Protecting brands of Vietnamese agricultural products

Wednesday, 2021-04-28 11:13:15
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Cooked ST25 rice is tender but not wet, with good fragrance and taste. (Photo: VNA)
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NDO – According to the Trade Promotion Agency under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, there are at least four foreign enterprises registered to protect the trademark of ST25 rice in the US waiting for approval for protection rights.

Vietnam's ST25 Rice is created from the ST25 rice variety by a group of scientists in the Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang including Engineer Ho Quang Cua, Dr. Tran Tan Phuong and Engineer Nguyen Thi Thu Huong.

ST25 Rice has become famous since winning first prize at the World’s Best Rice Contest in 2019 and the second prize in 2020. Shortly after, ST25 appeared to be rampant in the domestic market, making it difficult to distinguish between authentic and fake rice, as well as raising concerns about brand protection.

However, the worry has now crossed the national border as ST25 Rice has been registered for protection by some foreign enterprises in the US market. If it is approved, when Vietnam exports this type of rice to the US, it must go through the brand owner.

According to some brand experts from Institute for Brand and Competitiveness Strategy, it is not certain whether the ST25 Rice brand will be approved for protection in the US market or not. In the case of registration, concerned organisations and individuals can object.

However, the implementation of legal procedures to protest is also an arduous journey for Vietnamese businesses, requiring an understanding of the law of the host country; or having a record proving the legal ownership of ST25 rice in the process of product research and development, etc, in addition to spending a lot of time, effort and money to hire lawyers, brand experts to pursue the case to the end.

That "complicated" path is not necessarily unknown by domestic enterprises, but in fact, the registration of intellectual property protection for Vietnamese agricultural products in foreign countries has met many difficulties. One of the most important reasons is that the registration costs are relatively large, including costs for lawyers in the host countries and intellectual property agencies examining applications, not to mention other research and market survey costs.

Therefore, while Vietnamese enterprises hesitate, many domestic agricultural products have been “quickly” registered by foreign enterprises. Before ST25 Rice, Buon Ma Thuot coffee, Phu Quoc fish sauce, even Vietnamese pho faced similar situations.

This incident once again shows that the registration of intellectual property protection for agricultural products in foreign markets has become an urgent problem, especially in the context that Vietnam is integrating deeper into the world market and there are many opportunities for Vietnamese agricultural products to be exported to high quality markets around the world.

Therefore, enterprises should proactively learn about the regulations and register their trademark protection in potential markets, even before developing the market.

As for the authorities, with the current regulations, there is no agency that can “replace” an enterprise in the registration of intellectual property protection ortrademark protection in foreign countries, but surely in the coming time, it is necessary to further promote information dissemination to raise awareness on the importance of brand protection; while at the same timesupporting enterprises with specific information, detailing necessary procedures for registration of trademark protection in foreign countries, helping enterprises to clearly grasp tasks and processes; and proactively choosing the appropriate time of registration, to comprehensively protect its agricultural products in both brand and quality.

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