Laws to protect intellectual property, encourage business in the works

Businesses in Myanmar still rely on outdated colonial-era laws enacted by the British more than one hundred years ago to protect intellectual property (IP) rights.

The encourage growth, draft laws are being formulated in the Hluttaw to update the country’s regulations covering IP rights, copy right law, industrial law, patents and trademarks for enactment.

To date, the country has relied on the Registration Act (1909) and Myanmar Copyright Act (1914) to resolve issues concerning IP.

IP rights laws are one of the cornerstones of development and relied upon not only by local businesses but also foreign investors, making vital for the development of the country’s economy.

“Currently, our country does not have comprehensive, up-to-date IP laws. There are no exclusive laws to protect IP so we need better IP laws urgently. If we have Intellectual property rights law, we can strongly clarify conflicting claims with tools such as ntellectual property registration certificates before taking action, said U Moe Mynn Thu, Myanmar council member of the ASEAN Intellectual Property Association.

“Local businesses face difficulties because there are no IP protections for their innovations and products. Businesses are discouraged from innovating because anyone could copy their ideas. Strong IP laws would prevent this, thereby boosting innovation and creativity in the country.

The same issue makes foreign investors hesitate to put money in Myanmar,” he added.

“If foreign brands and companies are discouraged from exploring the local market because of a lack of IP protection, this means lost opportunities to grow the country’s economy and limits the choices consumers have,” said U Kyaw Kyaw Win, the chairman of Myanmar’s Intellectual Property Proprietors’ Association.

“If products made in Myanmar are exported to the international market, the products are registered under IP regulations in other countries. If our country has strong IP laws, the export products could also be registered locally,” he said.

In 2004, the government began planning to enact IP laws and draft laws were proposed by 2015. In January this year, the draft laws were tabled and debated in the Amotha Hluttaw and now await enactment by the Pyithu Hluttaw.

This November, the draft laws will be discussed at the sitting of the Hluttaw. If there are no objections to the draft laws at the Amotha Hluttaw and Pyithu Hluttaw, enactment of the laws will come about quickly, said U Myat Nyanar Soe, the joint secretary of the Law Drafting Coordinating Committee.

“Currently, the Myanmar Investment Law 2016 and Myanmar Companies Law 2017 are in place to support the country’s economic development. The next move is trying to enact IP laws,” he added.

If the laws are enacted, a regulatory body for IP rights will be set up to oversee IP-related issues, said Daw Moe Moe Thwe, deputy director general of the Intellectual Property Department under the Ministry of Education.

“We are currently working to train civil servants abLaw Draftingout IP matters and also raise awareness among members of the public for when IP laws are put in place,” he said.

There are currently 60,000 registered trademarks in Myanmar, according to the Intellectual Property Proprietors’ Association.

When IP laws are in force, they will support startup businesses, especially businesses based on information and technology, U Min Tayza Nyunt Tin, managing director of Biz Law Consult Myanmar, said.

“Everyone has ideas. If you can produce a successful product based on your ideas then IP laws can protect that idea from being stolen by others,” U Kyaw Thu, chairman of the Myanmar Rattan and Bamboo Entrepreneurs Association, said.

Myanmar is one of the few countries in ASEAN that do not have strong IP rights laws in place.

SOURCE: MYANMAR TIMES

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