Last year we described Myanmar’s plans to replace its virtually non-existent intellectual property laws. Fast forward to the present and the country is right on track. Trade mark legislation is expected to come into force next month and the recent release of the draft law promises it will be both comprehensive and robust.
Among the most notable provisions of the draft law is the establishment of a Myanmar Industrial Property Office. The Office will be primarily responsible for handling all aspects of a trade mark’s life. This includes substantive examination of trade marks to determine whether registration requirements are met. While the wide range of discretionary powers granted to the Office allows for a thorough approach, it also highlights the need for transparency and adaptability. The Intellectual Trade Mark Association has been Myanmar’s guiding hand in the legislative process and will provide its on-going supervision.
The late introduction of legislation has ironically allowed Myanmar to address the contemporary threat of misappropriation that technological advancement has created. Modernised measures surrounding intellectual property and the internet mean trade marks can be protected across a range of platforms. This is something that many countries have struggled to deal with under pre-existing, and often outdated, regimes.
Myanmar is facing piracy and counterfeiting head on and the draft law reflects this commitment. Substantial fines and imprisonment should deter offenders. More indirect acts of infringement, such as the transportation and storage of fake products, are expressly covered by the legislation.
While there is uncertainty as to what the final law will look like, one thing is clear: act quickly to maximise the protection of your intellectual property. Trade mark owners who establish rights under the current system, whereby a Declaration of Ownership is registered and published as a Cautionary Notice, will be afforded continued protection for three years when the law comes into force. This will help prevent third parties looking to piggy-back on brands by getting in first under the new legislation.
Myanmar is certainly a hub of opportunity and its dedication to legal reform is commendable. Trade sanctions continue to be lifted, multinational organisations such as Coca Cola have entered the marketplace and neighbouring countries are taking an active role in Myanmar’s development to ensure they are in the best position for long-term investment.