With another wave of the Covid-19 pandemic peaking in Vietnam, the IP Office of Vietnam ("IP Vietnam") once again has changed in its operations and issued new regulations in July and August to facilitate the applicant/ IP Owner.
IP Vietnam has relaxed its formality requirements for signatories
In July, IP Vietnam announced a relaxation of the formality requirements to be met be signatories executing documents for submission to the Authority. Notice No. 6959/TB-SHTT ("Notice 6959") has replaced Notice No. 13822/TB-SHTT (Notice 13822) issued on 23 November 2020.
The earlier Notice required that all documents such as powers of attorney, agreements and declarations submitted to IP Vietnam must be signed by a legal representative of the Applicant, such as the Chairman, President or a Director. If such documents were signed by an otherwise authorised representatives (for example the vice of the above titles, empoyess holding other titles such as General Counsel or those authorised by a power of attorney), they must be supported by a notarised and legalised documentation evidencing that the signatory is duly authorised to sign such documents.
With the issuance of Notice 6959, IP Vietnam has announced that it will accept documents signed by an authorised representative without notarisation/legalisation for all procedures. The signatories need only confirm their authorisation through their signatures and company seal (if any). The signatories (legal or authorised representatives) must take full responsibility and liability for the truthfulness and the accuracy of the provided information. However, execution by those with general titles such as authorised representative, authorised counsel/lawyer will still not be accepted. IP Vietnam will only accept execution by those with specific titles such as: Vice President, Head of Legal Department, Manager, General Counsel, etc.
Notice 6959 is effective from 14 July 2021 and applies retroactively to procedures that started prior to that date.
IP Vietnam extends all statutory deadlines
We have reported separately on the recent extension of certain deadlines to 30 September 2021 in light of the serious impact of the pandemic. According to No. 7581/TB-SHTT ("Notice 7581"), all approaching deadlines from 30 June 2021 to 31 August 2021 will be automatically extended to 30 September 2021. These deadlines must relate to all procedure for establishing IP rights before IP Vietnam, including (i) claiming priority rights; (ii) supplementing documents; (iii) responding to decisions/notices issued by IP Vietnam; (iv) renewals; (v) payment of fees; and (vi) filing appeals from IP Vietnam's decisions.
As a matter of practice, IP Vietnam has confirmed they will also apply the same approach to all actions relating to intellectual property rights such as filing requests for invalidation/cancellation, filing responses to office actions in post-grant procedures, filing patent and industrial design applications.
A frequently asked question is how to determine the new deadline extended by Notice 7581? The answer is the new deadline will not be counted from 30 September 2021 but should be calculated from the actual deadline. For example, an 15 August 2021 deadline is automatically extended until 30 September 2021 under Notice 7581. If the rightsholder cannot meet the 30 September 2021 deadline, they can file a request for an extension before 30 September 2021 and the extended deadline will follow the original deadline and will then fall on 15 November 2021.
For other procedures without a specific deadline or for deadlines not falling within the extension period, if the rightsholder is still affected by the outbreak of Covid-19, they may provide evidence of the impact and request the application of Force Majeure when seeking an extension.
IP Vietnam changes its ways of working
Since 19 July 2021, IP Vietnam has temporarily limited activities in its office under urgent Notice No. 7113/ TB-SHTT. Accordingly, all submissions, including filing documents and fee payments must be conducted online (if available for online submission) or via post. Given that the filing date will be recorded as the receipt date of the documents, IP rightsholders are highly recommended to file submissions at least 3 days before the deadline.
In addition, IP Vietnam has suspended its direct advisory activity and will only provide advisory services via phone or email. With the city locked down under government directive, IP Vietnam's examiners are taking turns to work in the office, with only 20-25% of their examiners physicall in head office each day. Consequently, some examiners will only attend once a week, causing procedures to be prolonged. Thus, IP rightsholders should expect a significant delay in procedures at IP Vietnam.