Officials and experts are calling for proper enforcement of the Law on I ntellectual Property (IP) Rights, saying it is needed to serve Vietnam’s economic development and international integration.

In his interview with the Vietnam News Agency’s Affairs, Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Tran Viet Thanh said that IP rights have become a pillar of international economic integration activities and Vietnam has no choice but to effectively ensure them.

IP rights have been at the centre of Vietnam’s current negotiations to join international establishments, from the World Trade Organisation to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

In Vietnam, IP rights have played an increasingly important role in boosting economic development and local enterprises have already begun using IP rights to their advantage, contributing to the country’s socio-economic development, Thanh said.

It is, however, still well below potential and many Vietnamese enterprises do not have high value or competitiveness at domestic and international levels.

A major contributing factor to these issues is a lack of investment in research and development among small- and medium-sized enterprises, according to Thanh.

Regarding the enforcement of the law on IP rights, Thanh said there has been significant progress producing positive results against increasingly complicated IP rights infringements.

According to statistics from the Market Surveillance Agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the agency discovered 17,400 cases of producing and trading fake goods and committing IP rights infringements, fining a total of 36 billion VND (1.67 million USD).

According to an incomplete report from the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST), there were 1,106 industrial IP infringements alone in 2014, mostly involving brands, and levied a combined 15.5 billion VND (720,000 USD) in fines.

The agencies emphasised that these violations are just the tip of the iceberg and it is extremely difficult for authorities to control all fake goods outlets.

According to the Vietnam Association for Anti-counterfeiting and Trademark Protection ( VATAP ), fake goods in Vietnam are not limited to a specific sector but rather occur in 31 types of goods, most commonly cosmetics, electronics, kitchenware, beer and wine.

Tran Minh Dung, Chief Inspector of the MoST, said in 2014 his agency received 64 complaints on industrial IP rights infringements, up from 46 a year prior.

According to lawyer Le Xuan Thao, a member of the Vietnam Lawyers Association and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the IP Company Invenco, said the sanctions against IP rights infringements need to be tougher to counter the increasingly complicated breaches.

The maximum fine of 500 million VND (23,200 USD) for each offence is too lenient and the Government ought to use additional forms of punishments such as mandating offenders to compensate the affected companies or confiscate counterfeit goods.

According to Thao, overlapping enforcement mechanisms and loose cooperation between governmental agencies is also contributing to the inefficiency of the law.

There are as many as seven agencies taking part in the enforcement of the law: Market Surveillance, Customs, Border Guards, Maritime Police, Police, Tax Agency and inter-sector inspectorates.

Le The Bao, Chairman of the VATAP, cited 35 decrees regarding fake goods and food safety regulations as another example of overlap and confusion.

Beyond efforts by governmental agencies, Bao suggested enterprises should take appropriate actions to protect themselves.

According to Bao, the community is unaware of IP rights due to a lack of attention from enterprises and lack of cooperation with government agencies.

As such, it is essential to have an adequate legal framework to protect local enterprises and weed out weaker market enterprises who do not abide by the law.-VNA