Non-use Trademark Invalidation Action in Vietnam and Key Takeaways
Attorney Le Quang Vinh – Bross & Partners
Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
A successful non-usesenior trademark invalidation action (do not confuse trademark cancellation action) will regularly enable an applicant’s similar junior trademark to overcome a likelihood-of-confusion refusal by the Intellectual Property Office of Vietnam (VNIPO). Below is our brief of procedure for trademark invalidation action and key takeaways in Vietnam
Trademark Invalidation Action Procedure
Any individual or organization can file a request (petition) with the VNIPO demanding invalidity of a registered trademark (senior trademark) if he/she has prima facie evidence proving that a registered trademark (has been registered more than 5 years) has been not yet used for designated goods/services for a consecutive period of 5 years up to the date of submission of non-use invalidation request without due cause in accordance with Article 95(1)(d) of the IP Law.
Within 1 month counting from the date of receipt of the request, the VNIPO will serve the same (1st time) to the registrant (trademark owner) notifying there is a third party’s petition asking for non-use validity termination against the registrant’s registered trademark and requiring that the former submit a written response in a prescribed period of 2 months (for nationally registered trademarks) or 3 months (for Madrid-based registered trademarks).
On a case-by-case basis, the VNIPO may repeat the above process one more time for both parties with the same fixed time limit. Only in complicated cases, it may hold an in-person dialogue between the parties.
Within 3 months from the expiry of the 2-month period (applicable for a nationally registered trademark) or 3 months (applicable for an internationally registered trademark) that the registrant submits no counter-argument, either within 6 months from the expiry the 2-month period (a nationally registered mark) or 3 months (a Madrid-based international trademark) to which the registrant presents his/her counter-statement then the VNIPO shall issue a decision on termination of validity (in part or the whole), or decision on rejection of such petition.
As such, an invalidation action will theoretically take about 6-10 months, or it may prolong a year, or a couple years depending on whether the registrant uses the trademark, or he/she submits any evidence of use against the requesting party's prima facie non-use evidence, or subject to the VNIPO’s workload from time to time.
If either party believes that the VNIPO's decision violates the law, he/she may file a complaint or initiate an administrative case to the competent court.
2 Key Takeaways
Practical lesson 1: neither response nor providing evidence against the petitioner’s non-use trademark evidence would cause the registered trademark invalidated. Therefore, non-use invalidation action is different from trademark cancellation action in that if the trademark owner does not submit proof of use, the other requesting party's non-use evidence is officially approved. For example, the VNIPO’s Decision 2534/QD-SHTT dated July 25, 2016 declared that the partial termination of validity (class 32 & 33 only) in Vietnam for Lacoste's devices of crocodile:
(Vietnamese word “Cá Sấu” translated in English is Crocodile)
Nhóm 32: Đồ uống không có cồn; bia
Nhóm 33: Rượu và đồ uống có cồn (trừ bia)
Class 1-45 (except class 8)
Practical lesson 2: To successfully refute a non-use invalidity action, the trademark owner has got proof of use or re-use of his/her trademark at least 3 months prior to the date of request for validity termination. However, this is still not sufficient to guarantee the registered trademark’s validity because the act of use or re-use of the trademark had been exercised by the trademark owner or his/her licensee under a particular trademark license agreement. For instance, according to Decision 1077/QD-SHTT of March 7, 2020 declaring invalidation of the trademark “LUFFMAN” under IRN 823184, the VNIPO concluded that the 3-party agreement signed between Leadon, Lubritrade and Tardaza on April 1, 2020 appending Tardaz's order for Ben Tre Company is not considered appropriate evidence to prove the act of use the mark "LUFFMAN" regarding tobacco products in class 34 as it is not sufficient ground to believe that Ben Tre Company has been licensed to use the trademark in question under the trademark license contract
Bross & Partners, an intellectual property company ranked First (Tier 1) by Legal 500 Asia Pacific, has experience in resolving complicated IP disputes including trademarks, copyrights, patents, plant varieties
Please contact: Vinh@bross.vn; mobile: 0903 287 057; Zalo: +84903287057; Skype: vinh.bross; Wechat: Vinhbross2603.
 According to some reliable unofficial sources, the VNIPO annually refuses protection in whole or in part up to 30% out of over 50,000 newly filed trademark applications in Vietnam. Among these reasons for refusal, Article 74.2.e of the IP Law - confusing similarity to earlier registered trademarks is the most used. Where a senior trademark has not been used in commerce for 5 consecutive years, an applicant seeking protection of a junior trademark often files a request for non-use trademark invalidation action.