Businesses need to devise effective security measures which will protect intellectual property, business tactics, customers’ information and distribution system, emphasizes Associate Prof. Dr. Nguyen Quoc Thinh from the Vietnam University of Commerce.
The rampage of fake and counterfeit goods in the domestic market has raised major public concern in spite of relevant agencies’ great control efforts. Some businesses deceptively sell fake goods for illicit earnings while genuine businesses which refuse to deal in counterfeit products are often failing to cooperate with law enforcement agencies in the fight against bogus goods.
According to a survey of 100 fine arts and handicraft businesses conducted by the Vietnam University of Commerce, 90% of businesses are afraid of their products being faked for the market, while up to 70% of them are willing to replicate the product designs of other businesses.
Another survey, which covered 350 businesses operating in multiple fields in Hanoi, Thai Nguyen and Thanh Hoa, showed that only 208 of those businesses thought it worth their effort to pay special attention to brand protection. However, just 18 out of those 208 businesses have registered trademarks, patents or other intellectual property rights (IPR) to be concerned with. One out of the 18 businesses has registered for industrial designs while the remaining 17 businesses have signed up for brands.
Quoc Thinh says that any type of product can now be faked in a sophisticated manner, adding that counterfeit goods are publicly circulated on the market, making it difficult for law enforcement agencies to identify suspect products “Consumers are confused about fake and unfaked goods. Even the trademark owners find it difficult to distinguish between their products and fakes,” says Mr Thinh.
Mr Thinh points out that there has been a strong increase in the number of counterfeit foods and IP violations. Up to 98.37% of violations get administrative fines while only 1.63% of prosecuted cases were settled in court.
Mr Thinh attributed the flood of fake goods onto the market to the lack of duly punishments and an imperfect legal framework. Most trademark violations were punished with fines of just VND20-30 million, which is minute compared to the huge profits from selling counterfeit goods, he noted.
Sharing the same viewpoint, Mr Nguyen Vu Quan,of the Vietnam Industrial Property Association (VIPA), says administrative punishments on IT infringements are mostly used as the procedure for dealing with these cases to save costs and reach a swift conclusion. But these remedies are not strong enough to resolve cases of IPR violations.
In addition, the penalties for violations often depends on the different assessment results of the Vietnam Intellectual Property Research Institute or VIPA, which can lead to difficulties for law enforcement agencies.
Intellectual property protection
According to Dr. Vo Tri Thanh, director of the Institute for Trademark and Competition Research Strategies, the efforts to fight fake goods and protect intellectual property are not simply related to real or counterfeit goods but also pertain to business methods, competition, creativity, consumer trust and the prestige of Vietnamese businesses.
To prevent the prevalence of fake goods and the infringement of brands, Associate Prof. Dr Nguyen Quoc Thinh insists there is a need to change the thinking behind management and law enforcement agencies, and in the business community.
Mr Thinh notes that businesses need to establish their IPR by registering trademarks or industrial designs patents. Nearly 90% of surveyed businesses have yet to devise protective measures and have no recognized intellectual property, he adds. The story of fake goods remains a thorny issue if there are loopholes in management agencies, organizations and associations which have been tasked with preventing fake goods but aid and abet fraudulent trade activities. Many experts suggests severe punishments should be imposed on the manufacture and trade of counterfeit goods but harsher punishments are needed for those aiding and abetting businesses in faking goods, so that businesses can regain the trust consumers.