Phu Quoc fish sauce trademark, famous in Vietnam and many countries in the world, is being undercut by imitators, despite being a protected geographic indication and appellation of origin since 2001.

There are 94 establishments producing the sauce on Phu Quoc island, offshore the southern province of Kien Giang , providing 13-15 million litres a year to the market, Nguyen Thi Tinh, Chairwoman of Association of Phu Quoc Fish Sauce Producers, told Vietnam News Agency.

Thanks to its traditional recipe, Phu Quoc fish sauce has its own characteristic colour and flavour, Luong Thanh Hai, Director of the Kien Giang Province Science-Technology Service, said.

However, the fine reputation of the fish sauce has lead to imitators looking to cash in on the name, Nguyen Huy Hoang, Vice Director of the Thanh Ha Fish Sauce Co. Ltd, said. Many producers from other provinces, even Vietnamese firms abroad intentionally used the trademark Phu Quoc for their products, he added.

Meanwhile, most of fish sauce production establishments on the island are small scale operations, and they all use the name Phu Quoc. The sheer number of fish sauces that have a right to the geographic indication and reputation makes it difficult to implement quality control and separate the imitations from the real thing. Furthermore, despite the geographic indication for Phu Quoc fish sauce having taken effect in 2001, no production establishment has yet been granted the right to use it.

Additionally, standards regulating quality and specifying the use of the trade mark are not clear, limiting the effectiveness of protecting the Phu Quoc name.

Hoang attributed the delay by local sauce makers in registering for the appellation of origin to businesses from other places using it, diluting the power of the name.

In order to protect Phu Quoc island fish sauce producers, the Kien Giang province People’s Committee in 2008 issued regulations on management and the use of the geographic indication, helping enhance the capacity of relevant agencies to control the situation.

Also, the Kien Giang province Science-Technology Service and the Vietnam-Switzerland project on intellectual property have recently organised a workshop on protection and management of the Phu Quoc fish sauce geographic indication.

The Association of Phu Quoc Fish Sauce Producers is preparing to carry out a series of solutions such as designing logos, registering as a sole trademark, and building regulations on management and use of the trade mark. These would stipulate that member businesses meet strict requirements on production, materials, quality and environmental impact.

Once all the fish sauce producers on Phu Quoc island take part in the programme, consumers will be able to tell the real thing from the imitators, as products without the official logo would be imitations, Tinh said./.