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How Myanmar silk could stem tide of cheap imports

Weavers of traditional textiles in Mandalay Region are uniting to create a trade association to protect their industry, which has been seriously affected by cheap , low-quality silk copies oftraditional Myanmar designs from China and India. The recognition of the unique silk designs of Amarapura and Wundwin townships in Mandalay, including lun yar kyaw silk fabric,will be assisted by the trademark law taking effect this year.

Tr ade associations in towns and regions that can claim to be famous for traditional textiles or handicrafts, such as ceramics, or traditional farm products, will be able to register geographical indication (GI) names and marks if the products can be shown to have a quality, reputation or other distinguishing characteristic that is indicative of where they come from. The distinctive characteristic can be the product itself or the production process used in its manufacture.
Traditional designs of textiles and ceramics or traditional farm products can meet the requirements to register a GI due to the traditional skills used to make these products that indicate the place of origin.

GIs are an important way that market value can be added to traditional products that have distinctive attributes. For example, wine makers around the world have been forced to stop branding their sparkling wine as “Champagne,” because that name can only be used for sparkling wine made using traditional processes and from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France.

The trademark law also allows organisations that set specific standards for products to issue certification marks to producers that meet those standards, such as farmer s who qualify for organicfarming guarantee certificates. Collective marks can be issued to the members of associations of manufacturers or farmers so that consumers can identify goods or services that have the quality they expect from members of the association.

Legal protection limited Other intellectual property (IP) laws being implemented by Myanmar in the next three or four years are a patent law to protect inventions, an industrial design law to protect new designs of industrial products such as fabrics, and a copyright law to replace a 1914 law and protect a wide range of creative works such as artwork, songs, films, computer programmes, architectural plans or blueprints,as well as 3-D works created by mould makers and die cast ers used in manufacturing.

Myanma acheik silk designs that have been woven for hundreds of years would not be protected by the copyright law, as the law only protects original works for about 50 years. As traditional silk designs are not new, they would not qualify for protection under the industrial designs law after it takes effect. Traditional silk designs are not new, so the patent law cannot be used to protect the silk weavers of Myanmar from cheap and tawdry designs being dumped by China and India on the Myanmar market.

Thailand has introduced laws protecting GIs. The IP Department of Thailand has approved GI certificates for over 100 products, including nine strains of Thai rice. GI certificates have also been issued for sweet tamarind, coffee and pineapple grown in specific regions of Thailand. GI certificates have been issued for hand woven Thai silk from some regions of Thailand because of the distinctive way the material is dyed and woven into brocade silk cloth. Myanmar leader sees more COVID-19 infections

The kingdom’s experience in using GIs has shown that agricultural products that qualify for a GI certificate can increase the average market price of the product by 3 to 5 times compared to a similar product that is not marketed under a GI certificate. Given the increase in the market value of products that qualify for GI status, the Thai government plans to work to expand the number of products with GI certificates to increase the revenue it earns from those products.

The fashion houses and shoe suppliers of the European Union and the United States rely on intellectual property rights to protect their investment in creating their products and to persuade consumer to pay a premium for those products. In relation to Myanmar handicrafts or agricultural products that are created using traditional manufacturing skills and processes that indicate their place of origin the registration of trademarks and GIs give the people making these products a marketing tool to persuade customers that it is worth paying a more for traditional Myanmar products than for cheaper imitations from abroad.

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Source : Myanmar Times

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