Earlier this year, Vietnam became a member of the 12-nation TPP. An area of special interest in TPP is IP rights protection, with serious emphasis on enforcement.
The agreement requires extension of the copyright period to 70 years and calls for penal actions as part of enforcement efforts, setting some of the toughest norms for IP protection, according to the ministry.
The standards in the TPP are stricter than regulations under the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and the consequence of non-compliance can be severe.
“The Government is moving closer toward regional and global practices for IP protection in its effort to offer a sound business environment and attract investment from businesses in the TPP regions,” said Tran Van Minh, deputy chief inspector of the ministry.
To keep its end of the bargain in international requirements and commitments, the Government has increasingly put in place a legal system that is strong enough to safeguard IP rights.
“Importantly, by joining the TPP, the largest global free trade deal, the Government is moving closer toward regional and global practices for IP protection,” Minh said.
He said there would be more inspections and audits to put the heat on anyone engaging in ownership and related rights infringement, including those related to computer software.
In case of large-scale offences, penal actions will be considered, especially for infringements related to software.
Among the efforts, an interagency inspection team from the ministry’s inspectorate and the Hi-Tech Crime Bureau recently launched a series of raids across the country, targeting companies suspected of using unlicensed software.
Six businesses from Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam based in HCM City and Ben Tre and Binh Duong provinces were found using illegal software worth about VND6.5 billion (US$298,000), as estimated by the rightful owners.
The six companies in violation were the Oriental Fastech Manufacturing Company Ltd., Di Hưng International Company Ltd. and Duong Ban Design Company Ltd. in Binh Duong; Ty Hung Company Ltd. and AAA Pharmacy Company Ltd. in HCM City; and Alliance One Garment Company Ltd. in Ben Tre.
At the six companies, the interagency team went through 247 computers and found that more than 500 software programmes of Lac Viet and Microsoft, as well as Adobe and Autodesk graphic design software being used without legitimate licenses.
Tarun Sawney, senior director for Asia Pacific of BSA The Software Alliance, said: “We highly welcome the Vietnamese Government’s IP rights enforcement for its efficacy and aggressiveness, through the on-going joint programme of action for IP rights infringement control representing nine different ministries. We believe that with strong efforts and smart strategies, Vietnam is committed to upholding its international commitments towards IP rights protection.”
As reported by the ministry’s inspectorate, between 2006 and 2015, interagency inspection teams spot-checked 541 businesses across the country, with 27,602 computers scanned and numerous software copying found.
Of the 541 firms, 41 were found in compliance with intellectual property laws.
Ministry inspectors issued citations and issued 499 civil offence rulings, collected VND8.6 billion (US$392,000) in fines and transferred one case to investigating agencies for further action.