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> Intellectual Property Rights Protection in Myanmar

Despite joining the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in 1995 and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 2001, Myanmar has still not brought its IP laws up to international standards, and the current protection afforded to intellectual property rights (IPR) in the country is rudimentary and improvised.

Myanmar does not have a unified trademark law, and a makeshift trademark registration system has evolved in the absence of a designated trademark office. The Ministry of Agriculture & Irrigation administers the trademark registration process under the Registration Act of 1908. The ministry, which also has jurisdiction over deed registration for real property, allows trademark holders to assert ownership through deed registration.

Myanmar's absence of a solid IPR-enforcement framework appears to be one of the main factors holding back international investment. International brands, particularly franchises, are often reluctant to enter a market that does not provide adequate IPR protection. Despite the tantalizing opportunities presented by the country's untapped market of about 60 million people, numerous international brands and household names have yet to arrive in Myanmar.

Recognising the value of IPR protection as a significant factor to attracting foreign direct investment, Myanmar is currently preparing a suite of new intellectual property laws that aims to bring IPR protection up to international standards, and lawmakers are currently preparing them in consultation with IP organizations from ASEAN, Japan and South Korea.

Of particular interest to international brand-name enterprises is the fact that Myanmar's haphazard trademark system will be replaced soon. Myanmar's first comprehensive trademark law is in the late stages of drafting and is anticipated to be passed soon. The trademark law is designed to bring Myanmar into compliance with its TRIPS commitments.

A new copyright law will soon replace the antiquated colonial-era copyright laws. The country's first industrial design and patent law is also in the works, which could potentially boost research and development activities in the country.

Even with the new suite of IP laws set to surface in the early part of 2015, it will take time for the nation to bring its IPR protections up to global standards. However, few would likely argue against this being a welcome and long-overdue step in the right direction for the country.

Written by Krishna Ramachandra, Benjamin Kheng and Billy Raley.

This article is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the authors' law firm or its individual partners.

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