Enforcing IP Rights with the Customs in Vietnam: A Case Study

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shutterstock_118547785Border control can be an effective means for European SMEs for enforcing their IP rights in Vietnam, and it serves the purpose of preempting and suppressing IP counterfeits of SMEs’ products at Vietnam’s borders. Border control has gained more attention over the past few years from business owners wishing to protect their IP in Vietnam as the Vietnamese government recently granted the Customs more powers, making it more efficient.

Even though, Vietnamese Customs are actively looking for possible infringing products crossing the border of the country, it is advisable for the European SMEs to actively cooperate with the Customs authorities by recording their IP with the Customs and by actively monitoring the market and letting the Customs know of suspected infringing shipments, to fully benefit from the Customs protection.

How does Customs Protection Work

Vietnamese customs laws prohibit the importation of goods that infringe IP Rights, and Vietnamese Customs has the authority to impose fines on infringers and confiscate infringing goods for import. However, infringing goods for export are not subject to any penalties imposed by the Vietnamese authorities so far. If the infringement of IP Rights exceeds a certain threshold, the Customs authorities can also arrange criminal proceedings to be brought against the infringing party.

In order to fully benefit from the Customs protection, it is advisable for the SMEs to record their IP (trade marks and copyrights mostly) with the Vietnamese Customs. To seek customs recordal, SMEs must file an application with the Department of Customs Control and Supervision under the General Department of Customs. No later than 20 days from the receipt of the request, the Department of Customs Control and Supervision should notify the SMEs whether the application is accepted or not. The effective period of the recordal is two years from the date of the acceptance notice by the Department. The period may be extended for two more years upon request. After the extension period expires, companies must re-file a new application if they wish to pursue the customs recordal.

Although registering with Vietnamese Customs is not mandatory, it is advisable to be included to their database, as it will help the customs authorities to recognize counterfeit versions of SMEs’ product, and improve the chances of such suspect items being blocked at the border. If SMEs are aware of a suspected illegal shipment of their products, they can also work together with Vietnamese customs to detain such shipments.

It is particularly advisable for the SMEs to be vigilant and to report suspected infringements of their products to the Vietnamese Customs authorities because Infringers are demonstrating increasingly sophisticated counterfeiting methods, and are finding new ways to try to outwit the Customs and other IP enforcement authorities.

Case Study

This case study demonstrates the importance of cooperating with the Vietnamese customs to best protect company’s IP. It is particularly important because the Customs are generally looking out for identical products that are obviously infringing IP rights and could sometimes miss products that could be possibly infringing the original goods.

Background

A power supply company (Company A) has registered its mark ”SANTAK” in Vietnam since 1995 for “Uninterruptible Power Systems – UPS”. Further, ”SANTAK” is a well-known trade mark which has a large portion of the Asian market. Company A had information of a shipment of products bearing the sign ”SANTAKUPS” being imported from China by a Vietnamese company.

Advice

Company A was advised to register its mark ”SANTAK” with Customs and cooperate with the IP Enforcement and Anti-Counterfeiting Department within the General Customs Office and the Haiphong Customs Office to investigate and detect the shipment of products bearing the sign ”SANTAKUPS”.

Outcome

After the discovery of the shipment of 162 products bearing the sign ”SANTAKUPS” imported from China by a Vietnamese company, Company A’s representative requested the competent authorities to suspend the import procedures of the shipment. Haiphong Department of Custom issued a Decision to keep the shipment under custody according to administrative procedures. “SANTAKUPS” was written as one word, but the intent was to make a customer think that this was a combination of the words Santak and UPS. In this context, UPS is an abbreviation of uninterruptible power supply, so UPS did not create a distinction. Because of this, a comparison was only made with the word ”SANTAK” which was identical to the protected trade mark. Upon consideration of these findings, the competent Authority issued a Decision to apply sanctions under regulations of relevant Law: imposition of a high monetary fine and removal of “SANTAKUPS” from all infringing goods.

Lessons Learned

Through the registration of the mark with Customs as well as cooperation between Company A and Customs, Company A timely prevented the risk of infringement of trade mark in Vietnam by not only protecting their own interests in the market but also their reputation for the trade mark “SANTAK”.

South-East Asia IPR SME Helpdesk Team

 

SEA IPR

 

The South-East Asia IPR SME Helpdesk supports small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) from European Union (EU) member states to protect and enforce their Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in or relating to South-East Asian countries, through the provision of free information and services. The Helpdesk provides jargon-free, first-line, confidential advice on intellectual property and related issues, along with training events, materials and online resources. Individual SMEs and SME intermediaries can submit their IPR queries via email (question@southeastasia-iprhelpdesk.eu) and gain access to a panel of experts, in order to receive free and confidential first-line advice within 3 working days.

The South-East Asia IPR SME Helpdesk is co-funded by the European Union.

To learn more about the South-East Asia IPR SME Helpdesk and any aspect of intellectual property rights in South-East Asia, please visit our online portal at http://www.ipr-hub.eu/.

China’s New Ecommerce Law: What this will mean for Consumers, Operators and Providers

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shutterstock_167099189Today’s blog post has been kindly drafted for us by our China IPR SME Helpdesk expert Mr. Daniel Albrecht from Starke Beijing. In this article, Mr. Albrecht gives a comprehensive overview on the latest changes in China’s new e-commerce law that will inevitably effect the activities of consumers, operators as well as providers. 

