Myanmar (also known as Burma) is expected to implement its long-awaited trade mark law some time in 2017. The new law will establish a national Intellectual Property Office and allow for formal protection of trade marks under a statutory regime.

It is not possible to register trade marks in Myanmar at present. Brand owners can file an application to record a declaration of ownership of a mark with the Office of the Registry of Deeds and Assurances in Myanmar, and then publish cautionary notices in local newspapers to make the public aware of their mark. This should be done approximately every three years. Similarly to the UK, Myanmar recognises “goodwill” or rights to a trade mark arising through use under the common law action of passing off. The declaration and cautionary notices serve as evidence of use. While the new trade mark law has not yet been passed by parliament, the regime is expected to have the following key features:

  • Typical application process of filing, examination, publication and registration;
  • “First to file” system – as in China, the first person to file a trade mark application will have rights to the trade mark, as opposed to the first person to make use of the trade mark;
  • Priority claims will be available;
  • A declaration of an intention to use the trade mark must be filed together with the trade mark application;
  • Various enforcement measures will be put in place – including criminal and civil sanctions for infringement heard by a newly set up, specialised IP court, and recordals with customs to help tackle import/export of infringing goods;
  • There will be a transitional period whereby trade marks which have been “registered” under the current regime before the new law comes into force will still be protected for three years following implementation of the new law.

While still very poor, this South East Asian state of 51 million people has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The World Bank predicts GDP growth of 7-8.5% year on year for Myanmar, helped by factors such as political reforms in government, the young and cheap workforce, increasing labour costs in China, substantial increases in foreign investment into the country and a new stock exchange for the country which saw its first listing earlier this year.

Brand owners wishing to protect their trade marks in Myanmar should consider applying for protection now under the existing regime, to benefit from the transitional period envisaged by the new law, and to guard against the risk of opportunistic filings by trade mark squatters when the “first to file” rule comes into play under the new law.