Vietnam files patent litigation for local rice varieties in Australia

Vietnam has sent a complaint to intellectual property officials in Australia, saying exports of local ST25 and ST24 rice varieties are harmed by a trademark dispute.

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.

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

According to intellectual property authority IP Australia, T&L Global Foods Supply PTY LTD on April 22 sought to register ‘Rice; Best Rice of the World’ trademarks for the two varieties.

It is the sixth company internationally –the other five are in the U.S.– to seek to appropriate ST25.

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

"We ask IP authorities in Australia to consider the matter, and to avoid possible disputes that could affect ST24, ST25 rice exports 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 enabling anyone with an objection to file within two months, she explained.

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

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

Vietnam is also searching for a law firm in Australia to prepare the necessary steps, according to IP Australia regulations.

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., 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 the one by I&T Enterprise Inc. has crossed the first stage.

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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