Vietnam protests attempts to trademark local rice varieties in Australia

By Anh Minh   May 3, 2021 | 01:32 am PT
Vietnam protests attempts to trademark local rice varieties in Australia
A person reaches for a bag of ST25 rice at a store District 10, Ho Chi Minh City, on April 23, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.
Vietnam has sent a complaint to intellectual property officials in Australia, saying exports of local ST25 and ST24 rice varieties were negatively impacted by a trademark dispute.

Nguyen Phu Hoa, head of Vietnam Trade Office in Australia, said the agency has sent documents and photos to clarify that the rice varieties named ST24, ST25 are developed in Vietnam by Ho Quang Cua.

According to IP Australia, a company called T&L Global Foods Supply Pty Ltd. submitted an application on April 22 to register "Rice; and "Best Rice of the World" trademarks for the two varieties.

It is the sixth company internationally –the other five being in the U.S.– that is trying to appropriate the ST25 trademark.

Both the ST24 and ST25 rice varieties were developed in Vietnam by farmer-scientist Ho Quang Cua, with the latter going on to win the first prize in the 2019 World’s Best Rice Contest held in the Philippines and the former the second prize in a 2017 contest in Macau.

"We have asked IP authorities in Australia to consider the matter and avoid possible disputes that could affect the export of ST24, ST25 rice varieties from Vietnam to Australia.

"Relevant procedures to prove the rice varieties are Vietnamese need to be accelerated," Hoa said.

Ngan Tran, director of Maygust Trademark Attorneys in the Australian capital Canberra, said it takes three to four months to carry out checks for a patent registration.

If an application meets all the requirements, the IP agency would issue a notice accepting the trademark and disclose the information. After this happens, an objection can be filed within two months, she said.

If there is no objection, the patent would be granted, she added.

The Vietnam Trade Office in Australia has also contacted the T&L company, which has said it would "check the matter with the brand department."

Vietnam is also looking to appoint a law firm in Australia to prepare necessary steps under IP Australia regulations to counter moves to takeover Vietnamese trademarks.

Ngan Tran said the trademark is protected by territory, so it does not mean it would be protected in other markets such as the U.S. and Australia. Therefore, businesses need to actively apply for protection in specific countries.

Of the five applications for ST25 submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), only one by I&T Enterprise Inc. has crossed the first stage so far.

Vietnam exported rice worth $4.7 million to Australia in Q1, a year-on-year increase of 66 percent, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

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