The new Intellectual Property Law of Vietnam has officially come into effect on 1 July 2006. Previously, the provisions pertaining to Intellectual Property were stipulated in Part VI of the Civil Code, and there was no independent legislation on Intellectual Property. The new Law addresses almost every aspect of Intellectual Property protection including trademarks. With the new legislation there have been some changes with respect to trade mark law in Vietnam. The changes can be summarised as follows:
Although the old provisions in the Civil Code recognise well-known marks, there was formerly no guidance as to how one is to identify such a mark. With the legislation the criteria for mark being considered well-known can now be found under Article 77.
The new Intellectual Property law now provides for the registration of certification marks. The new law also provides regulations for the use of such marks. Should the owner violate the regulations on the use of such marks, the certification mark concerned may be invalidated.
The formality examination period has now been shortened from 3 months to 1 month. The substantive examination duration has also been reduced from 9 months to 6 months. These changes will shorten the time taken to obtain a trademark registration in Vietnam.
Request to narrow the scope of rights
Similar to patents and registered designs, the option to narrow the scope of rights is now an option that has been made available to trade mark owners.
In order for a license agreement to be effective, under the previous legislation it needed to be approved and recorded with the National Office of Industrial Property (NOIP). However such a process is no longer mandatory. A license agreement will be valid on whatever terms as agreed upon by the parties involved. However, the license agreement will not be legally effective against third party unless it is registered with the NOIP.
The old provisions have both the terms “geographical indication” and “appellation of origin”. The definition of “appellation of origin” requires a stricter protection. With the new law, this term is removed and replaced by “geographical indication”. The re-definition of geographical indication is more TRIPS-compliant and it explicitly defines the terms “reputation”, and “quality or characteristics” in respect of products bearing geographical indications and the concept of geographical conditions.
It is believed that the United States Congress will soon grant Vietnam the permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status. This should clear its way to becoming a WTO member by end of 2006.