Lesson learned from the ST25 dispute – Enterprises need to raise their awareness on the development as well as the protection of a brand

Lesson learned from losing trademark ST25 in foreign countries – Vietnamese Enterprises need to raise their awareness on the development as well as the protection of a brand internally

The dispute surrounding the ST25 rice brand – a specialty of Soc Trang province, Vietnam has continued to raise awareness over the weaknesses in the competitiveness of the majority of Vietnamese enterprises nowadays. The dispute happened because the enterprise responsible for producing the rice doesn’t pay attention to the protection of their brand. They didn’t understand that the development of one brand must be conducted in parallel with the protection of the brand. Enterprises need to invest in order to protect their intellectual property rights, their achievements, efforts, and creativity.

According to a recent survey by the Association of High-Quality Vietnamese Goods Enterprises, only 4.2% of businesses believe that brands are a weapon in competition; 5.4% of businesses believe that the brand is an asset of the business and 30% of businesses believe that the brand will help to increase the sales price of their products and bring pride to consumers.

Meanwhile, most other businesses do not have the right awareness of brand matters; as well as have not yet appreciated the contribution of the brand in the value of the product, so only interested in the registration of trademark protection in the country but did not pay attention to the registration abroad.

It’s crucial to never repeat the mistake of ST25 rice dispute

Here are some cases where businesses have suffered losses like the ST25 rice brand dispute: Buon Ma Thuot coffee brand in Dak Lak province, Ben Tre coconut candy, Phu Quoc fish sauce, etc. 

These are valuable lessons for every business. When it comes to production and business activity, it is imperative to do both the construction and protection of the brand, especially in the context of international economic integration. Because a brand is not only a name but also a manifestation of the success of the product and hidden deep in it is the trust of consumers.

The importance of establishing robust protection for the brand

Dr. Vo Huu Thoai, Director of the Southern Fruit Tree Institute, Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said that the protection of Vietnamese trademarks including agricultural products is not only the problem of each enterprise. It is also the economic story of the whole country, the image of an entire nation. Businesses need to pay more attention and invest more in building and protecting their brands. At the moment, there are still too few Vietnamese brands in foreign countries that with a mention of Vietnam, customers will have that brand “pop-up” in their head and vice versa. 

Meanwhile, in the localities, although there are now many specialty products that can be brought up as representative brands and exported to foreign markets, the protection of trademarks is still limited. The cooperation between departments and enterprises in developing and protecting their trademarks in the domestic market is also very restricted, let alone reaching out to foreign markets. Therefore, It’s critical that we considered a whole reconstruction of the trademark, brand protection methods and we need to change it soon, Mr. Thoai emphasized.

Through the story of ST25 rice, Ms. Le Thi Nguyen Ha, Director of Phuc Ha Juice Co., Ltd (Binh Thuan province) said that only through opening the door to the world can we see our own weaknesses. Hopefully, this will be an expensive lesson so that not only businesses but also localities should take the problem seriously and do something hastily.

“Don’t wait until the point when foreign businesses have registered for trademark protection of all Vietnamese specialties then passively react and looking for a law to sue. Vietnamese people have a saying: “Slow buffalo can only drink cloudy water.” But, sometimes there is not even cloudy water left to drink. This is worth thinking about because Vietnamese people are clever enough to realize this. What should be done, why hasn’t it be done already? How many more businesses have to pay the price?”, Mrs. Ha expressed her thought.

We know that protecting our brand is important, but how do we protect it?

Sharing about the solutions to help businesses protect their brands, Lawyer Nguyen Thanh Ha, Chairman of SBLAW Law Firm, said that in the context of extensive international economic integration with many commitments to promote the market through moral-based activities, businesses need to pay more attention to trademarks and brands. Raising awareness in brand protection not only contributes to creating a robust and fair competitive environment but also helps businesses to find more opportunities to attract foreign investment.

Determining the right customers and registering a trademark can decide the success or failure of the business. However, It is also very important to create a legal corridor before bringing the enterprise’s goods, products, and services to the market, especially foreign markets.

According to Lawyer Nguyen Thanh Ha, nowadays, businesses are much more professional compared to the old days. Therefore, they often follow the trend of hiring brand development consulting firms to help them from the beginning, namely starting at the project design stage. There are many benefits when working with reputable and legally knowledgeable brand development consultants. In addition to coming up with an idea for a suitable name for the project, they will send it to law firms and intellectual property attorneys to check whether the mark has been registered by another unit or not? If yes, they will immediately find another option, if not, they will continue to perfect the design plan, including the logo and slogan. Then the enterprises will proceed to register their intellectual property at the National Office of Intellectual Property. After successfully registered, they will proceed with the announcement of the brand and deploy marketing and PR activities. etc.

What is the Government’s role in this matter?

The Government can’t stay out of the race. State management agencies also need to support businesses, teach them to protect themselves and protect their trademark and brand. Specifically, the Government needs to increase propaganda activities, raising awareness for businesses about the role of trademarks and brands in assisting businesses to improve competitiveness and product value in the market.

Along with that, help them to organize training courses about the importance of IP, aid them with technical support, and even help businesses with the registration of intellectual property protection in the domestic market and some key export markets like the United States, Australia, Singapore, etc. The Government can also organize a meeting/conference to connect businesses with groups of experts and lawyers ready to be “on duty” when there is an international trade dispute to support Vietnamese enterprises with the registration of their intellectual property.

ASL LAW is the top-tier Vietnam law firm for doing business in Vietnam. If you need any advice or intellectual property advice, please contact us for further information or collaboration.


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