Cablegate: Acrobats, Beer Bellies and Floats - Vietnam Honors

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



State pass to USTR EBRYAN
UADOC for 6500 and 4431/MAC/AP/OPB/VLC/HPPHO

E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Although counterfeit and pirated goods are readily available
virtually everywhere in Vietnam, government and business is more
and more realizing the importance and value of brands and
trademarks. On January 30, Ho Chi Minh City organized a "Festival
Honoring Vietnamese Trademarks" which was hosted by the Chairman
of the HCMC People's Committee and broadcast on primetime
television. The Festival was a parade of 34 floats representing
some of the country's most famous trademarks. Several firms were
given awards. "This is the way in which we express our gratitude
to the businesses which have made contributions to the city and
the nation," remarked Chairman Le Thanh Hai in his opening speech.

2. Thousands of people - some ringers for the companies
participating - lined the parade route and clapped and cheered.
Floats represented companies such as Trung Nguyen Coffee, whose
minivan fit inside an enormous sculpted elephant led by a team of
ethnic minority acrobats. Agifish, a large seafood company, was
represented by a giant basa fish. Saigon Beer impressed everyone
with truth in advertising -- their float was preceded by a smiling
man with an artificially-padded beer belly. It was not just
bellies that were big - Viet Tien garments had a group of marching
giant shirts, complete with giant Viet Tien labels. Bitis, a
local shoe company, had, of course, a giant shoe. The audience
was also treated to a giant wrench, an enormous pencil, and a
vehicle-sized t-pot (from Minh Long I). The most unusual float,
however, was a huge pair of toenail clippers from Nghia Nippers.
Private and state-owned companies participated, and Kymdan Co.
hedged its bet by erecting a large hammer and sickle atop its
float that was largely dedicated to foam - its primary product.
After giant toenail clippers, the traditional dragon dances,
marching fashion models, and ethnic drummers gave a more
traditional feel to some of the entries.

3. The event could not have been mistaken for the Rose Bowl
Parade, but the crowds had an enormous amount of fun. So,
evidently, did the CEOs of some of the participating companies.
The Chairman of Dapha, a private bottled-water company, personally
directed his company's float along the parade route. Dressed
entirely in black, he paced his employees through their dance
routine and gave the order to launch the balloons at just the
right moment.

4. Crowd control was a bit crude, however. A couple of blocks
beyond the main reviewing stand, police were having difficulty
moving crowds back from the parade route. In an isolated
incident, the police simply got out their electric cattle prods,
which after a few applications, quickly cleared the route.

5. Comment: This parade did not make international headlines,
but it did serve to remind that the HCMC government recognizes the
important role that business plays in the city's development. It
was a beginner's attempt to popularize the concept of trademark
protection (all of the floats featured "Quality crafted with pride
in Vietnam" seals of approval). The ceremony and parade also
illustrated that Vietnamese government, business, and consumers
are becoming more brand conscious and are aware of the value of
protecting brands and trademarks. It is a long way from a
trademark parade to pro-active IPR protection for local and
foreign rights holders, but HCMC has made this first official
"populist" effort to educate its residents.


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