Vietnam – simplifying some administrative procedures regarding registration of Intellectual property (IP) agents and IP assessment agents

Reforming administrative procedures and improving the business environment in association with building e-Government and national digital transformation are issues that are always concerned and valued by the Vietnamese Communist Party and Government. Accordingly, Vietnam has been actively streamlining administrative procedures to achieve these goals.

Recently, the Prime Minister issued Decision No. 587/QD-TTg dated 29 May 2023, approving a plan to cut down and simplify some regulations related to business activities under the management function of the Ministry of Science and Technology.

The Decision approves a plan to simplify business procedures in six areas, including IP services and IP assessment services. Eight administrative procedures related to these two areas are approved for streamlining, with the main changes as follows.

– The copy of the business registration certificate is no longer required, only the declaration of the enterprise code is required in the requests for the procedures below:

(1) registering a firm as an IP agent, [in Vietnam, individuals including IP attorneys cannot act before the Intellectual Property Office of Vietnam (IPVN) on behalf of clients; only firms that were registered with the IPVN can act on behalf of clients. As of 1 April 2023, there are 247 registered IP agents (firms)]

(2) recording a change to a registered IP agent (such as the addition of an IP attorney to the agent) [in Vietnam, IP attorneys will work in registered IP agents to act on behalf of clients; one of conditions for a firm to be registered is that the firm has at least one IP attorney. As of 1 April 2023, there are 350 IP attorneys registered to work in said 247 IP agents to represent clients. Among these 247 IP agents, 171 are headquartered in the capital Hanoi, 76 are headquartered in Ho Chi Minh city, and only one is headquartered in Can Tho city], and

(3)/(4) issuing/re-issuing the certificate for an organization to be eligible to operate as an IP assessment agent [in Vietnam, such certificate is required for the service of providing IP assessments].

– The copy of a notice of the pass of an examination of professional qualifications for the IP attorney, the certificate of eligibility to work as an IP assessor, is no longer required in the requests for the procedures below:

(5)/(6) issuing/re-issuing of an IP attorney certificate, and

(7)/(8) issuing/re-issuing of an IP assessor certificate.

This simplification is consistent with the government’s efforts to build national databases and digitize administrative procedures, making the proceedings more streamlined and efficient.

As for attorneys, the Law on Intellectual Property amended in 2022 and effective from 1 January 2023 (amended IP law) divides IP attorneys into two categories: Patent Attorney for patents, industrial designs, and layout designs; and Trademark Attorney for trademarks, geographical indications, trade names, anti-unfair competition, and trade secrets. The requirements for each category also differ, as the amended IP law imposes a more rigorous standard for becoming a patent attorney. Under the new law, individuals must have a bachelor’s or equivalent degree in natural sciences or engineering to become a patent attorney, while the old law accepted any bachelor’s degree. The amended IP law now also allows lawyers to become trademark attorneys by completing a training course on IP law.

Regarding IP assessments, currently, only the Vietnam Intellectual Property Research Institute (VIPRI) is registered as the eligible organization to operate in IP assessments in Vietnam. The VIPRI is a specialized research institution that provides expert opinions and assessments at the requests from the concerned parties, such as Vietnamese enforcement authorities, IPR holders, and alleged infringers. As of September 13, 2021, Vietnam only has four officially recognized IP assessors, who are renowned experts with ample experience in the field and have served as leaders of the IPVN. In addition, two of them are now members the VIPRI.

Vietnam’s general trend towards administrative simplification, as well as the Prime Minister’s decision mentioned above, facilitate doing business in Vietnam and reinforce the country’s commitment to improving the business environment and embracing digital transformation.

By Nguyen Duc Thang and Do Tuyet Nhung

Patent Department