Hanoi seizes frims' profits

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 January, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 January, 1995, 12:00am

VIETNAMESE Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet has ordered that profits be seized from two Hong Kong companies involved in cigarette production in Vietnam.

Mr Kiet has instructed Vietnam's powerful Interior Ministry to join the Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment to consider 'disciplinary and administrative measures' against the companies.

The Post understands that one of the companies is also under close watch for other possible copyright infringements, having legally registered a string of big name foreign brands, some spelt slightly wrongly, with the Vietnamese trademark office.

Mr Kiet claimed that the two local firms had 'voluntarily connected themselves in this illegal trade'.

What is not clear is how effectively Vietnam could get the money, particularly if the companies have left the country, and who would receive any proceeds.

Copyright infringements are usually the subject of civil hearings between companies, rarely involving the Government.

It is understood the British Embassy has been monitoring the case, but has yet to intervene or request clarification from the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry.

The embassy considers the case sensitive, and would only become involved if approached by either company.

The case follows successful action earlier this year by Marlboro manufacturers Philip Morris to stop production by alerting Hanoi officials.

Chief manager for Philip Morris (Asia) Michael Quirk met the Government in July.

At the time Philip Morris was negotiating with the Vietnam Tobacco Company for a joint-venture manufacturing deal of its own. A contract has now been signed.

Meanwhile, Do Khac Chien, director of international relations at the National Office of Industrial Property, confirmed that a company had registered many trademarks for several years over which doubts had emerged.

Several have been taken off the register.

A number of well-known marks are listed under the name of the company, apparently looking for spelling mistakes to put them in the clear when Vietnam's fledgling consumer market takes off.