Theoretically, Vietnam has grounds to sue for demanding Buon Ma Thuot coffee brand back and win the lawsuit, according to Tran Huu Nam, Deputy Head of the National Office for Intellectual Property NOIP.
Nam, in the interview given to Thoi bao Kinh te Vietnam about the risk of losing Buon Ma Thuot brand to a Chinese company, and the registration of Dak Lak brand by a French company as its exclusive brand in 10 different countries, affirmed the need to claim back the coffee brands, and the high possibility of Vietnam wining the case.
Could you anticipate the consequences to occur when Vietnamese famous brands such as Buon Ma Thuot and Dak Lak coffee are “swiped” by foreigners?
The Buon Ma Thuot geographical indication was registered in Vietnam in 2005, but it has not been registered internationally. According to the laws, the geographical indication registration only has the validity in the country where it is registered. Therefore, famous geographical indications are easily to be stolen, thus causing misunderstanding about the origins of products.
The fact that a Chinese company successfully registered “Buon Ma Thuot” coffee brand in China means that the brand is being protected by the Chinese law, and that Vietnamese real Buon Ma Thuot’s coffee products may be prevented from entering the Chinese market.
The risk of losing famous brands is evident if Vietnam does not have reasonable strategies to protect the brands. Buon Ma Thuot coffee is a strong Vietnamese brand, a valuable asset of Vietnam. Buon Ma Thuot is the name of a location in Vietnam which has been existing for hundreds of years. Therefore, it is necessary to claim back the brand as soon as possible.
Statistics show that Vietnam has 800 farm and craft villages’ produce which have been famous not only in Vietnam, but also in the world. What I have to say is that Vietnamese producers should pay more attention to protecting their intellectual properties in foreign countries.
Who should we blame on for the loss of the famous brands?
Enterprises themselves need to register their trademarks to obtain the protection by the laws. Vietnamese producers need to pay higher attention to protecting their intellectual properties in foreign countries. This is their job and no one can take this job for them.
However, in the case of Buon Ma Thuot in particular, and the geographical indications for farm produce in general, it is the common asset of thousands of enterprises and households. Therefore, the Vietnam Cocoa and Coffee Association, which represents enterprises and coffee producers, should come forward and connect enterprises to claim back the brand.
Regarding the state management agencies, the brands of Buon Ma Thuot and Dak Lak both belong to Dak Lak province. Therefore, I think that the Dak Lak people’s committee should take the leading in taking legal proceedings to demand the brand back.
Other local authorities should persuade producers and traders to register brands and trademarks in foreign countries. We are ready to give consultancy to them to help protect their intellectual properties.
Will it take much money to register trademarks overseas?
A lot of Vietnamese enterprises have registered trademarks in many other countries in the world. Meanwhile, none of the geographical indications which have been registered in Vietnam, have been registered in other countries. Currently, NOIP is giving legal support to the registration of Phu Quoc fish sauce in the EU.
All will have to follow complicated procedures to register geographical indications. In the countries, where there is no agency for geographical indication registration, enterprises should send register in compliance with WIPO acknowledged trademark under Madrid system, of which Vietnam is a member.
It would be easier and money saving to register trademark than registering geographical indications, but the protection scale and protection duration would be shorter. It would cost 1000-2000 dollars only, while the procedures are simple. The trademark will be protected for 10 years, while the fees for protection extension are not high.
Do you think that Vietnam will succeed in claiming back the Buon Ma Thuot geographical indication?
Theoretically, we have grounds to win the case. We have considered the relating issues and will help Dak Lak province in claming back the brand.