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A Group of Young Vietnamese Inventors are Contributing to Saving the World, One Helmet at a Time

November 29, 2021

As the COVID-19 pandemic was quickly spreading all over the world in early 2020, a group of family friends having dinner in Hanoi, Viet Nam, shared an idea for a protective helmet that can mitigate the limitations of the existing protective measures against the virus. NGUYEN Dinh Nam, an inventor and engineer who produced the idea, got inspiring responses from the children at the dinner table. He teamed up with them to develop a mobile isolation helmet with ventilators for people who need complete protection from COVID-19 for long stretches of time. They hoped to create something that can make the lives of frontline medical staff and essential workers in all industries easier in light of the global circumstances.

Putting their heads together

Together, with the support of family and friends, eighteen-year-old DO Trong Minh Duc, and fifteen-year-old TRAN Nguyen Khanh An developed a full helmet that can cover a user’s head and face with a powered air purifying respirator (PAPR) to supply clean air. The helmet is equipped with monitoring sensors and connects via Bluetooth to a monitoring center. They named their invention VIHELM . Duc led the team’s design of the helmet and An studied similar existing products.

From left to right: Phuc, An and Duc in the VIHELM atelier (2021) (Photo: VIHELM)

We wanted to do something that could help the world deal with COVID-19, and we hope that VIHELM can be used by those who need it for the greater good.

DO Trong Minh Duc, VIHELM Inventor and Team Leader.

The newly developed product received some criticism for being too heavy at first. To address the feedback, fourteen-year-old NGUYEN Hoang Phuc was brought in to help develop a new and improved version of the helmet.

Sometimes it is good to take in the negative comments… it can help you grow.

TRAN Nguyen Khanh An, VIHELM Inventor.

Phuc developed a simple and soft alternative to the helmet using cloth and a visor with built-in gloves, side pockets, compartments for personal items and holes for scratching, providing comfort and flexibility for the user. The modified product is called VIHOOD. Phuc’s innovative contributions enabled the team to improve the prototype and offer customers a more affordable alternative.

I feel so lucky that something I worked on for so long came true, it really is a great feeling to see your ideas become a reality, even if you are young and have to deal with those who doubt your ideas.

NGUYEN Hoang Phuc, VIHELM Inventor.
The VIHOOD, an upgrade on VIHELM that was developed as a result of the innovative suggestions of Phuc (Photo: VIHELM)

They finalized their prototype in July 2020 and by August 2020 they entered VIHELM into the iCan competition, which is organized by the Toronto International Society of Innovation & Advanced Skills (TISIAS). The team won a gold medal and placed in the top five for best designs at the competition. Their invention garnered a lot of international media attention for being a convenient light-weight and battery-efficient PAPR option, which brought them a plethora of clients from all over the world, having sold nearly 10,000 helmets so far.

The IP glow up

Under the mentorship of Nam, who owns several patents, the group were introduced to the importance of protecting their intellectual property (IP). He supported the team, including BUI Phuong Nam, the co-founder and co-inventor of VIHELM, with their international patent application under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) in 2021, and guided them on the trademark application process for the company.

It was important to file a trademark for VIHELM as we have been trying our best to build a strong and reliable brand. We want to distinguish our product from other respirators on the market, and a trademark is an important part of that process. This is the case not only in terms of revenue and reputation, but also for the benefit of our beloved customers and community.

BUI Phuong Nam, VIHELM Co-founder.

The VIHELM helmet is freely available to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution–Non Derivative License (CC BY-ND), an open source license, and the first three versions of the helmet are available for download from the VIHELM website. This was an intentional choice by the team to provide access to the product to those wishing to manufacture the helmet independently for the greater good. The team are calling for support to make more technologies available under the CC BY-ND license.

From left to right: WIPO Director General Daren Tang, Tran Nguyen Khanh An, Do Trong Minh Duc, Nguyen Hoang Phuc, Her Excellency Ambassador Le Thi Tuyet Mai from the Permanent Mission of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva, Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and the WIPO Director of the Division for Asia and the Pacific Andrew Ong (Photo: WIPO/Berrod)

Duc, An and Phuc have been selected as the IP Youth Ambassadors for Viet Nam for their timely and life-saving innovation which contributes to sanitary and economic recovery in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. WIPO Deputy Director General Hasan Kleib awarded the group with the WIPO IP Youth Ambassadorship in the presence of WIPO Director General Daren Tang  and Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc on November 29, 2021, at the WIPO Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. They are the first IP Youth Ambassadors representing the Asia and Pacific Region.

The WIPO IP Youth Ambassadors initiative is part of the IP4Youth&Teachers service, which was designed and launched by the WIPO Academy in 2018. Its primary purpose is to engage young people involved in the creative process to leverage IP for the benefit of their communities and jointly, with national authorities, promote the use of IP among young people. As WIPO IP Youth Ambassadors, Duc, An and Phuc will be part of a pioneering network of past and future nominees of the initiative to promote the importance of IP to other young innovators and creators in their region. They will also benefit from tailored IP education facilitated by the IP4Youth&Teachers service.

The trio hope to continue enhancing their product and further develop versions at lower price ranges to meet the needs of low income customers in the near future.