On February 12, 2020, the European Parliament ratified the European Union-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA). The EVFTA will come into force after the National Assembly of Vietnam ratifies it in May 2020.
As Vietnam is the EU’s second most important trading partner among all ASEAN nations, the EVFTA is a welcome development for both parties. This comprehensive and ambitious Agreement aims to modernize and simplify customs procedures, regulations and formalities required for trade. The EVFTA’s Intellectual Property (“IP”) provisions will bring significant positive changes to Vietnam IP law and create new economic opportunities in the country.
The content of the EVFTA
The following are important IP modifications created by the EVFTA:
- Copyrights: Vietnam will adopt the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Internet Treaties, which set norms preventing unauthorized access to and use of creative works on the Internet and other digital networks;
- Trademarks: The Agreement establishes a public electronic database related to trademark registration records and allows the revocation of registered trademarks which have been unused for at least five years;
- Geographical Indications: Vietnam has committed to protect over 169 European geographical indications, and the EU has also committed to protect 39 geographical indications of Vietnam. Specific solutions were found to enable listed geographical indications, such as Champagne, Feta, or Gorgonzola, to coexist with prior registered trademarks in Vietnam. This will protect listed GIs;
- Industrial Designs: Vietnam will accede to the Hague Agreement on the international registration of industrial designs within two years from when the EVFTA takes effect and will protect industrial designs for at least fifteen years;
- Patents: Vietnam will compensate patent owners for unreasonable delays in granting of marketing authorizations for pharmaceutical products by extending patent protection up to two years; and
- Enforcement: The EVFTA will improve IP enforcement by, for example, requiring customs to use risk analysis techniques to actively target and identify shipments containing imported/exported goods suspected of infringing IP rights, and to provide such information to rights holders.
The impact of the EVFTA on Vietnam economy
Vietnam’s Gross Domestic Product is expected to increase by 4.6 percent and its exports to the EU by 42.7 per cent by 2025. And, the European Commission has forecast the EU’s exports to Vietnam to increase by 29 per cent by 2035. A strong IP rights protection and enforcement regime will, without doubt, contribute to this growth.
The EVFTA establishes an environment that will allow businesses in Vietnam to protect their brands more effectively and to develop innovative ideas and high-quality products. Also, foreign investors will have greater trust in the protection of their intellectual assets in Vietnam, which will encourage them to develop operations in the country and will attract high quality investment with advanced technology from the EU in fields like agriculture, renewable energy, pharmaceuticals and machinery.
The EVFTA also creates opportunities for Vietnamese businesses to access the EU markets. For example, the protection of geographical indications will assist Vietnamese products to increase their presence and sales in the European markets.
The EVFTA is a welcome development for Vietnam. It will assist greater commercial trust between Vietnam and the EU and have a profound positive impact on economic relations between Vietnam and the EU. Also, it will make Vietnam an ASEAN-leading country in terms of IP rights creation, IP protection and IP commercial advancement. The positive contributions the EVFTA makes to IP creation, IP protection and IP commercial advancement will – in turn – assist Vietnam economic development and the well-being of the Vietnamese people.