The ASEAN Secretariat has released an announcement that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) shall enter into force on 1 January 2022 as they have received Instruments of Ratification/Acceptance from Vietnam and other five ASEAN Member States, Australia, China, Japan, and New Zealand. 

RCEP is expected to give tremendous boost to post-COVID-19 economic recovery efforts.  Highlights of RCEP are, among others, Tariff reduction, Rules of origin, Trade in services and cross border investments, E-Commerce facilitating.

Key takeaways from the Intellectual Property (IP) Chapter of RCEP are:

  • Commitments within RCEP are higher than that within TRIPS (i.e. The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights), e.g. rules on transparency of the procedures of establishing industrial property rights;
  • Level of protection of IP rights: Equal to commitments within EVFTA (i.e. EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement) and CPTPP (i.e. Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership);
  • Rules on enforcement of IP rights: the commitment level is lower than that within EVFTA and CPTPP when it comes to criminal prosecution of some IP right infringements;
  • No extensive commitment on protection of geographical indications like EVFTA;
  • Encouragement on the sharing of genetic resources.

Generally speaking, IP commitments within RCEP are relatively high and comprehensive in comparison to commitments within other ASEAN agreements.

Last month, the National Assembly of Vietnam debated the Draft Amendment of Intellectual Property Law which would hopefully pave a way for the country's compliance with big trade pacts, including EVFTA, CPTPP and RCEP.  In RCEP frameworks, Vietnam requests technical assistance in sound mark protection (such as support in capacity building for staff members involved in related law amendment processes and trademark examiners), development and maintenance of electronic systems, and providing expertise on accession to WIPO Copyright Treaty, WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, and Marrakesh Treaty.  The transition periods for Vietnam are in the region of 3-5 years, subject to different commitments. 

In the meantime, member states will continue their preparatory work through finalization of technical and institutional aspects for the full and effective implementation of RCEP.