Over many years, passing the Vietnam Intellectual Property ("IP") Agency exams before the Vietnam IP Office remains an intriguing dream for many IP practitioners. The successful rate has been extremely low, and in certain years, shockingly, no single one passed such toughest exam! By way of background, for those who wish to practice as a fully-licensed IP agent (i.e., IP Attorney) in Vietnam, they must pass the 5-subject IP agent examination as regulated under Article 155 of the current Vietnam IP Law. 

However, a big turning point in qualification for industrial property practice will come to life if the options as stated in the Draft Amendments to the IP Law ("Draft Amendments") are approved by the Vietnam National Assembly. These options were recently discussed in a legal workshop, organized by the IP Law Drafting Team (including authorized representatives from the Vietnam Office Government, Vietnam IP Office, Ministry of Science & Technology, Ministry of Culture, Sport & Tourism, and Vietnam Copyright Office, etc.). 

Concerning the big turning point mentioned above, the Drafting Team proposes that an individual qualified as a lawyer under the Vietnam Law on Lawyers will be automatically granted an IP agent practicing license in relation to 4 categories of industrial property’s subject matters including trademarks, geographical indications, trade name, unfair competition and trade secret). Meanwhile, those who are not qualified as lawyers under the Law on Lawyers are still subject to the current conditions, including the requirement to pass the 5-subject IP agent examination. 

While creating a level playing field is appreciated, the Drafting Team is still considering different feedbacks and factors around this new proposal. Among others, IP agent is an unique profession that is strictly regulated by law with many conditions regarding prowess, mandatory training, passing the specialized examination (including exams in relation to general IP Law, Trademarks, Patents, Designs, etc.) before being granted a practicing license. 

In addition, representatives from other ministries also view that industrial property practice is uniquely different from general law practice due to the specific nature of intellectual property rights, so relaxing the current rules too easily may mess up both examination process and IP practice. Sharing from different lenses, other observers propose that it should be acceptable for qualified lawyers to act as IP agent only for certain industrial property’s subject matters which include trade names, unfair competition and trade secrets.

The Drafting Team will reflect their final appraisal into the final Draft Amendments. However, a painful reminder for us all is that, behind what the law says, there will be uncompromising need of ensuring a premium quality of a good IP practice that is required to take Vietnam to a next level: Innovation!