The recent Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) recognition for the Phu Quoc fish sauce trademark in the EU has raised hopes for thousands of Vietnamese exporters of agricultural products.

The fish sauce made on Phu Quoc Island in the country's southwestern region is the first-ever Vietnamese product to be granted PDO status in the EU.

It took three years to get trademark-protection recognition, according to the Phu Quoc Fish Sauce Association.

Nguyen Thi Tinh, chairwoman of the association, said that PDO status will allow exporters to expand markets abroad.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, trademark protection in 28 countries in Europe creates favourable conditions for preventing fake products in the EU market and paves the way for other agricultural products to receive PDO recognition in other countries.

Tinh said that Europe is the main market for Phu Quoc fish sauce.

Vietnam exports 800,000 litres of Phu Quoc fish sauce to the EU each year, while its total annual export volume is about 1.5 million litres.

With PDO recognition, the fish sauce, which has been produced on Phu Quoc Island for more than 200 years, will have much better access to foreign markets.

To further protect its locally made products, the Phu Quoc Fish Sauce Association plans to proceed with a lawsuit against Thai fish-sauce producers that sell products with a phony Phu Quoc name in Europe .

These Thai enterprises have not registered this brand in Europe and even in Thailand .

Tinh added that the association is preparing the necessary documents for PDO recognition for fish-sauce products in Thailand , Hong Kong and other countries and territories.

According to the Ministry of Science and Technology's Intellectual Property Department , Vietnam has thousands of agricultural products that could potentially be registered with an official trademark.

However, only 35 products have been registered, and few of those are registered in other countries.
Because of the lack of official registration, the name of Vietnamese products is often used illegally by other producers.

For example, Trung Nguyen coffee and Phan Thiet fish sauce have been used illegally in other countries.

Local companies that have been the victim of such practices say that it takes a great deal of time and money to win a lawsuit and reclaim their brand name.

Nguyen Lam Vien, chairman and general director of Vinamit, which produces dried jackfruit, told Nguoi Lao Dong (Labourer) newspaper that he spent four years and hundred thousands of US dollar on a lawsuit to reclaim his company's trademark which had been illegally registered for PDO status in China in 2007.

The Dong A General Production and Trade Company, the owner of Ben Tre coconut candy, has filed a lawsuit against Chinese enterprises that had registered the company's trademark in the country.

In 2011, it was discovered that many famous geographical locations in Vietnam , such as the branded Buon Ma Thuot coffee, Dak Lak coffee and Phu Quoc fish sauce, were registered illegally in other countries.

Several government agencies are now collecting proof to prepare for the process to reclaim these well-known brands.-VNA