US firms cannot trademark Vietnamese ST25 rice

By Bich Ngoc   April 24, 2021 | 01:57 am PT
US firms cannot trademark Vietnamese ST25 rice
A person reaches for a bag of ST25 rice in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.
U.S. companies cannot trademark the world’s best rice ST25 since it is a generic variety and not a brand, according to a Vietnamese intellectual property official.

Nguyen Van Bay, deputy head of the National Office of Intellectual Property of Vietnam, said Friday that no one, including the developers of the famous ST25 rice from Vietnam, could register a trademark for this rice since it is a generic plant variety.

Ho Quang Cua, the farmer-scientist who cross-bred ST25 with his colleagues, had received intellectual property certificates for the ST25 rice paddy variety in Vietnam, but not for the products of the paddy that include ST25 grains, Bay said.

This means Cua and his colleagues can prevent the breeding and manufacturing of the ST25 paddy, but has no rights over the grains produced from ST25 paddy, he added.

Any company can introduce the ST25 rice to the market under its own brand, but cannot trademark ST25, he stressed.

This is also the response of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to Transworld Foods, Inc, one of five companies that have registered to trademark ST25 in the U.S. after the rice won the World’s Best Rice Contest in 2019.

"Varietal or cultivar names are designations used to identify cultivated varieties or subspecies of live plants or agricultural seeds. They are generic and cannot be registered as trademarks because they are the common descriptive names of plants or seeds by which such varieties are known to the U.S. consumer," USPTO confirmed.

ST25 rice is the result of 25 years of work by Cua and his colleagues who cross-bred the premium fragrant rice of Soc Trang described as having a sweet taste and a hint of pineapple flavor.

In 2019, ST25 rice was named the winner of the World's Best Rice Contest in the Philippines, marking the first time a Vietnamese rice variety had won the title in the contest’s 11-year history.

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