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Cablegate: Vietnam: Ambassador Hosts Ipr Roundtable with U.S.

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





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary. Borrowing a good idea from colleagues in
Beijing, on April 28, the Ambassador hosted Mission
Vietnam's first-ever Roundtable on Intellectual Property
Rights (IPR) Issues in Vietnam. In both formal
presentations and during open discussion, U.S. companies and
industry representatives provided insights on their specific
experiences, both successes and problems, with IPR
protection, enforcement and market access in Vietnam.
Participants highlighted the need for: improved market
access and distribution rights, changes to key aspects of
Vietnam's draft IPR Law, a single authoritative point of
contact for IPR enforcement, deterrent-level criminal and
civil penalties, more public awareness and education on IPR,
and promulgation of optical disk regulations in Vietnam.
The Ambassador encouraged participants to keep the U.S.
Mission informed about their activities, problems and the
message they are conveying to the GVN on IPR issues. The
Ambassador advised the representative of the newly
established Vietnam Anti-Counterfeiting and Intellectual
Property Protection Association (VACIP) to report regularly
to senior level GVN officials on the business sector's
perspective on IP in Vietnam. At the conclusion of the
Roundtable, the Ambassador hosted a lunch for Roundtable
participants, Vietnamese private sector representatives and
GVN officials, focused on the theme of public/private
partnerships in IP enforcement. End Summary.

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2. (SBU) On April 28, The Ambassador hosted a Roundtable on
Intellectual Property Rights Issues, with the participation
of nineteen companies and industry associations active in
Vietnam. Representatives of Proctor and Gamble, Nike, Time
Warner and Baker and McKenzie presented on their companies'
experiences, successes and problems with IPR enforcement and
market access in Vietnam. Representatives of the USAID-
funded Support for Trade AcceleRation (STAR) Project and the
U.S. Vietnam Trade Council (USVTC) summarized U.S.
Government-supported IPR-related technical assistance in
Vietnam. Robert Stoll, Director of Enforcement at the U.S.
Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Econoffs from Hanoi and
HCMC, Commercial Officer, and the USAID Country Manager also
participated in the event.

Lengthy Process Inhibits Enforcement

3. (SBU) Companies cited the "time-consuming" nature of the
enforcement process as a serious impediment to effective
enforcement in Vietnam. Nike and Proctor and Gamble (P&G),
which have worked with provincial enforcement agencies on
multiple counterfeiting cases, both highlighted that it
takes months to obtain decisions in enforcement cases.
Nike's representative explained that there are too many
steps and too many actors involved in reaching a decision.
After receiving a complaint, enforcement agencies have to
check facts, report to superiors, and obtain approval both
internally and from the National Office of Intellectual
Property (NOIP) before they can take action. In several of
P&G's trademark infringement cases, the company waited from
three to six months for enforcement agencies to issue
penalty decisions and destroy counterfeit products. This
delay in resolution gives counterfeiters time to destroy
and/or sell the infringed products, change locations and
restart their business.

4. (SBU) Companies cited numerous additional problems
contributing to the slow resolution of intellectual property
cases, including: overlapping responsibilities of
enforcement agencies, lack of cooperation among enforcers,
inconsistent enforcement actions, and lack of provisions to
implement existing laws. Both Nike and P&G emphasized the
need for the GVN to establish a single, authoritative point
of contact for enforcement cases and to make the enforcement
process more transparent. These steps would help shorten
the time it takes to enforce companies' IPR.

Penalties Too Low to Deter Infringement

5. (SBU) Participating companies voiced strong concerns
about the lack of penalties significant enough to deter IPR
infringement. Civil and administrative penalties are very
low. According to Nike, the maximum statutory penalty for
trademark infringement is only VND 100 million (about USD
6,329), and authorities rarely assess infringers the maximum
amount. Counterfeiters pay the fine and continue to produce
knock-offs. An attorney with Baker and McKenzie noted the
draft of Vietnam's new IPR law includes a provision for
penalties up to VND 200 million (USD 12,658), but added this
would still be too low. DVD shops, for example, have the
potential to earn USD 10,000 a month, making a USD 12,000 to
USD 13,000 penalty a "drop in the bucket." Additionally, he
noted that the GVN has only applied criminal penalties in
industrial property cases involving the production of
"dangerous products" and has never applied criminal
penalties in any copyright piracy cases. He suggested that
the GVN should include provisions for landlord liability in
the IPR law. Many shops selling counterfeit or pirated
goods are rented; holding real estate owners liable for
tenants' actions could reduce the number of shops rented to
illegitimate businesses.

