Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The effect of MSG in Vietnam

A case in Vietnam illustrates the bureaucractic complexity of trademark disputes under an administrative  IP enforcement system.

AJINOMOTO is a trademark of Ajinomoto, Inc for Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). A trademark dispute commenced in March 2015 when Ajinomoto Vietnam filed a request to the Market Management Bureau (MMB) in the city of Danang for action against AJINO-TAKARA branded MSG made by local company Ha Trung Hau Co., Ltd.
After several months of dispute and after the assessment by Vietnam IP Research Institute (VIPRI) on 28 July 2015 that AJINO-TAKARA is similar to AJI-NO-MOTO, Danang MMB seized AJINO-TAKARA products. The National Office of IP of Vietnam (NOIP), as requested by MMB Danang, then also released a letter on 10 September 2015 indicating that AJINO-TAKARA is similar to AJI-NO-MOTO. Based on this, MMB Danang confirmed the administrative trademark infringement. 
Ha Trung Hau Co., Ltd brought an appeal against the assessment results of VIPRI and NOIP.  The appeal was brought to a meeting of the People’s Committee of Danang. It is possible to bring IP disputes to this, the local government executive. This illustrates the competing bureaucratic overlaps in Vietnam. Not only that, it seems concerns were expressed at the People's Committee about the problem of using similarity assessments issued by the NOIP and VIPRI and whether the dispute should be in the civil courts. However, the MMB then sought instructions from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) of Danang who confirmed the infringing acts of Ha Trung Hau Co., Ltd pursuant to Article 129 of the IP Law. DOST is the Ministerial department that oversees IP. Therefore the People’s Committee of Danang made an administrative decision to fine Ha Trung Hau 500 million dong (US$22,000) for trade mark infringement.
Ha Trung Hau Co., Ltd then filed a lawsuit against this administrative decision claiming the dispute should have been filed in the civil courts. The court has temporarily suspended the administrative decision of the People’s Committee of Danang. The case will continue.