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Numerous petrol agents violated the Petrolimex trademark

Infringement of the Petrolimex trademark is extremely widespread.

To avert the escalating problem of brand and trademark infringement, the Inspector of the Ministry of Science and Technology initiated an inspection of a number of petrol stations in Thai Binh province on August 22, 2012.

The inspection team detected and recorded infractions related to the use of petroleum products at Anh Tuan Trading Company Limited’s gas station No. 2 (Dong La commune, Dong Hung district, Thai Binh province), which is not an agency of Petrolimex. Petrolimex’s brand was displayed without authority on the signboard and three petrol pump poles. Petrolimex has registered its trademarks to protect its intellectual property rights.

Signs of intellectual property infringement at Anh Tuan Trading Company Limited’s gas station

According to Mr. Pham Van Toan, Head of the Inspection Department of the Ministry of Science and Technology, this is a gross breach of trademark rights under Article 129 of the Intellectual Property Law. The maximum fine for administrative offenses in industrial property is 500 million VND, according to Decree No. 97/2010/ND-CP. The sanctioned party must take corrective steps and erase evidence of the offense within ten days of receiving the sanction. Coercive actions will be used against a party who violates the restrictions.

At the time of inspection, the name “Thai Binh Petroleum Company” was displayed on the signboard of Anh Tuan Trading Company’s petrol station. According to the inspector from the Ministry of Science and Technology, this is an infringement of Thai Binh Petroleum Company’s trade name rights, for which the penalty is fairly severe.

Mr. Bui Anh Tuan, director of Anh Tuan Trading Company Limited, reacted angrily to the inspection’s conclusion, stating: “Because Anh Tuan Trading Company Limited purchases petroleum from Tan Thinh Ha Trade and Produce Co., Ltd., a company that imports petroleum from Petrolimex, I have default rights to use the Petrolimex trademark. The decals bearing the sign “P” and the Petrolimex mark were provided by Tan Thinh Ha Company. As a result, if Tan Thinh Ha Company compensates us for the signboards, we will remove them”.

Mr. Bui Anh Tuan stated that since its founding (more than a decade ago), the store has continued to use the Petrolimex logo and trademark without seeking permission and has not encountered anyone requesting that it be removed.

Inspector of the Ministry of Science and Technology explains to the violator

Making record-keeping infractions

However, a representative of Thai Binh Petroleum Company – a subsidiary of the Vietnam National Petroleum Group – stated that the company sent official documents twice via postal service and also requested that Anh Tuan Trading Company Limited remove the signs of violation, but Mr. Tuan defied the law, flagrantly violated it, and continued to use the Petrolimex trademark. Despite the victim’s warning, science and technology inspectors consider this is a flagrant violation of the law, infringing on trademark intellectual property rights. The inspection team documented and discussed the offenses at the establishment. Finally, Mr. Bui Anh Tuan was compelled to sign the minutes of the infringement.

Additionally, on August 22, the inspection team conducted an inspection of the petrol station operated by Hoang Trong General Trading Company in Dong Hai commune, Quynh Phu district. Although the station was not authorized to use Petrolimex’s trademark on the sign, it was plastered on both the front and back of the station’s four petrol pumps.

Hoang Trong General Trading Company, for example, is a general agent with over ten petrol stations in Thai Binh province, but has signed contracts with numerous petroleum importers, which violates the provisions of Decree No. 84/2009/ND-CP, which allows for only one general agent and agents are only permitted to sign contracts with a single focal enterprise.

Without commenting on the inspection’s conclusion, a representative for Hoang Trong Company stated that the store utilized the Petrolimex brand since it was a well-known name in the petroleum industry, but this brand had been used for many years. Without being fined or reminded, the corporation continues to use it.

The store of Hoang Trong General Trading Company in Dong Hai commune violates Petrolimex’s intellectual property rights.

Petrolimex’s letter P is affixed onto each of the four pump columns.

This inspection revealed that the situation of gas stations infringing on the trademarks and logos of reputable petrol and oil firms is extremely tough and widespread.  Petrolimex’s trademark infringement is the most serious breach, occurring in virtually every province and city in the country.

While Thai Binh has over 200 fuel and oil stations, there are also over 100 outlets that breach the Petrolimex trademark in varied degrees (old and new).

According to a spokesperson of the Vietnam National Oil and Gas Group, there are now 884 businesses across various economic sectors and 1,006 petrol stations that are not agents of Petrolimex that are infringing Petrolimex’s trademark rights in a variety of ways and degrees.

Additionally, the inspection uncovered multiple instances of general agents and agents entering into contracts with focal corporations but importing commodities in small or no quantities from these focal enterprises. Their purpose is to sell things with an unknown provenance by leveraging well-known trademarks. Consumers are confused when they purchase low-quality gasoline, and the state loses tax revenue as a result of the state’s incapacity to regulate the amount of floating gasoline and gasoline of unknown origin sold at these petrol stations.

It’s worth emphasizing that trademark infringement has occurred in the petroleum business for many years, but state management agencies have been reticent to prosecute violators.

According to the Ministry of Science and Technology’s inspectors, breaching respectable petroleum enterprises’ trademark protection rights is an act that should be prevented, as trademark infringement is also a fraudulent act that misleads consumers and undermines respected brands. Petrol and oil merchants, in particular, who purchase and sell goods whose origin, quality, and measurement are unclear threaten consumer interests and tarnish the reputation of violating brands.

The inspection of trademark infringement in Thai Binh serves as a warning to businesses, individuals, and petroleum agents throughout the country that either do not comprehend the law or purposefully break it in order to “steal” the brand and exploit consumers’ confidence. Additionally, this is the first time science and technology inspectors have “started” an investigation into intellectual property rights violations at a petroleum corporation.

Nguyen Vu Quan, Attorney at Law at Investip Law Firm:

According to Article 4 of Decree No. 105/2006/ND-CP, even if Petrolimex has urged administrative agencies to handle trademark infringement cases administratively, Petrolimex has the authority to prosecute and seek damages from the offending party in court, pursuant to Article 4 of Decree No. 105/2006/ND-CP.