Unlike most other shopping paradises, Vietnam is one that is full of knock-offs. To some, that is one great thing about the country. To others, it is a big annoyance. And for some natives, it is a shame that is only getting worse day after day.
With little amount of money and effort, one can find almost anything in Vietnam. Due to its cheap labor force, blooming trade and its status as the make-due master of the entire world, the country enjoys stable access to various types of good. Truly a shoppers’ heaven for sheer quantity, yet many of the products sold in the country are of questionable origin and quality.
Many Western firms find theirs goods being copied and their names being infringed in Asia. Among them is every sort, from Nike, Apple to Starbucks, to name a few. The influx of Chinese made or copy of another country's products in the market seems to further corner the Vietnam-unique ones, which are already few and scattered. Its standard is often low. Its regulation is often lacking. And its consumers mostly do not care, as long as they get what they pay for, and that usually means as little money as possible. Annoying to some, but convenient to most, the situation poses a sticky challenge for the government.
The country is ever hungry for foreign direct investment, and in order to attract more, it has to gradually impose stricter rules and regulation to please the investors, and pose Vietnam in a positive light. At the same time, it can not risk the anger of its people, many of whom have poverty-level standard of living and cannot afford “overpriced” foreign goods. Where to draw the limit remains a headache for most.
But it is not only the foreign investors in Vietnam that are taking the blunt. The world is just not fair to all of those not fully prepared for its surprises. There are the cases back a few years ago when some of Vietnam’s most famous brands, including the coconut gum candies of Ben Tre and the local then most prestigious coffee brand, Trung Nguyen, lost the legal battle and the rights to their trademarks in the Western world. It is no longer imitation; it is straight-out infringement of copyright, yet it is exactly the way international law dictates.
(photo: Ben Tre Coconut Candy Makers - one of the famous made-in-Vietnams)
If one does not register his very own brand before someone else does, then the war is over before it even starts. In a country where 95% of all the companies are small and medium enterprises, and people are “too busy minding their own business to waste time” for that new idea of copyright, it is an uphill battle for the local businesses, the government and a whole new warzone for the corporate education system.
As China is losing its advantage as being the lowest-wage mass producer of the world, many international brands have started moving their factories to its southern neighbor. As typically the case with the developing world as a whole, Vietnam is quick to begin the imitation process. The market is full of knock-off clothing and leather products, in some extreme cases with quality sometimes even exceeds that of the original.
But still, a good majority of these come from the Middle Kingdom. Measure has been taken, but effect remains yet to be seen. The sheer number makes the task near impossible. Already, the anti-smuggle units are overloaded. Bribery renders import-limitation control close to nonsense. A prime example is the recent event when a local company wholeheartedly imitates the design of the well-known Italian company Piaggio’s Vespa scooter. In a sudden twist of fate, it turns out that Piaggio, even though being the rightful owner of such design, does not hold the patent filed with the local government, but the Vietnamese firm.
Yet case closes with verdict for the Italian. The Vietnamese lose in their own turf, for some dubious reasons at best. Until the government can sort things of such nature straight, Vietnam’s market will likely stay the current course. As for the average consumer, domestic or foreign, there is no obvious foreseeable change in the way Vietnamese enjoy their inexpensive way of living. One just has to be mindful of what he buys, and how such action can affect the entire system.