Setting EU standards for IP protection in Vietnam

The new trade agreement between Vietnam and the European Union is Vietnam’s latest attempt at improving its intellectual property rights environment since joining the World Intellectual Property Organization in 2004. Strengthening IP rights is a definite mile marker for developing countries transitioning to high-income dynamic economies as they secure greater foreign investment and provide the impetus for local entrepreneurs to innovate.

Since joining WIPO, the improved IP atmosphere has already demonstrated significant results. Vietnam improved from 103 resident patent fillings in 2004 to 592 fillings in 2017. And, according to the International Property Rights Index Vietnam improved from an overall property rights score of 4.3 in 2009 to 5.0 in the latest 2018 report, its strongest gain was in IP protection with an increase of 1.1 points, or three times greater than the world average increase.

The EU-Vietnam agreement provides additional consistency for EU businesses seeking to branch out to one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, and new opportunities for Vietnamese entrepreneurs seeking one of the world’s largest markets.

The objective of the Agreement’s IP Chapter is to “facilitate the creation, production and commercialization of innovative and creative products between parties” and to “achieve an adequate and effective level of protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights”.

It covers all types of IP rights, such as, copyright and related rights, trademarks, geographical indications, industrial designs, patent rights, layout-designs (topographies) of integrated circuits, protection of undisclosed information, and plant varieties. Also, the Parties agreed to comply with the rights and obligations of the following international treaties: the Berne Convention the Rome Convention, the TRIPS agreement, and the WIPO Copyright Treaties of Geneva.

In terms of copyrights, the treaty grants to the authors of literary or artistic work protection for the life of the author plus 50 years, and for no less than 50 years after the author’s live. However, in the Comprehensive Progressive Trans=Pacific Partnership agreement (CPTPP) Vietnam agreed to life of the author plus 70 years, its IP chapter was suspended after the U.S. withdrew.

The EU and Vietnam agreement decided not to provide more clarity to one of the most controversial IP issues – compulsory licenses for public health. Instead, it simply affirms the existing minimum standard found in the TRIPS agreement, which leaves how each case is determined up to the state government. Studies find that compulsory licenses often do not lead to reduced prices, while increases in IP protection lead greater levels of innovation.

Notwithstanding, by signing the EU agreement, Vietnam, one of the last Communist countries in the world has reached a way to improve the protection of intellectual property rights a fundamental element of a free-market system.