Intellectual Property
Vietnam has been a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (“WIPO”) since 1976. It is a contracting party to a certain number of WIPO-related treaties or conventions, including the Bern, Brussels and Paris Conventions, the Madrid Agreement and the Patent Cooperation Treaty. The legal and regulatory framework for intellectual property rights (“IPR”) was overhauled and greatly improved in preparation for WTO accession. Most importantly, it adopted the first Law on Intellectual Property in 2005 (as first revised in 2009) (the “IP Law”). The IP Law is comprehensive in coverage and raises the legal IP framework to modern standards. The adoption of the IP Law was necessary in order to make Vietnam compliant with the WTO’s TRIPS agreement, to which Vietnam is a party. It was also needed for Vietnam to fulfill its commitments under the bilateral trade agreement with the US.

Over more than 14 years of implementation, the IP Law has revealed certain deficiencies for the effective management and enforcement of IPR. In addition, Vietnam has negotiated and signed numerous FTAs with their own specific IP commitments. Therefore, the IP Law was revised in 2019 and is now undergoing further revisions to remedy existing shortcomings and to ensure consistency with other laws.

The IP Law provides international standards of protection, as well as the traditional limitations on IPR:

Copyright and Copyright Related Rights protect literary, artistic and scientific works, including music, motion pictures, photography, books, stage works, computer programs, lectures or textbooks, fine art works and applied for art works. Moral rights, except for the rights to publish works, are protected for an indefinite term, while economic rights and the publication rights for motion pictures, photography, applied for art works and anonymous works are protected for seventy-five (75) years from the first publication, or for the whole life of the author plus fifty (50) years after author’s death for other works. Copyrights and related rights may be assigned or licensed freely, and conduct constituting infringements are clearly defined by law.

Industrial Property Rights cover inventions, industrial designs, layout designs of integrated circuits, marks, trade names, geographical indications, trade secrets, and the right to prevent unfair competition. They are established on the basis of competitive activities in business, wherein:

  • Industrial Property Rights to an invention, industrial design, layout design or mark are established on the basis of a decision of the National Office of Intellectual Property (“NOIP”) to grant a protection title under the registration procedures prescribed in the IP Law, or of recognition of international registration under the Madrid System;
  • Industrial Property Rights to a well-known mark are established on the basis of its use without reliance on the registration procedures;
  • Industrial Property Rights to a geographical indication are established on the basis of a decision of the NOIP to grant a protection title under the registration procedures prescribed in the IP Law, or under the international treaty of which Vietnam is a member;
  • Industrial Property Rights to a trade name are established on the basis of its legal use;
  • Industrial Property Rights to trade secrets are established on the basis of lawful acquirement of the trade secret and maintenance of the confidentiality thereof; and
  • The right to prevent unfair competition is established on the basis of competitive activities in business.

For Industrial Property Rights established under the prescribed registration procedures or international recognition, Vietnam applies the “first to file” principle, but priority can be invoked in a certain number of cases. Invention patents are granted for twenty (20) years, utility solution patents for ten (10) years, industrial design patents for five (5) years (renewable twice), and registered designs for semi-conducting integrated circuits are valid for ten (10) to fifteen (15) years. Registered trademarks are valid for ten (10) years and renewable indefinitely for further 10-year periods. Industrial Property Rights may be assigned or licensed freely. An Industrial Property Rights assignment agreement must be registered with the NOIP for validity and an Industrial Property Rights license agreement, except for trademark license agreements, will be valid as agreed upon by the contracting parties but shall only apply to third parties if registered with the NOIP. The validity of an Industrial Property Rights license agreement will be automatically terminated upon the termination of the licensor's Industrial Property Rights.

Plant Varieties may also be registered for protection on the condition that they are new, distinct, uniform, stable and designated by proper denominations. Vietnam became a member of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants at the end of 2006.

