With the Industrial Design and Trademark Laws enacted in January, the Patent Law enacted in March and the Copyright Law in May, the year 2019 marked the start of a significant move towards stronger intellectual property (IP) protections in Myanmar. The country previously relied on colonial-era legislation, but the implementation of these regulations will bring Myanmar in line with international norms, such as those stipulated by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Considering the Industrial Design Law, industrial designs shall be registered on the basis of a novelty threshold and shall have an initial term of protection of five years from the date of filing the application, subject to two renewals.
Under the Trademark Law, all existing trademark holders registered in Myanmar are required to file an application to the Registrar to enjoy continued protection under the law. Notably, the Trademark Law adopts a first-to-file system, meaning that in the event of dispute over similar trademarks, the person who files and meets the registration requirements first will generally be entitled to use the trademark and enjoy the rights attached. If two or more applications are filed on the same day, applicants to resubmit after negotiation.
Prior to the Trademark Law, it was an established practice in Myanmar to register a declaration of ownership of a trademark with the Office of Registration of Deeds, which served as prima facie evidence of the ownership of a mark. It is also an established practice in Myanmar for trademark owners to publish a cautionary notice in a newspaper of general circulation to remind the public of the ownership of the trademark and to warn against possible infringement. This method of declaration brought with it a myriad of problems and increased the likelihood of there being competing claims. Under the Trademark Law, declarations of ownership may be submitted to support new applications.
Under the new Patent Law, a patent may be granted over an invention if it is determined to be OBG would like to thank Kelvin Chia Yangon for its contribution to THE REPORT Myanmar 2020 novel, involves an inventive step and has an industrial application. The law also recognises the right to claim priority under the Patent Cooperation Treaty or the Paris Convention. The Patent Law also adopts the WTO Council for Trade-Related Aspects of IP Rights Agreement for the registration of protection for pharmaceutical products and production processes, as well as the chemical products used in agriculture, food products and microbiological products. The term of the grant of patent is 20 years from the filing of the application, while patents for minor inventions shall have a term of 10 years.
Under the Copyright Law, protections extend to citizens and non-citizens, provided that non-citizens have habitual residence in the country and the performance takes place in the country. In respect of literary and/or artistic works, the protection of these commences at the moment of creation. The copyright is valid during the lifetime of the author and for 50 years after their death. For audio-visual or cinematographic works, copyright protection starts from the date of publication or from the moment of creation.
Despite the enactment of the foregoing laws, their effectiveness shall depend upon the issuance of a notification by the President’s Office. As of December 2019 there had been no notification issued to bring clarity to this situation. This is largely because the new administrative agencies tasked to implement the said laws are still being established, and the application for registration under the new laws is not yet ready to accept claims. The proposed structure of the government body designed to oversee IP in Myanmar is comprised of the IP Central Committee (policy), the IP Agency (implementation) and the IP Department (registration). Separate divisions for trademark, industrial design, patent, copyright and legal affairs are planned for 2020.
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