Foreign enterprises not allowed to trademark Vietnam's rice "ST25": intellectual property office

It is impossible for foreign companies to register Vietnamese rice "ST25" as an exclusive trademark protection, as affirmed by the National Office of Intellectual Property of Vietnam (NOIP).
April 25, 2021 | 09:27
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Foreign enterprises not allowed to trademark Vietnam's rice
Engineer Ho Quang Cua. (Photo: Nhan Dan)

Against the information related to the ST25 rice brand name registered by a business in the US, the office confirmed US enterprises cannot trademark the world’s best rice ST25 since it is a generic variety and not a brand.

The trademark "VIETNAM'S ST25 RICE, DAC SAN SOC TRANG" was filed in the US on September 1, 2020, according to registration application number 90151727 of Transword Foods, Inc.

However, the NOIP stressed that the mark "ST25" cannot be registered for trademark protection exclusively in the US for any individual or organization, because US law does not protect the trademark for the plant variety and as ST25 is the name collectively used to refer to a variety of rice.

The ST25 rice variety was granted Protection Certificate No. 21.VN.2020 according to Decision No. 45/QĐ-TT-VPBH dated March 6, 2020, of the Director of Department of Crop Production (under the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development) for the private business Ho Quang Tri and rice breeders Ho Quang Cua, Tran Tan Phuong, and Nguyen Thi Thu Huong, according to Nhan Dan.

However, if for any reason, "ST25" is registered for exclusive trademark protection for rice products, the organizations and individuals involved may object to this registration application.

Foreign enterprises not allowed to trademark Vietnam's rice
It is impossible for foreign companies to register Vietnamese rice "ST25" as exclusive trademark protection, as affirmed by the National Office of Intellectual Property of Vietnam (NOIP). (Photo: VN Express)

Nguyen Van Bay, deputy head of the National Office of Intellectual Property of Vietnam, said Friday that no one, including the developers of the famous ST25 rice from Vietnam, could register a trademark for this rice since it is a generic plant variety. Ho Quang Cua, the farmer-scientist who cross-bred ST25 with his colleagues, had received intellectual property certificates for the ST25 rice paddy variety in Vietnam, but not for the products of the paddy that include ST25 grains, Bay said.

This means Cua and his colleagues can prevent the breeding and manufacturing of the ST25 paddy but has no rights over the grains produced from ST25 paddy, he added. Any company can introduce the ST25 rice to the market under its own brand, but cannot trademark ST25, he stressed, according to VN Express.

Foreign enterprises not allowed to trademark Vietnam's rice
Ho Quang Cua, the farmer-scientist who cross-bred ST25 with his colleagues, had received intellectual property certificates for the ST25 rice paddy variety in Vietnam. (Photo: Nhan Dan)

On November 20, 2020, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced its intention to refuse the trademark "VIETNAM'S ST25 RICE, DAC SAN SOC TRANG" as mentioned above.

This is also the response of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to Transworld Foods, Inc, one of five companies that have registered to trademark ST25 in the U.S. after the rice won the World’s Best Rice Contest in 2019.

"Varietal or cultivar names are designations used to identify cultivated varieties or subspecies of live plants or agricultural seeds. They are generic and cannot be registered as trademarks because they are the common descriptive names of plants or seeds by which such varieties are known to the U.S. consumer," USPTO confirmed.

Created by engineer Ho Quang Cua and his colleagues, Vietnam's high-end ST25 rice was honored as the world's best rice in 2019, after it won the top prize at the World's Best Rice Contest in the Philippines that year, marking the first time a Vietnamese rice variety won the title in the contest’s 11-year history.

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