Market Access Issues Impede Expansion

6. (SBU) Companies in the entertainment industry emphasized
that improvements in market access are as important as anti-
piracy efforts to facilitate their entry into Vietnam's
market. Movies, music and other entertainment products are
labeled "cultural products" by the GVN and are therefore
subject to regulation and censorship. Film distributors are
required to notify the GVN of the products they want to
market in Vietnam a year in advance. These products then
undergo a lengthy review before being allowed into the
Vietnamese market; some products are banned altogether.
Time Warner's representative emphasized that this review
process is seemingly arbitrary and lacks transparency and a
clear timeline for decisions. There is also a complete lack
of legitimate distribution channels in Vietnam, which
severely limits market penetration of legitimate products.
(Note: Representatives of consumer product and
pharmaceutical companies also cited limitations on
distribution and retail sales as problematic for their
industries in Vietnam. End Note.)

7. (SBU) While the GVN's market access limitations and
censorship keep out legitimate products, pirates are able to
supply unmet local market demand with pirated goods. The
combination of market access barriers and the very high rate
of optical disk piracy have left the entertainment industry
pessimistic about short-term prospects for doing business in
Vietnam. (Note: Representatives of both the movie and the
recording industries estimated 100 percent piracy for
American products in Vietnam. End Note.) To facilitate
entry, companies advocated loosening restrictions on
investment in production and distribution of cultural
products, reducing tariffs, eliminating quantitative
restrictions on imports, and making censorship, licensing
and registration processes for cultural products more
transparent. They also cited the promulgation of optical
disk regulations as a top priority to address weak copyright
enforcement. Optical disk regulations help identify
legitimate factories and products through the use of source
identification (SID) codes. These codes make it easier to
pursue both criminal and criminal action against pirates.

Public outreach

8. (SBU) Several companies highlighted the need for more
public awareness on IPR issues in Vietnam. Pepsi's
representative cited the need to create public consensus for
IP protection in Vietnam, noting that he believes the
general public does not view counterfeiting and piracy as
criminal acts. Pepsi suggested it would be useful to
persuade the GVN to include IP issues in school curriculum.
Robert Stoll, Director of the Office of Enforcement at USPTO
noted that companies can wage effective public awareness
campaigns, including recognition of officials who act
effectively to enforce IPR. Microsoft's representative
added that a key part of the message the U.S. Government and
companies need to send out is that IPR protection also
benefits the companies and people of Vietnam.

Industry input on IP Law

9. (SBU) Baker and McKenzie briefed participants on the
recent establishment of the Vietnam Anti-Counterfeiting and
Intellectual Property Protection Association (VACIP) for
foreign-invested enterprises in Vietnam. Modeled on the
Quality Goods Brand Protection Committee (QBPC) in China,
VACIP will serve as a collective voice for industry on IP
issues and work with the GVN to improve IPR enforcement.
VACIP plans to send the GVN a position paper with
recommendations for changes to the draft law on IPR and is
likely to highlight the need for: more effective criminal,
civil and administrative penalties; provisions for Internet
service providers (ISPs) and corporate liability for
copyright piracy; a shortening of cancellation and
opposition procedures for trademarks; improved handling of
well-known marks; stricter border measures; and regulations
for assessing damages in trademark cases involving unfair
competition. The GVN plans to promulgate the new IPR law
later this year.

Next Steps

10. (U) At the conclusion of the Roundtable, the Ambassador
emphasized that the Mission will continue to act as a strong
advocate for companies' market access and IP concerns. He
committed to sending a letter to Deputy Prime Minister Vu
Khoan highlighting key points raised during the Roundtable
and requesting that the DPM open a dialogue on IP issues.
He encouraged companies to support VACIP and suggested VACIP
report regularly on the business sectors' IP priorities to
the most senior officials in the GVN.

Lunch with GVN Public and Private Sector

11. (U) Following the Roundtable, the Ambassador hosted a
lunch for participants, Vietnamese private sector
representatives, and GVN officials active on IPR issues.
Robert Stoll from the USPTO and Timothy Trainer, President
of the Washington-based Global Intellectual Property
Strategy Center, spoke about the benefits of public/private
partnerships in IPR enforcement.


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