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Vietnam Government Tightens Enforcement through September 2010 Decree

In September 2010, the Vietnamese Government issued a Decree (No: 97/2010/ND-CP) to cut down on red tape and make it easier to initiate action against infringements. The Decree specifies acts of administrative violation, sanctioning forms and levels, remedies, complaint procedures, mechanism for handling complaints, competence of authorized personnel and guidelines for enforcement of procedures.

The main focus of the Decree is securing IP rights for genuine owners. Each administrative violation is subject to a caution, fine or confiscation.

There has been a shift in the way penalties will be handed out to infringers from now on. A detailed bracket has been introduced, proportionate not only to the value of the infringing goods, but more importantly, based on the nature and seriousness of the offense committed. While the maximum penalty has been set at VND 500 mn (ca.USD 25,000), plus confiscation of any gains, in cases where evaluation is difficult, the fine can go up to VND 90 mn (ca.USD 4,500). To avoid Vietnam’s being used as a base for in-transit counterfeit goods, there are also provisions for forcible expulsion and re-export of such infringing goods from Vietnamese territory.

The Decree also provides sanctions, remedies and punishments for violations of procedures and regulations on assessment, inspection and examination, and the wrongful indication of IP protection on goods. Owners can now request administrating authorities, such as, Vietnam Intellectual Property Research Institute to provide expert opinions on infringements. Furthermore, there is now greater clarity regarding the roles of various Government agencies. For example, the Vietnamese Police will only handle counterfeit cases, while the Market Management Bureau will focus on taking actions against trade, transport and distribution of infringing goods. The Science and Technology Inspectorate will get involved in cases pertaining to all kinds of IP infringement, except those relating to on-border and import activities which are under the Customs Office.

The Decree has given more teeth to the existing IP law, and it will surely be welcomed wholeheartedly by rights owners struggling to enforce their rights in Vietnam.