China’s Ecommerce Market 

In accordance to analysis by digital marketing researcher eMarketer, cross-border Ecommerce in China was due to hit USD 85.76 billion in 2016, up from USD 57.13 billion in 2015. Furthermore the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) reported 710 million Internet users in June 2016. Notably, 40 per cent of China’s online consumers are buying foreign goods and eMarketer estimated the amount of money that each of them would have spent an average of USD 473.26 in 2016. 

If the projection that cross-border Ecommerce will have a compound annual growth rate of 18 percent through to the end of the decade — reaching an estimated USD 222.3 billion — will come true, the consequence would be that China’s Ecommerce market will catch up with those of the US, Britain, Japan, Germany and France combined by 2020. 

China’s New Ecommerce Law 

As the Ecommerce market is constantly changing and undoubtedly its major impact on social life and the current economy cannot be denied, it seems to be necessary to provide a legal framework to give answers to upcoming questions within the scope of Ecommerce. 

Hence a new Ecommerce law is in progress and drafts are waiting to be adopted. The new law shall remedy the current situation by promoting the Ecommerce market’s development, putting things straight and satisfying all the parties’ interests. These central ideas are laid out in Article 1 of the recent draft law and shall summarize simultaneously the political objectives pursued by this law. 

Continue reading “China’s New Ecommerce Law: What this will mean for Consumers, Operators and Providers” »

Indonesia’s New Trademark Law – An Overview of the Changes

trademarkToday’s blog post has been kindly drafted for us by our South-East Asia IPR SME Helpdesk expert Mr.  Somboon Earterasarun from Tilleke & Gibbins. In this article, Mr. Earterasarun gives a comprehensive overview on the latest changes in Indonesia’s Trade Mark Law that came to force in November  last year. 

The Indonesian Parliament approved amendments to the country’s Trademark Law on October 27, updating the Trademark Law No. 15, which had been in force since 2001. The amended Trademark Law has now entered into force—it took effect on November 28, 2016—introducing a number of significant changes that refine current practices, add new features, and clarify certain provisions.

Some of the major changes include provisions designed to speed up the examination process. The new law also increases criminal penalties and provides more clarity on preliminary injunctions, both of which may help lead to better enforcement. Another change relating to the transfer of ‘‘associated marks’’ may be particularly important to international rights holders who need to transfer registrations to business partners.

Publication and Substantive Examination

Under the new Trademark Law, the publication stage—during which oppositions can be made—must now take place before the examiner conducts the substantive examination stage (i.e., the stage in which the distinctiveness and similarity to prior-registered marks are examined). The publication stage now lasts for two months, instead of three months. It is also the only opportunity for trademark owners to oppose third-party applications prior to registration. Continue reading “Indonesia’s New Trademark Law – An Overview of the Changes” »

IP Protection Strategies for App Developers in China

8585049088_9d1dbcdf1f_kDue to the size of the market, increasing disposable income and smartphone addiction China is an attractive market for European app developers who are wishing to expand to new markets. European app developers should, however, pay attention to protecting their IP rights in the country, because IP infringements are still commonplace in China.In today’s blog post we’re taking a closer look at how European app developers could best protect their business against IP violations in China. 

China has increased the per person spending on games and other apps 10 times since 2014. This rapid growth, stimulated by the release of the iPhone 6 and 7 and heavy investment in Apple’s retail presence in the country, has pushed China to the top spot for App downloads worldwide[1].

Asia is leading a mobile revolution, replacing older, less transportable technologies with a ‘mobile-first’ tech culture. Smartphone penetration in China is far deeper than anywhere in the West, many new users skipping desktop computing entirely in their adoption of smartphones and tablets[2]. In China alone it is estimated that there are more than 700 million active smartphones and there is still potential for further growth as lower cost alternatives increasingly cater for the lower end of the market.

These statistics, coupled with recent developments in Chinese mobile user payment structures makes China a very attractive market for existing and potential app developers, with content creators flocking to take advantage of the newly minted market. Continue reading “IP Protection Strategies for App Developers in China” »

Proposed Changes to Singapore Patent Regime and Their Implications to European SMEs

patent-without backgroundToday’s blog post is taking a closer look at the proposed changes to  Singapore Patent Regime and explains their implications to European SMEs wishing to patent their inventions in Singapore.

Singapore is currently in the process of amending its patent regime as the government has submitted the proposed amendments for public consultation due to end on 15 August 2017.  Major amendments concern the examination guidelines on isolated products from nature; third party observations; patent re-examination option; the examination guidelines on the new patents grace period and amendments to Patents Rules concerning patentable subject matter and supplementary examination. The aim of these proposed amendments is improving Singapore’s patent regime and further increasing the confidence of stakeholders and investors in Singapore’s patent regime[1].

Patent examination guidelines on isolated products from nature

In order to have a more balanced patent regime, the Singapore Government is proposing to clarify the distinction between ‘inventions’ and ‘discoveries’ as applied to the issue of isolated products found in nature. According to the new proposal isolated or purified materials or microorganisms that can be found in nature would represent a discovery and would not be an invention – thus these materials or microorganisms would not be eligible for patent. At the same time, if a new use of the isolated or purified material or microorganism is found, then the new use can be claimed and it can also be patented.  Furthermore, the new proposal states that “in the case of an isolated material or microorganism which has been modified such that the modified material or microorganism can be clearly distinguished from the isolated or purified naturally occurring material or microorganisms, then not only can the modified material or microorganism be claimed but also any new use of the modified material or microorganism”.[2] In this case both the new material and new use can be patented. Continue reading “Proposed Changes to Singapore Patent Regime and Their Implications to European SMEs” »