Despite many difficulties and disruptions around the world and in Viet Nam in 2020, the numbers of received applications for geographical indication (GI) registration and granted GI registration certificates reached highest levels ever.
Protection structure by product: mainly agricultural products
In 2020, the IP Viet Nam received 22 GI applications and granted 21 GI registration certificates. Similar to previous years, the structure of products bearing GIs protected in 2020 did not changed much, mainly agricultural products and no processed products. Such agricultural products were all fresh products, of which 06 products were fresh fruits (Cai Mon Durian, Luc Nam Custard-apple, Chau Thanh Long An Dragon Fruit, Ham Yen Orange, Kha Linh Pomelo, Cau Duc Pineapple), 03 seafood products (Phu Yen panulirus ornatus (lobster), Van Chan Tortoise, Khanh Hoa Salanganes Nest (bird's nest)), the rest of other agricultural products included spices, fresh animals and rice (An Thinh Garlic, Ly Son Garlic, Vi Xuyen Cardamom, Tra Bong Cinnamon, Co Lung duck and Ba Cham Mang Yang Rice).
Organizations filed GI registration applications and managed protected GIs in 2020 were State administrative authorities, including: People's Committees of districts /cities directly under the province, People's Committees of provinces, Departments of Science and Technology, and Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development. The largest number of GIs filed and managed by the People's Committee of districts/cities directly under the province (09 GIs). It showed that the participation of professional associations, manufacturers and traders of GI products in the process of preparation of GI registration dossiers and management of GIs was still very limited.
As a result, by the end of 2020, Viet Nam has protected 94 GIs, including 88 Vietnamese and 06 foreign GIs. The Viet Nam - EU Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) (officially ratified by the National Assemblies of both sides, effective on 01 August 2020) has also opened up a "golden opportunity" for 39 Vietnamese GIs for being officially protected and enjoying tariff preferences in exports in EU. At the same time, Viet Nam protected 169 GIs of EU, under this Agreement. Due to effects of global difficulties in 2020, such 39 Vietnamese GIs have not fully brought about advantages after being protected in EU.
GI “Phu Yen” for panulirus ornatus (lobster) obtained protection in 2020. This GI is managed by the People's Committee of Phu Yen
Requirement of renovation of GI management methods
In order to take full advantage of benefits of GI protection, it is necessary to have policies to promote and renovate methods of GI management.
On one hand, provisions on GI protection policies should be consistent with the nature of geographical indications as a commonly shared intellectual property of the community of product producers associated with the respective geographic area. On the other hand, such provisions should clearly define state administrative agencies instead of GIs’ owners with the role of a general coordinator to ensure the harmonization of interests and social justice in GI development, registration and management.
Such changes will require to encourage resident communities and product producers to participate in the GI registration process (currently this process was mainly carried out by state administrative agencies), putting this process at the right place where there are actual needs of communities and the society. It will also require a change in programs to support the development of GIs with a focus on capacity building activities for collective organizations, representative organizations of communities, GI producers and GI traders instead of only providing supports to develop GI registration dossiers or to establish the GI management systems.
On the other hand, regarding protected GIs, the current GI management organizations (which can either be State administrative authorities or organizations who represent interests of GI right user entities and were authorized by the State to manage such GI rights) should change their approach method: to support resident communities and producers to establish collective organizations to manage GIs if such kind of collective organizations has not been formed yet; or to consolidate and enhance capacity of GI owners in order for them to adequately perform their role.
All of such changes requires amendments of existing regulations on GI management. Currently, the process of amendments of legal provisions on intellectual property, including GIs under the Intellectual Property Strategy until 2030, is being urgently finalized. Hopefully, 2021 will be a decisive year that marks a leap in quality of regulations on GI protection, thereby better improving advantages brought about by GIs.
The amendment of the IP Law has taken into account requirements for innovation in methods of GI management focusing on "empowering" the community of product producers, and the State only plays a role as a "coordinator” in order to harmonize benefits. Specifically, the following contents have been proposed for amendments:
Proposal on amendment of Article 88:
"The right to register GIs
Organizations representing GI product producers or the administrative agencies of localities to which such GIs pertain may exercise the right to register GIs. Persons who exercise the right to register GIs shall not become owners of such GIs."
To replace the current provision:
The right to register Vietnamese GIs belongs to the State.
The State shall permit organizations and individuals producing products bearing GIs, collective organizations representing such organizations or individuals, and administrative bodies of localities to which such GIs pertain, to exercise the right to register GIs. Persons who exercise the right to register GIs shall not become owners of such GIs.
Proposal on amendment and supplement of Article 121 Paragraph 4:
"4. GIs of Viet Nam are in common possession of the communities of GI product producers in the region where the GIs are located. The organizations representing GI product producers shall exercise the right to manage the protected GIs. The Government shall detail regulations on GI management and guide the exercise of the right to manage GI by such organizations. "
To replace the current provision:
The State is the owner of GIs of Viet Nam.
The State shall grant the right to use GIs to organizations or individuals who manufacture products bearing such GIs in relevant localities and put such products on the market. The State shall directly exercise the right to manage GIs or grant that right to organizations representing the interests of all organizations or individuals granted the right to use GIs.
(Quotation of Draft Law Amending and Supplementing a Number of Articles of the Intellectual Property Law No. 50/2005 / QH11 dated 29 November 2005).