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Vietnam's ST25 - the world's best rice - at risk of losing its brand name
Ngoc Thuy 09:52, 2021/04/27
Five US firms are in the process of registering the trademark of ST25 rice in overseas markets.

The trademark of “ST25 rice”, a type of Vietnam’s fragrant rice that won the title of best rice in the world in 2019, will likely fall into the hands of American businesspersons in overseas markets as Vietnamese firms have lagged in trademark registration.

The fact that five US firms are in the process of registering the trademark of “ST25 rice” has sent a warning sign to local enterprises to better protecting Vietnamese agricultural brands in overseas markets.

 Vietnam’s fragrant ST25 rice wins the title of best rice in the world in 2019. Photo: Nguoi Lao Dong

 

The incident related to ST25, unfortunately, is not a new one as similar story had happened in the past with trademark  of Phu Quoc fish sauce, Trung Nguyen coffee or Ben Tre coconut candy all fell into the hands of foreigners.

In reality, many brands originated and registered in Vietnam but for many reasons, owners have not applied for trademark registration in foreign markets. However, it all came down to one being local firms’ slow move in registering for trademark protection abroad, as well as their lack of awareness about the fact that their brands could be  appropriated in international markets.

In 2003, Vietnam’s national brand program was launched to support local firms in the process of brand building. Nevertheless, it was only aimed at the promotion of sectors and fields, not for specific brands or products.

Meanwhile, the government under current regulations has no power for intellectual property or trademark protection overseas.

For their parts, local enterprises have not invested properly in protecting their brands, as such, Vietnamese agricultural products in spite of their high quality could not achieve a prominent role in both domestic and international markets.

In this regard, economist Nguyen Tri Hieu told Hanoitimes Vietnam while a major agricultural exporter in the world, many of its products are still behind other countries in terms of brand prestige.

“This shows registration for brands and intellectual property rights continue to be a weakness of Vietnam’s agricultural exporters,” said Hieu.

From the experience of ST25 and other products, Head of the Trade Promotion Agency under the Ministry of Industry and Trade Vu Ba Phu called for local enterprises to have specialized strategy in protecting trademarks for their products, especially at Vietnam’s major markets.

In case of small and medium enterprises, or individual researchers and scientists, “they should seek cooperation from large firms with financial capabilities in the process of products distribution and protecting trademarks in different markets,” he added.

Hieu noted violation of intellectual property rights is a rampant issue in the region, requiring a change of mindset from both local traders and authorities.

“While some understand the importance of having a strategy to protect their brands in line with efforts to penetrate foreign markets, it is a complicated process that requires substantial time and money,” Hieu added.

Along with efforts from enterprises, the government should continue providing legal support for firms in brand building abroad, he noted.

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