If certain legal entities in the US successfully register the ST25 rice brand, Ho Quang Cua, the real owner of the brand, will lose ownership and it will be very difficult to claim it back.
Ho Quang Cua (middle), the real owner of ST25 brand
According to Vietrade, in 2020, some businesses based in California registered the ST25 rice brand for protection in the US and they are awaiting results.
There are a total of five applications for ST25 rice brand registration and protection, which are under verification.
Vu Ba Phu, director of Vietrade, told reporters on the sidelines of a workshop on branding, that to date, Vietnam’s ST24 and ST25 rice brands ‘have not been lost yet’, but they are in danger of being lost.
Ho Quang Cua, who with his co-workers created ST25, recognized as the world’s best rice variety, said he has also filed for rice brand registration and protection.
If Cua’s dossier is one of the five applications, this means that four other legal entities have also submitted applications.
“If Cua is slow-paced in taking action, or he cannot take proper action, one of the US companies could successfully register the brand. If so, Vietnam’s rice would face big difficulties,” Phu warned.
If this happens, Vietnam’s rice won’t be able to bear ST25 brand when it enters the US market, he said. If Vietnamese exporters still want to export products with the ST25 brand, they will have to pay fees to the US company or to those who registered ST25 brand for protection.
Speaking about the protection of Vietnamese brands in general as the country now has many free trade agreements, Phu recommended that businesses hire lawyers to keep track of the intellectual property and trademark infringement in export markets. This will help them take action in a timely way to protect their brands.
A costly process
Lawyer Tran Duc Son, director of Sipco Law Firm, said this had happened to many Vietnamese farm produce brands.
“Vietnam is famous for farm produce. The loss of brands and geographical indications is commonly seen. Therefore, businesses should apply for brand protection as soon as possible,” he said.
In the case of ST25, according to Son, in Vietnam, the principle ‘first come first served’ is applied but it is a bit different in the US.
In the US, those who use brands first will be given priority. This means that those registered need to prove that they are the people who used the brands, created the brands, or even made products bearing the brand name.
Son said the mechanism to recognize this is very complex if someone has applied for registration before.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development reported the volume of rice exported reached 450,000 tonnes with a value of US$246 million last month.
In August 2020, when the Vietnam - EU Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) took effect, Trung An High-tech Agriculture JSC exported about 150 tons of rice to the European Union.