Last update 4/24/2012 8:12:00 AM (GMT+7)

NOIP: Vietnamese coffee trademarks must not be sold to foreigners

VietNamNet Bridge – The attempt by a coffee company in the central highlands to sell two coffee trademarks to a Chinese enterprise has faced the anger of the public.

Vietnamese businessmen attempt to sell 2 coffee brands to Chinese

Dan Viet newspaper on April 17 quoted an official of the National Office for Intellectual Property (NOIP) as saying that in this case, when the trademark is associated with the famous locality (Duc Lap, Dak Mil), the trademark must not transferred to foreigners, because this may lead to unpredictable consequences.

“If this is a well-known brand which associates with the fame of the locality, the owner of the business needs to find out the best solution to protect the brand for the country,” he said.

Also according to the official, prior to 2005, when registering the trademarks which coincided with the names of the localities, enterprises must ask for the permission of the local authorities.

However, after 2005, when the Intellectual Property Law was amended, enterprises can register the trademarks coinciding with the names of the localities, provided that the trademarks do not represent the specialties of the localities.

In this case, the Duc Lap coffee trademark was registered prior to 2005, the enterprise might have got the nod from the Dak Nong provincial people’s committee.

Lawyer Hoang Ngoc from Nhiet Tam & associates law office--citing the 2009 Intellectual Property Law, said that enterprises have the right to buy and sell trademarks without having to ask for the permission from state management agencies. However, in some cases, when trademarks are collective assets, such as Buon Ma Thuot coffee brand, or geographical indications, no one has the right to sell.

“I still have not gotten sufficient information about Duc Lap coffee brand. However, if this is a brand of collective ownership, or this is a geographical indication, the enterprise will not be able to sell the brand,” the lawyer said.

Meanwhile, on April 19, the Dak Nong provincial Science and Technology Department stated that if Minh An Cooperative wants to sell the Duc Lap coffee brand to a Chinese business, this would in no way affect the coffee production and business in the province.

Nguyen Trung Truc, a high ranking official of the department, said that under the Intellectual Property Law, Minh An Cooperative has the right to transfer the trademarks which has been registered for exclusive right protection. However, as the trademark “Duc Lap Dak Mil Coffee and logo” contains “Dak Mil”, which is the name of the district in Dak Nong province, the transfer deal will only be carried out with the agreement of competent agencies.

As such, if Minh An deliberately sells its brands, it would be able to sell “Duc Lap Minh An coffee and logo”, and not to sell “Duc Lap Dak Mil Coffee and logo.” Meanwhile, the sale of “Duc Lap Minh An” would not influence the coffee production and business in the province, because the trademark has not been well known by many people.

Truc thinks that Minh An Cooperative only tries to “threaten” local authorities and persuade banks to lend 5 billion dong to it. He said that if Minh An wanted to sell the trademark, it would have sold it already.

As such, it’s clear that the viewpoint of Dak Nong provincial authorities is that it’s a must to retain “Dak Mil” coffee brand, while no need to keep “Duc Lap.”

Nevertheless, the viewpoint proves to come contrary to the viewpoint of the provincial department of agriculture and rural development shown in a document to Minh An. The department asked Minh An to transfer “Duc Lap” in both trademarks to the locality.

Source: Dan Viet