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“Joining hands” to promote protection of geographical indications of Vietnamese agricultural products

19:45 | 09/07/2021

VCN - The protection of intellectual property for agricultural products through trademark protection and geographical indication protection in Vietnam is still limited.

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Tran Le Hong, Deputy Director of the Department of Intellectual Property (Ministry of Science and Technology).
Tran Le Hong, Deputy Director of the Department of Intellectual Property (Ministry of Science and Technology).

How are Vietnam's agricultural products and specialities registered for protection of geographical indications in Vietnam?

Since the first registered product for a GI in Vietnam was Phu Quoc fish sauce, there have been 74 products registered for GI in Vietnam.

The registration of geographical indications is at a high and difficult level. Localities have also adapted to this issue by preparing to register collective marks and self-certified marks at the first stage before clarifying the specific nature and quality of the products. Can a geographical indication be registered?

With the support of the Intellectual Property Development Program at the central and local levels, Vietnam has about 2,000 collective and self-certified trademarks for specific agricultural products.

For the foreign market, recent news is quite positive that in March, Bac Giang lychee was registered for protection of geographical indications in Japan. Can you share more details about the process of the NOIP supporting Bac Giang to register for geographical indication protection?

In 2017, Vietnam started to work with the Food Industry Department (Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries). The process took four years to get Bac Giang lychee to be registered for protection of geographical indications in Japan in March.

Although the requirements of the Japanese side are similar to those of Vietnam, the actual requirements for making dossiers, preparing data as well as analysing and evaluating the products claimed for protection instruct geography is very high.

For example, when Vietnam developed sets of indicators related to the assessment of the natural conditions of the lychee growing area Luc Ngan (Bac Giang), referring to indicators of lychee products related to the total quantity of lychee. For sugar, morphological properties of lychee and many other issues, Japan requires accurate analysis and evaluation. These analyses do not stop at Luc Ngan lychee fruit itself but must be compared with similar products in different regions. Vietnam had to evaluate between the specific properties and quality of Luc Ngan lychee and the lychee fruit in Thanh Ha (Hai Duong).

In addition to Luc Ngan lychee, there are thousands of agricultural products across the country that needs protection for geographical indications. What is the biggest difficulty in replicating GI protection for these items?

A typical difficulty is how to prove the specific nature and quality of the product which is registered for protection of the geographical indication. This content is associated with natural geographical factors related to slope, rainfall, soil and many other factors. Another factor is people related to skills, traditional manufacturing processes for products. Therefore, the geographical indication registration process needs to clarify the relationship of those natural and human factors associated with the product, specifying factors that create the specific characteristics and quality of the geographical indication. How does a product name a geographical indication?

With the foreign market, can you analyse more clearly if geographical indications are not protected, what risks can export agricultural products face?

When talking about geographical indications or trademarks that are not registered in foreign markets in general, the most important risk is there is no longer a market for high-quality, branded products to be able to obtain the highest value.

For example, when a geographical indication and trademark for Buon Ma Thuot coffee could not be developed when it was registered in China, the product was sold as raw materials. It can be said the companionship between the registration of geographical indications and promotion to develop high-quality products is an inseparable process.

The awareness of the Government as well as ministries and branches in the development of agricultural products is always accompanied by conditions to help develop the brand.

Registering for the protection of geographical indications for specific agricultural products is difficult, but maintaining and promoting it is even more difficult. What policies and solutions have state management agencies issued to support localities, businesses and growers in these problems?

The awareness of the Government as well as ministries and sectors in development of agricultural products is always accompanied by conditions to help develop brands for products. One of the long-standing programmes is the Intellectual Property Development Programe. In addition, the Ministry of Science and Technology has implemented awareness raising activities, training and professional support for all localities across the country in accessing geographical indications, self-certified marks and collective marks.

In addition, the Ministry of Science and Technology works with other ministries and branches such as the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) to promote innovation and select necessary varieties for the development of agricultural products or work with functional units of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in farming methods, improving the quality of those products. With the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of Science and Technology has coordinated to develop trademarks for agricultural products. Those are effective policies, specifically the development of agricultural products and local specialties.

The intellectual property development programme has been approved by the Prime Minister for 2021-2030. The above issues are also mentioned, competent units from central to local levels will continue to promote in the future.

By Duc Quang/ Bui Diep