Geographical indication development: A national-level strategy needed

Tuesday, 2017-09-12 16:46:15
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Loc Ninh pepper in Binh Phuoc province has been certified as a collective brand.
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NDO – In order to promote the value of geographical indication (GI), products under GI protection require a forceful boost from the market, especially in attracting the choice of consumers. However, at present, Vietnam still lacks a national-level strategy with the aim of advertising, introducing and facilitating GI products.

Dinh Huu Phi, Director General of the National Office of Intellectual Property of Vietnam (NOIP) under the Ministry of Science and Technology, granted the Hanoimoi Newspaper an interview in regards to the issue.

Q: How many Vietnamese products are under GI protection? How does it work?

A: Vietnam has granted protection certificates to 56 GIs, six from foreign countries and 50 from Vietnam. As many as 34 cities and provinces throughout the country have their GIs protected, with 11 of them having two GIs or above. In regards to the structure, 47% of the GI-protected products are fruits, 19% are products made from industrial and forestry crops, and the remaining 34% are fisheries products, rice and various other foods.

Following over 10 years of executing the Law on Intellectual Property, the GI protection for farm produce, small industrial and handicraft products has actively affected the perception of, and gained attention from the community, whilst mobilising investment resources from numerous localities and enterprises. GI has also contributed to maintaining and affirming the reputation and values of protected products, in addition to enhancing their competitiveness. After being recognised with GIs, the prices of many products tend to increase, especially Phu Quoc fish sauce in Kien Giang province, Cao Phong oranges in Hoa Binh province and Dong Van mint honey in Ha Giang province.

Q: Many GI-protected products have affirmed their trademarks, but there remain some that are still yet to fully tap into their advantages. What do you think about this problem?

A: Despite the positive impacts, the management and use of GIs still witnesses a number of shortcomings, focusing on the issue of managing and using GIs following their being protected. As regulated in the Law on Intellectual Property, after the GIs are protected by the State, they will be managed by their respective provincial-level People’s Committees. However, at present, the majority of localities still remain uncooperative in organising the management model and accelerating the exploitation and use of GIs among businesses, organisations and individuals. Therefore, many GIs are yet to produce the efficiency as expected.

There are a number of other causes as well. GI is a new concept and the process of building and developing GIs includes the building of laws, institutions, policies and solutions. The Law on Intellectual Property has yet to clearly stipulate the principle, content and structure of GI management. The construction of management policies and institutions are mainly assigned to localities, so the management model remains inconsistent in regards to the organisation method. In order to promote their values, GIs need a strong boost from the market, especially in the choice of consumers. However, we are lacking a national-level strategy aiming to advertise, introduce and accelerate GI products, towards making GI a priority sign for the consumers’ choice.

Q: In reality, there are many GI rights infringement cases, which have adversely affected the reputation and trademark of the products, as well as the rights of consumers. What are the effective measures to prevent and combat this phenomenon?

A: The infringement upon the property rights is becoming increasingly sophisticated and complicated and GIs are no exception. In order to address this issue, it requires strong determination from the relevant agencies and units. As for consumers, it is necessary to provide and enhance the identifiability of GI signs on products, which promises to be highly difficult for farm produce due to the characteristics and structure of the distribution channels.

The cases of GI rights infringement need to be immediately eliminated starting with the community that produce and trade in that product. This means that we must take control of the root, including organisations and individuals directly engaged in supplying products to the market. In addition, it is also essential to strengthen the responsibility assumed by market management agencies and to foster coordination between occupational associations, businesses and organisations in providing information on infringement cases and supporting management units to handle those violations.

Q: As a management agency, what specific solutions and actions are taken by the NOIP in order to improve the efficiency of GIs?

A: At present, the NOIP usually supports and accompanies localities in building register dossiers, organising management and developing GIs. The office has been implementing programmes and projects to support the development of GIs, including the intellectual property development programme in the period of 2016-2020 and the support project for the development of GIs in Vietnam, funded by the French Development Agency (AFD). We have proactively devised a plan on the adjustment and supplementation of certain GI-related contents, and reported it to the leaders of the Ministry of Science and Technology before submitting it to the Government for consideration and approval, with the view of creating the most favourable conditions for localities in managing GIs.

Thank you very much!