Vietnam National Assembly has passed the new Intellectual Property Law, which will officially come into effect on 1 July 2006. This is a significant development as previously, legislation on IP was contained in Part VI of the Civil Code, and did not have its own legislation. Much of the former provisions were not TRIPS-WTO compliant and so the structure of the former IP system left much to be desired in effectiveness and efficiency.
The new provisions now substantially meet most of the requirements under the TRIPS Agreement. A quick review of the significant changes are as appended below.
Grace Period and Exceptions to Novelty
The actual wordings of the exceptions in the old provisions were ambiguous. The new provisions clearly state that the following disclosures will not be deemed novelty-destroying, provided that a Vietnam patent application is filed within 6 months from the disclosure:-
- Publication by non-authorised third parties
- Scientific publication Disclosure in international exhibition
The new provisions also provide for confidential disclosure.
Request for Re-Examination to narrow the patent scope
The patent owners may now request the Vietnam Patent Office (NOIP) to re-examine their patents, to narrow the scope of the granted patent claims. Re-examination fees will be borne by the patent owners.
Criterion of Registrable Design
To be registrable under the new IP law, the design must be new, of creative nature and possesses industrial applicability. The additional requirement of a “creature nature” is defined as not being easily created by a person with average knowledge in the art.
Request for Re-Examination to narrow the scope of rights
Similar to patents, this option is made available to owners of registered designs.
The NOIP has drafted the guidelines for implementing and interpreting the new IP law. It is currently seeking comments and feedback from practitioners and IP owners.
On 31 May 2006, Vietnam and the United States have signed an official agreement, which concludes bilateral negotiations on Vietnam’s accession to the WTO. It is believed that the US congress will soon grant Vietnam the permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status. This should clear its way to Vietnam becoming a WTO member by end of 2006.