The IP Law provides a number of tools for enforcement:

Administrative measures can be applied in four main situations, including acts that cause loss or damage to authors, IPR holders, or consumers, and acts of production, import, transport or trading in counterfeit goods. Administrative measures are the most practical for IPR holders, but they do not provide significant compensation. Sanctions can include a warning, fines with the maximum level of VND250 million (about USD10,650) imposed on individual infringers or VND500 million (about USD21,600) imposed on organizational infringers, confiscation and destruction of counterfeit goods or suspension of business activity. They can be imposed by inspectorates, market surveillance agencies, customs offices, police offices and People’s Committees. Police offices handle cases of counterfeit goods which have signs constituting a crime in accordance with the current Penal Code. In certain cases, IPR holders have the right to request the competent authority to apply for interim injunctions in association with administrative measures comprising, inter alia, orders on temporary detention of suspected individuals; orders on temporary detention of the infringing goods or material evidence in association with the infringement; searches of suspected individuals; or searches of the premises where infringing goods or material evidence in association with the infringement are concealed.

Civil remedies include compulsory termination of the infringing acts, compensation for damages, compulsory destruction of goods and public apology and rectification. Damages or losses are defined as both material and moral. The People’s Court at the district level or, for cases relating to foreign elements, the People’s Court at the provincial level, has the competence to settle claims submitted. Compensation for damage is determined on the basis of actual losses suffered by the IPR holder due to acts of IPR infringement, and in cases where it is impossible to determine the rate of compensation in accordance with prescribed formulas, the rate is fixed by the court depending on the loss level but not exceeding VND500 million (about USD21,600). If the IPR holder succeeds in proving that the IPR infringement has caused the spiritual injury, they have the right to request compensation ranging from VND5 million to VND50 million (about USD215 to USD2,150) depending on the seriousness of the spiritual injury. On or after initiation of a civil lawsuit, an IPR holder has the right to request the competent court to apply prescribed injunctive relief including injunction on seizures; injunction on attachments; injunction on sealing; injunction on prohibitions from changing status or removal; and injunction on prohibitions from transferring ownership. Such IPR holder must make a monetary deposit of an amount equal to 20% of the value of the suspected goods, or at least VND20 million (about USD850), as a guarantee for compensation for damages in cases where no IPR infringement is determined.

Criminal procedures are regulated under the Criminal Procedure Code. They are applicable to cases involving infringing industrial property rights (with the subjects being trademarks or geographical indications counterfeit goods in significant quantities or values), and infringing copyrights and copyright-related rights. The People’s Court (the functional criminal court) at the district level or, for cases relating to foreign elements, the People’s Court at the provincial level has the competence to settle claims. Criminal penalties: fines up to VND500 million (about USD21,600) and/or non-custodial reform for up to three (3) years. In cases of numerous occurrences of the crime or if there is evidence the crime is well organized, the fine increases up to VND1 billion (about USD42,600), or six (6) months to three (3) years imprisonment. Additional penalties include fines up to VND200 million (about USD8,500), and a prohibition from holding certain positions, practicing certain occupations or doing certain jobs for one (1) to five (5) years.

Border Control Measures of IP-related imports and exports are regulated under the Law on Customs. The following measures may be applied at the IPR holder’s request for the purpose of collecting evidence of infringement or for enforcement of IPR under administrative, civil and criminal processes: suspension of customs clearance procedures for suspected goods and the search and monitoring for the detection of goods in infringement of IPR. The time limit for application of customs inspection and supervision measures for goods requiring protection of IPR is two (2) years from the acceptance date of the request by the customs office. To apply border control measures, the IPR holder must make a deposit equal to 20% of the value of the suspected goods, or at least VND20 million (about USD850). Alternatively, IPR holders can submit a deed of guarantee issued by a bank or other authorized credit institution.

Related Chapters

Introduction to Vietnam

Culture and religion in Vietnam

Economy of Vietnam

The Government


Legal System

Regulatory Framework

Banking & Finance

Capital Markets

Land & Housing

Labour Law


Selected Sector Regulations

Dispute Resolution

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