Vietnam is one of the top seafood exporters in the world; however, consumers do not know much about the country's fish and shrimp because there are no clear brand names.
Vietnamese goods, such as agricultural products, garments and footwear, have high export value but no recognizable trademarks or brand names.
Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade, Nguyen Thanh Bien said that Vietnam faces this problem because the country primarily exports raw materials.
Businesses do not pay due attention
Some experts consider the tra and basa fish price dumping lawsuits overseas an opportunity to promote the image of Vietnamese seafood and suggested creating a collective brand name for the country's seafood. However, this has not yet happened.
Nguyen Quoc Thinh, Director of the Trademark Centre under the University of Commerce, said it is high time for seafood producers and exporters to create trademarks for each seafood product, especially collective brand names for tra fish and shrimp, which are the sector's two key export products.
An initiative to build a collective brand name for Vietnamese shrimp has been in progress for many years, but although there have been many seminars and conferences, no model has yet been found. There are several reasons for this, but the main one is that businesses do not realise the importance of trademarks.
Hundreds of Vietnamese businesses are currently raising and exporting tra fish. Of the 272 businesses that are exporting the product, half of them are not members of the Vietnamese Association of Seafood Producers and Exporters (VASEP). Vietnamese tra fish is now available in 125 countries and territories, but most of the brand names are those of the importers. Therefore, consumers do not know these are Vietnamese products.
Thinh said creating a collective brand name for a group of seafood products has been limited. Localities and associations say they are keen to develop a collective trademark, but desire and reality are two different things.
Thinh reported that only 12 out of 127 customers surveyed at 37 supermarkets in the US knew about Vietnamese products and only three could list some high quality trademarks, such as Pho 24, Vinacafe and Toshi
Building, managing and developing collective brand names and trademarks is now a hot issue in Vietnam. The Government’s programme, “Developing Intellectual Property in Business,” focuses on projects to establish, manage and develop brand names and trademarks and some have already been implemented, such as Thanh Ha and Luc Ngan litchis, Hoa Loc mangos, and Chau Doc and Phan Thiet fish sauce.
Businesses are beginning to realize the importance of brand names but they do not know how to start or how to coordinate with others to build a trademark.
Phu Quoc fish sauce is a typical example. An association has been established to manage the use of this collective brand name however, violations are very common and no measures have been devised to prevent them. Because of insufficient monitoring by market management agencies, many fake products called Phu Quoc fish sauce have appeared on the market, which has weakened the product's image.
Tran Le Hong, Director of the Information Centre under the Intellectual Property Agency, said localities just register for trademarks and brand names instead of utilizing them effectively. Also, most trademarks and brand names have not been registered to protect products overseas.
A collective brand name represents an association or group of businesses. Therefore, if there is no association of tra fish producers and processors, it will be difficult to register a brand name for tra fish.
Thinh said, if a collective brand name does not have special features, attract many more domestic producers and benefit its members, it won’t leave a deep impression on customers, which will make it difficult to prevent violations of the trademark.