Opportunities from EVFTA commitments on Intellectual property

The EVFTA has a separate Chapter (Chapter 12) on Intellectual Property (IP). Compared with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of the WTO, the EVFTA has a broader scope of regulations and higher standards of protection in some aspects of IP.

Commitments on IP in the EVFTA are divided into 3 main groups, including:

  • Group of general principles: This group includes principles on (i) Conformity with the WTO: the EVFTA reemphasizes obligations on IP of Vietnam and the EU under the TRIPS Agreement, (ii) Most-Favoured-Nation Treatment (MFN): Vietnam and the EU commit to granting to each other's nationals a level of IPR protection not less than that afforded to nationals of any other third country, with the exceptions as provided in Articles 4 and 5 of the TRIPS Agreement, (iii) Exhaustion: Vietnam and the EU shall be free to establish its own regime for the exhaustion of IPR as long as it is consistent with TRIPS Agreement.

Basically, these principles do not make any major changes to Vietnam's obligations other than the MFN principle, according to which if Vietnam has a higher commitment on IP protection for any other partners in any current FTAs (e.g. the CPTPP) or future FTAs, it also has to extend the commitment to EU partners.

  • Group of commitments on protection standards for each specific object of IP rights: This group includes commitments on specific protection standards for each of the 08 categories of IP rights (copyright and related rights, trademarks, geographical indications, industrial designs, patents, integrated circuit, trade secrets and plant varieties). Many of these commitments basically reiterate the respective contents of the TRIPS Agreement. However, the EVFTA also adds a number of new, specific protection standards for each category of IP rights.

  • Group of commitments related to measures to enforce IP rights: Basically, the EVFTA requires for stricter enforcement of IPR, specifically: (i) Giving higher authority to enforcement agencies (especially customs and other competent authorities at the border) and to proprietors, (ii) Raising the level of liability and sanctions for those who infringe IPR.

Some of these commitments have a higher standard than Vietnam's current IP regulations, and therefore relevant legal provisions will have to be revised accordingly, thereby affecting related activities of enterprises (both from the perspective of right holders and users of intellectual products).

From the perspective of import and export of goods between Vietnam and Germany, groups of commitments on geographical indications, trademarks, copyright and related rights and measures to enforce IPR protection at the border are assessed to have the biggest impacts that businesses need to pay attention to.

EVFTA full text for more information: https://wtocenter.vn/chuyen-de/12778-eu-vietnam-trade-and-investment-agreements 

Source: "Business Handbook: Exploiting the EVFTA  to import and export goods between Vietnam and Germany" - Center for WTO and International Trade