Should your GI (Geographical Indication) be infringed in Vietnam, there are three main avenues of enforcement which can be pursued, i.e. administrative actions, civil litigation, and criminal prosecution.
Administrative actions remains both cost-effective and time-efficient, and this is usually the most common route for companies to take when infringement has been discovered. It is a good way to deal with small-scale infringers and to gather evidence for larger scale infringements. Due to the nature of the remedies available and speed of case handling, administrative actions are an especially effective method of putting an immediate stop to on-going IPR infringement.
Administrative actions involve different enforcement authorities, depending on the nature of the infringement, if the correct enforcement bodies are contacted and involved, they are usually quickly able to assess the situation and issue appropriate penalties. These include cease and desist orders, revocation of business licenses, monetary fines, and/or the confiscation and destruction of infringing goods. These penalties may not be as severe as those available through civil litigation or criminal prosecution, however they do offer a practical, realistic chance of stopping infringers quickly, and in some cases obtaining damages.
Civil litigation is usually only used in the event of larger scale infringements and very few cases are brought before Vietnamese civil courts. This is partially due to the lack of proper IP training and human resources within the judicial system, resulting in somewhat unpredictable case outcomes. Vietnamese authorities are working to improve the civil system however, working in cooperation with international organisations and government agencies.
In civil actions, right holders can request provisional measures such as preliminary injunctions, as well as claim actual damages or loss of earnings. Where actual loss cannot be determined however, the maximum award is currently set at approximately US$ 24,000.
As with civil actions, criminal prosecutions are relatively rare in Vietnam, however they also provide for the harshest penalties for infringers. Criminal proceedings for GI infringement will only be actioned on the request of the ‘victim’ as defined by Vietnamese law. As ‘victims’ in Vietnamese law, for the purposes of legal proceedings, must be individuals, company owned marks cannot be defended in the criminal courts. As such, it is unlikely that SMEs will be able to make use of the criminal court system for the protection of GIs unless an individual GI producer can be presented as the plaintiff.