy. American companies have invested billions of dollars here, integrating Vietnam into the global supply chain, creating quality jobs, and helping the country become more productive, efficient, safe and cleaner. We are confident that the upward growth trend of trade and investment relations between the US and Vietnam will continue, and can strengthen.

Amcham hosts a discussion in Hanoi with members of the US congress to talk about international trade__Photo: AmCham Hanoi

There are great opportunities available to American companies in Vietnam. However, we often see investments that do not materialize due to challenges dealing with corruption and an over-complicated, restricted, and unclear licensing and regulatory environment. AmCham believes it is vital that laws and rules be designed to be enforced fairly and equally. Better results in this area will improve the trust consumers have in the market place. It is also an important issue when considering ways to attract high-quality investment and strengthen the private sector here.

AmCham members remain optimistic about business prospects in Vietnam, and we hope that President Trump is serious about looking into the United States rejoining the Trans Pacific Partnership. However, we are concerned with recent changes in policy and regulations, which are not consistent with international best practices. These changes expose many foreign investors to considerable risks and obstacles in executing their investments. Given the importance the government places on attracting foreign investment, AmCham members look to work in partnership with the government and agencies to help resolve challenges and prevent problems.

AmCham continues our effort to strengthen intellectual property rights protection and enforcement across the whole spectrum of industries in Vietnam. We know that the protection of intellectual property encourages entrepreneurialism, supports private sector development, and promotes growth of high-tech ecosystems and high-paying jobs for educated workers. In addition, IP protection is critical to fostering innovation.

Without protection of ideas, businesses and individuals would not reap the full benefits of their inventions and would focus less on research and development. Similarly, artists would not be fully compensated for their creations and cultural vitality would suffer as a result.

Unfortunately, IPR protection and enforcement in Vietnam is not as strong as it should be and the Government’s enforcement mechanisms need improvement to effectively stop, punish and deter IPR infringement here. AmCham recently released a new position paper on intellectual property issues that offers recommendations and specific solutions to solving many of the challenges we see. The paper covered many areas of IP regulation and enforcement including everything from trademark application issues to the substantive examination of utility solution patents.

One major issue is the protection of copyrighted movies and sound recordings. It is no surprise to readers of this magazine that pirated copies of movies and sound recordings are still widely available in Vietnam, and there seems not be a focus or adequate resources allocated to combat piracy. Additionally, online piracy has become an even bigger problem. We believe that stronger mechanisms to combat piracy need to be put in effect and actually enforced to deter infringement. For example, the criminal provisions on copyright piracy have rarely if ever been enforced. Civil remedies can also be an effective deterrent; however, there are many barriers to effective civil actions in Vietnam, such as lack of preliminary injunctions, lack of statutory damages awards, and difficult judgment enforcement procedures.

Our members also want to see the Government simplify copyright registration procedures, and implement stricter enforcement of infringers. In addition, we believe that the capacity of IPR enforcement agencies is lacking and weak - both in terms of technical infrastructure and staff. Some enforcement agencies do not even have any IP specialized officials. Meanwhile, the court system in Vietnam is not capable of resolving quickly, nor effectively, complex IP cases, as judicial experiences and professional knowledge of judges in the IP field are limited. When dealing with IP infringement disputes, most enforcement agencies cannot be proactive, but must depend on expert opinions from specialized agencies. This has prolonged processing time and lowered the quality of IP infringement case settlement. AmCham recommends that the Government strengthen the capacity of IP enforcement agencies with a special focus on improving self-determination of administrative enforcement agencies. We also believe the Government should consider the establishment of IP specialized courts at the local level, to improve the justice available to IP rights-holders.

In addition to enforcement, the Government can and should play a key role in building public awareness about the benefits of IPR and designing and implementing programs that foster respect for IPR. In addition, the Government should raise public awareness about the risks of unlicensed software. In particular, the use of unlicensed software exposes entities to increased malware infections and cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

As major investors here, American companies have a sustained interest in Vietnam’s continued success. Our members believe that the business climate can best be helped by actions that increase productivity and reduce the costs and risks of doing business in Vietnam, and smooth the path for the foreign and domestic private sector. We want Vietnam to succeed and AmCham remains committed to helping create a more attractive, transparent, and stable business environment here.-
 

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