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Fines fail to stem tide of imitation goods   2009-06-23 - Viet Nam News

Weak penalties for distributing imitation goods and overlapping authority by various agencies assigned to control the market have made enforcement of intellectual property and consumer protection laws difficult, according to the deputy head of the Ha Noi’s market watch department, Nguyen Hong Bao.

Recently, an anti-counterfeit police team in the city, in collaboration with market watch forces, discovered businesses producing tissues in Ha Noi and neighbouring provinces bearing false trademarks.

The economic police department (PC15) discovered the Ngoc Lan Co in Ninh Hiep commune in Ha Noi’s Gia Lam district in possession of over 13,000 boxes of tissues bearing the brand name My Lan. The My Lan Co has rights to the registered trademark, which My Lan deputy director Tran Dinh Thi says took years to establish in the marketplace.

Many enterprises were now taking advantage of the established trademark to produce faked products, Thi said, but the low quality of these imitations was not only hurting customers but destroying his company’s image.

The company, in co-ordination with relevant offices, discovered four businesses in Ha Noi and neighbouring Bac Ninh province producing imitation My Lan tissues using poor-quality materials, Thi said. Violators received fines of VND5.7-6.5 million (just US$325-370), according to the Ministry of Science and Technology’s investigative department.

Municipal police last month also caught Do Thi Bich Thuy, 38, of Gia Lam district’s Duong Ha commune, in possession of 39 packages of monosodium glutamate (MSG) packaged under the Ajinomoto brand name.

Fake soap

Searching Thuy’s house, police also discovered materials for producing imitation laundry detergent bearing the OMO trademark.

Thuy confessed to selling over 100 kg of imitation OMO detergent to markets since April, after buying a cheaper brand of washing power, packaging it in OMO packages, then selling it at city markets.

Last week, the PC15 also uncovered a similar operation in Phuc Tho district’s Van Nam commune. A man named Phung Manh Cuong was caught transporting 55 packages of imitation Ajinomoto MSG and 33 packages of imitation OMO to the market. Searching Cuong’s premises, police found 92 more packages of imitation Ajinomoto MSG and nearly 60 packages of imitation OMO detergent.

Ha The Hung, head of an anti-counterfeit team, said the statutory penalties for these counterfeiters were not strict enough to deter violations.

"They may be consistent with the Law on Intellectual Property, but the punishments are not strict enough to deter violators," said one Ministry of Science investigator. "Meanwhile, these imitation products are cheating consumers. From a criminal standpoint, they should be punished severely."

Bao said that law enforcement agencies had been impeded by regulations that set fines too low to deter counterfeiters. He urged businesses and consumers to be vigilant and take action to protect their own rights.

Businesses should register their trademarks and consumers should focus on buying higher-quality products and avoiding cheap imitations, Bao said.

Ho Tat Thang, vice chairman of the Viet Nam Standards and Consumer Association, said drafters of a new consumer protection law were gathering ideas from the public before submitting a draft law to the National Assembly for consideration.

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