In January 2010, Francis Gurry, the Director General of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), visited Vietnam and met with Vietnam’s President Nguyen Minh Triet.  WIPO is one of 16 specialized agencies of the
United Nations and was set up in 1967 to promote the protection of intellectual
property (IP) throughout the world.  During
his visit in Vietnam, Francis pledged WIPO’s continuing support to help Vietnam
develop its IP capacity to innovate and achieve sustainable economic
growth.  During the meeting, President
Nguyen also reiterated Vietnam’s commitment to protecting IP rights and establishing
sustainable IP system that would allow Vietnam to shift away from an
agricultural-based economy and to become a knowledge-based economy.

Gurry’s unequivocal promise to support and strengthen
Vietnam’s national IP system is a welcoming sign to a country that has been
plagued by a lack of human resources and funding to hold education programs on
IP.  Although Vietnam has become the 150th
member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on January 11, 2007 and numerous
economic legislations have since been introduced by the Vietnamese legislative
body to match the WTO standard in IP protection and innovation, high-tech
utilization in Vietnam remains very low at 2%, while other Asian countries such
as Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore have flourished with a utilization rate of 30%,
51%, and 73%, respectively (see Tran
Ngoc Hien, Social Changes in Vietnam
Under Impacts of WTO Accession, Social Science Information Review
, Vol. 1,
No. 3, p. 4 (2007). Appendix B.).

Law universities in Vietnam also are limited in terms of
providing IP education and research opportunities.  It is reported that most university
researchers and administrators lack legal capacity in understanding the basic IP
issues.  See Gregory D. Graff, Echoes
of Bayh-Dole? A Survey of IP and Technology Transfer Policies in Emerging and
Developing Economies, Intellectual Property Management in Health and
Agricultural Innovation, a handbook of best practices (2007)
, vol. 1, p. 187.  While the general public knows that Vietnam’s
National Assembly has enacted IP Law No. 50/2005, which provides key provisions
of Vietnam’s Patent Law, most do not understand the legal implication of the
new law.  Coupled with a lack of legal
scholars and professionals to teach IP and the limited availability of legal
education to those who possess an undergraduate law degree, there is a critical
need for human resources in the field of IP, such as university scholars and professional
IP lawyers, to promote the advancement and pursue the legal enforcement of IP
rights in Vietnam.

Gurry’s Vietnam visit will undoubtedly serve as an
unwavering support and important incentive to a country that has been thirsty
for international assistance in IP. 
Although the idea of protecting IP is not new to Vietnam, as it enacted the
Civil Code in 1995, the first legislation introduced that pertains to IP
protection, technology has continued to change globally on a lightning pace and
the onset of the digital age has resulted in a whole new set of IP-related
issues that require a well-managed national IP system in order to ensure that
these new issues do not hamper and slow the country’s economic growth.