Protection of geographical indications (GIs) always plays an important role in commercial relations at national and international levels. Using misleading geographical indications will be contrary to honest practice in industry and commerce, confusing consumers to GI-protected products. Those using inappropriate GIs will obtain unfair advantages in comparison with their competitors. GIs are used for natural, agricultural, handicraft and industrial products such as: wood, sugar, fruits, wines, coffee, tea, cigarettes, weave, wool…GIs can make great contributions to establish prestige and reputation of a product in consumer’s mind as well as in the importation and exportation of the product. Therefore, GIs are considered as valuable properties of the nation, protection of such assets by law will not only enhance commercial values of GI-protected products but also preserve cultural values and traditional knowledge of the nation crystallized in the products.
Vietnam is a country with many quality products characterized by regions and localities. The country has many globally branded agricultural products such as dragon fruit, coffee, and tea, etc.
1. Definition of Geographical Indication
There is no common definition of GI due various mechanisms of protection of GI from country to country. Followings are some definitions of geographical indication:
“Indication of source” refers to indications of a product originating from a specific geographical area.
“Appellation of origin” refers to indications of a product originating from a specific geographical area that the quality of the product is attributed by environmental, natural and human factors of the geographical area.
“Geographical indication” associates to both two above-mentioned definitions.
2. Protection of Geographical Indications in Viet Nam
The protection of GIs under Vietnamese laws and regulations was divided into 2 stages:
2.1. The 1st stage
Appellation of origin and protection of appellation of origin was first regulated under Civil Code 1995 and detailed in guideline regulations.
Article 786 of Civil Code 1995 stimulated “The original name of goods is a country, or a locality's geographical name that is used to indicate the origin of the goods from this country or locality provide that the goods have the characteristics or quality reflecting the specific geographical conditions of natural or human character or the combination of thereof”.
With such definition, the original name of goods is construed as a geographical name with the function of indicating the origin of products from a country or a geographical area, therefore, direct or indirect signs, symbols and images indicating the origin of products are excluded from this definition.
2.2. The 2nd stage
The second stage of the protection of GIs has been started since the IP Law 2005 came into effect (01 July 2006). The regulations on GI protection guiding the implementation of IP Law 2005 include:
Per Article 4.22 of the IP Law 2005, “A geographical indication means a sign which identifies a product as originating from a specific region, locality, territory or country”. Following the definition, geographical indication includes geographical name, signs, symbols and images.
3. General requirements for GIs eligible for protection in Vietnam (Article 79, the IP Law 2005)
A geographical indication shall be protected in Vietnam when it satisfies the following conditions:
4. Subject matters not protected as geographical indications in Vietnam (Article 80, the IP Law 2005):
The following subject matters shall not be protected as geographical indications in Vietnam
5. Right to register geographical indications of Viet Nam belongs to the State (Article 88, the IP Law 2005)
Who May File and Where to File Geographical Indication Applications
For GI originating from Vietnam, the right to register geographical indications shall belong to the State of Vietnam. However, the Vietnamese State allows organizations and individuals producing products bearing geographical indications, collective organizations representing such organizations or individuals or administrative management agencies of localities to which such geographical indications pertain to exercise the right to register such geographical indications and enforce the rights conferred from the GI registration.
People’s Committees of provinces and cities under central authority shall carry out registration procedures and organize management of geographical indications used for the localities’ specialties (Paragraph 4 Article 19 Decree No. 103/2006/ND-CP).
6. The owner of Vietnam’s geographical indications is the State (Paragraph 4, Article 121, the IP Law 2005):
The State shall grant the right to use geographical indications to organizations or individuals that turn out products bearing such geographical indications in relevant localities and put such products on the market. The State shall directly exercise the right to manage geographical indications or grant that right to organizations representing the interests of all organizations or individuals granted with the right to use geographical indications.