The EVFTA and EVIPA are the results of the growing bilateral relationship between Vietnam and the EU. It is the most modest demonstration of the harmonizing relationship which aims to promote many aspects between Vietnam and the EU, especially in the field of economy and trade. Furthermore, one of the most important benefits that Vietnam will gain through this collaboration with the EU is the growing standards on IP through the EVFTA’s commitments on intellectual property.
The EU is currently one of Vietnam’s leading trade partners with two-way turnover in 2019 reaching 56.45 billion USD, of which exports reached 41.5 billion USD, imports from the EU reached 14.9 billion USD.
However, we can’t neglect the fact that the difference between Vietnam and the EU are significant, in many factors. Consequently, in the past, the cooperation between Vietnam and the EU has encountered some major roadblocks, mainly due to the difference in standards between the 2 sides.
To solve that problem, the EVFTA and later, the EVFTA and the EVIPA have been created.
The EVFTA is a comprehensive, high-quality agreement that ensures a balance of benefits for both Vietnam and the EU, which also takes into account the difference in development levels between the two parties.
Since August 1, 2020, due to the completion of ratification procedures, the EVFTA has officially come into practice and has been a huge boost to Vietnam’s exports, helps market diversification and export products, especially agricultural and fishery products as well as Vietnamese products that have many competitive advantages.
On the other hand, the commitments to give fair, equal treatment, safe and full protection to each other’s investments and investors in the EVIPA Agreement will also contribute positively to building a legal and transparent investment environment, from which Vietnam will attract more investors from the EU and other countries.
Nonetheless, at the moment, the EVIPA Agreement will still have to be ratified by the Parliaments of all 27 EU member states (after the UK completes Brexit) to take effect.
Strategically, the negotiation and implementation of these Agreements also send a positive message about Vietnam’s determination to promote deep integration into the world economy in the context of the world’s economy is complicated due to the raging Covid-19 pandemic.
Some main contents of the EVFTA Agreement on intellectual property
EVFTA is a comprehensive, high-quality agreement that balances benefits for both Vietnam and the EU, and is in line with the regulations of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The Agreement consists of 17 Chapters, 2 Protocols, and several memorandums of understanding with the main contents which include Trade Remedies (including general provisions and commitments to open markets), Customs and Trade Facilitation, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS), Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), etc.
One of the most important aspects that are included in the Agreement is Chapter 12: Intellectual Property.
In principle, the main goal of this chapter is to facilitate the creation, production, and commercialization of innovative and creative products between the Parties, contributing to a more sustainable and inclusive economy in each Party. It also aims to achieve an adequate and effective level of protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights.
Commitments on the intellectual property include commitments on copyrights, inventions, patents, commitments related to pharmaceuticals and geographical indications, etc. Principally, Vietnam’s commitments on intellectual property are in line with current laws. Some key features of intellectual property commitments are as follows:
- Regarding geographical indications, Vietnam will protect over 160 geographical indications of the EU (including 28 members) and the EU will protect 39 geographical indications of Vietnam. The geographical indications of Vietnam are related to agricultural products, food, creating conditions for some types of Vietnamese agricultural products to build and affirm their brands in the EU market.
- Regarding trademarks: The EU and Vietnam commit to applying a convenient and transparent registration procedure, including having an electronic database on published trademarks and registered trademarks for the public to approach, and allow termination of registered trademarks but are not used within 5 years.
- On enforcement: The Agreement provides for border control measures for exports suspected of infringing intellectual property rights.
- Commitment on most-favored-nation treatment (MFN): The commitment on the most-favored-nation principle in this Agreement ensures that EU organizations and individuals enjoy the benefits of high standards of protection not only with intellectual property rights subjects under the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) but also with other subjects of intellectual property rights in trade agreements free trade that Vietnam participates in (such as the CPTPP Agreement).
The importance of the EVFTA Agreement in the protection and enforcement of IP rights in Vietnam
The EVFTA has raised the level of trade commitments between Vietnam and the European Union, including commitments on intellectual property and technical barriers. This brings new opportunities along with some major challenges for businesses in Vietnam.
In this agreement, the EU’s commitment to Vietnam is higher than the EU’s commitment in the WTO. To clarify, in recent EU’s Free Trade Agreement across the globe, the EVFTA is set to be on one of the highest levels. On the other hand, from the Vietnam side, Vietnam’s commitments to the EU are also higher than Vietnam’s commitments in the WTO, i.e., at least equal to the maximum openness that Vietnam has agreed with other FTA partners.
As for intellectual property, the specific commitments on the level of protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in the EVFTA Agreement together with the commitment on the most-favored-nation principle to ensure that businesses of both sides enjoy the highest level of protection each party offers to third parties as mentioned above is said to have set a new standard in the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights.
The commitments on intellectual property between the 2 sides have met the needs and expectations of rights holders for protection. However, at the same time, the Agreement is also flexible enough regarding the time to comply with the provisions and other aspects to enable a developing country like Vietnam which is comparatively weaker in terms of economy and enforcement to the EU, time to adjust.
Since its official effective date, although there are undeniable difficulties encountered during the first year, in general, the EVFTA Agreement has created a favorable environment for the cooperation between businesses of the two sides.
Specifically, regarding the intellectual property aspect, the Agreement has strengthened previously established rights to geographical indications for Vietnamese agricultural products such as Phu Quoc fish sauce and Buon Ma Thuot coffee, etc. which have been present on the EU market for a long time before the Agreement.
Nowadays, with the EVFTA officially come into force, other specialties of Vietnam can enter this dominant market and greatly benefit Vietnam’s businesses and most importantly, increase Vietnam’s image on the world stage. These products include Moc Chau tea, Tan Cuong, or Thanh Ha, and Luc Ngan lychees, etc. because they are known through the Agreement.
However, along with the benefits that come from commitments on intellectual property are certain challenges for Vietnamese businesses related to the fight against intellectual property rights infringement.
Without specific instructions, Vietnamese businesses may encounter obstacles in the implementation process and thereby lead to the whole country of Vietnam may not meet the requirements of the Agreement.
In summary, however, these difficulties are only a small stepping stone towards taking a big step forward on the journey to making Vietnam greater. With the cooperation of the state and enterprises, these difficulties will be gradually eliminated and Vietnam will gradually reach the average standard of developed countries in the world and thereby, enrich the Vietnamese economy, and help businesses grow.