Vietnam is not alone in rejecting to commit more resources to the enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR), according to a secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiation paper released by WikiLeaks on 13 November 2014.

Many commentators had speculated that Vietnam might have to commit to a stronger IPR enforcement regime under the TPP. However, all parties in the negotiations, except the United States and Japan, propose that they shall not be obliged to distribute more resources to IPR enforcement.

With regard to criminal procedures against trademark and copyrights related counterfeiting and piracy, only Vietnam and Japan oppose that “its competent authorities may initiate legal action upon their own initiative without the need for a formal complaint by a private party or right holder”. This opposition to self-initiated investigations may be an attempt to leave discretion to the authorities to refuse to investigate without a formal complaint. On Japan’s side, there could be concerns related to criminal procedure and constitutional due process rights. (Since its promulgation after World War II, Japan’s constitution has never been amended.)

Not formally committing to strengthen its IPR enforcement does not necessarily mean that Vietnam may not assign more resources in the future. If Vietnam signs the TPP, it may become more susceptible to pressure from other TPP signatory countries or even private investors, for example, through investor-state dispute settlement procedures.