Myanmar is poised to shift its trademark protections from its existing first-to-use system based on colonial British statutes and case law to a brand-new first-to-file system drafted in cooperation with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

As we explained in May 2014, the change was initially expected to occur by the end of 2014, but now it appears likely that Myanmar will not transition to the new system until 2016.

Why now is the time for trademark registration in Myanmar

When the new Trademark Law comes into effect it will create new government institutions, such as the Myanmar Intellectual Property Office (“MIPO”) and the Trademark Registry. While the law is complete, there is still a great deal of uncertainty about how these institutions will function in the real world.

Fortunately, the existing trademark system, while somewhat antiquated, is well understood and offers real protections. Furthermore, trademark holders who register their marks under the old regime will benefit by continuing to receive protection without re-registration during a three-year grace period, which commences from the date the new Trademark Law becomes effective. Finally, while trademark holders should re-register their trademarks under the new Trademark Law as soon as possible after the new Trademark Law goes into effect, those trademark holders who have already registered their marks under the old regime will receive priority under the new system.

Priority status for existing registrants should prove to be a high-ground from which to manage legal risks including the circumvention of potential disputes with conflicting applicants under the new first-to-file system.

For more information on trademarks, intellectual property and general business in Myanmar contact us at

Doing Business in Myanmar CoverIn addition to our newly-updated Guide to Doing Business in Cambodia, we are also pleased to announce that we have recently published a newly-updated Doing Business in Myanmar guide. Along with our established practice in Cambodia, BNG Legal also has a growing Myanmar practice able to assist investors with their legal needs. The economies of both Cambodia and Myanmar promise to be continuing growth leaders within ASEAN and globally. If you would like further information regarding the topics discussed in our Myanmar Guide, please don’t hesitate to contact our legal professionals in Yangon at: BNG Legal Myanmar.


On June 16, Grand Twins International PLC, a Taiwan-based garment company, joined the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority on the Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX) to become only the second company—and first privately-owned company—to list since the CSX opened in 2011. Grand Twins originally expected to list on the CSX in May. Delays, however, pushed that date back to June 16.

Many had hoped that the Grand Twins listing would help stimulate the largely moribund securities market. However, on the first day of trading Grand Twins shares dropped about 5% from its opening price of $2.40 to $2.28 per share. This could be due to a lack of confidence rising from the recent unrest in the garment industry. However, Stephen Hsu, Chief Executive of Phnom Penh Securities was more optimistic according to a recent Wall Street Journal article: “This can be turned around . . . . Technical issues, such as a lack of liquidity and gaps in securities regulations, need time to be resolved.” Despite this optimism in the days since listing, Grand Twins stock price has continued to drop and is trading at around $2.17 as of today.

Despite the somewhat lackluster opening days for the Grand Twins listing and the thin trading in Phnom Penh Water Supply, another Taiwanese-owned garment company and additional state-owned companies are considering beginning the process of listing on the CSX. Further listings are sorely needed to build the CSX. Despite this slow start to the stock exchange, Cambodia remains an attractive investment destination. If your company is considering investing in Cambodia, our newly-updated Guide to Doing Business in Cambodia provides a good overview of the legal and regulatory environment here.

Guide to Business in Cambodia CoverAs the ASEAN integration deadline of 2015 approaches, Cambodia’s attractiveness as an investment destination is increasing apace. As your company assesses investment opportunities around the globe, our newly-updated Guide to Doing Business in Cambodia provides a valuable overview of the legal and regulatory climate in the Kingdom. If you would like further information regarding any of the topics presented in the Guide, please don’t hesitate to contact our legal professionals at: BNG Legal Cambodia.

Today’s Phnom Penh Post has an interview with the President of the new National Arbitration Centre, Ros Monin. The article is entitled “Arbitration centre facing hurdles”, which is a fair assessment. Although a launching ceremony was held earlier this year, the Mr. Ros doesn’t expect the NAC to be able to handle cases until early 2014. One hurdle is funding to construct offices and for startup operations, which he calls on the Ministry of Commerce to contribute. He also describes briefly how the Arbitration Centre will work and opines on the current state of dispute resolution in the Kingdom. Stay tuned

spot_icon_23-02-10Cambodia is planning to join the Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks by 2015, according to the relevant authorities. The Madrid System greatly simplifies the process for trademark owners to register their rights in multiple countries at a time.

To register one’s trademark in countries outside the Madrid System, as Cambodia currently is, you have to make a separate application with the national authority (in Cambodia that is the Department of Intellectual Property within the Ministry of Commerce). Once Cambodia joins the Madrid System, it will be much easier, quicker, and cheaper for Cambodians to protect their trademarks abroad, and for foreigners to protect theirs in Cambodia. This would be a good development for intellectual property in Cambodia.

Amidst global economic frailty, foreign direct investment in Cambodia grew by an impressive 73% in 2012. The UN’s Word Investment Report, released today, calculates that FDI reached US$1.6 billion last year, compared with US$902 million in 2011. The influx in investment is credited to businesses looking to cut costs in labor intensive industries, particularly the garment sector. Along with Myanmar and Vietnam, Cambodia is touted as a “bright spot” in Southeast Asia, where overall FDI increased by only 2%.

The Report also stresses Cambodia’s strength in greenfield projects in retail banking. Over the past decade, Cambodia’s banking sector attracted the most capital, US$2.3 billion, of any least developed country, and the second highest number of projects, at 56.

From what we’ve seen so far in 2013, FDI remains robust, especially in manufacturing.

8631695570_e9b908926a_bWith crowded streets and poor enforcement of regulations, road safety is a critical concern in Cambodia. Every year, more than 2,000 people die and over 15,000 are injured on the country’s roads. A coalition of road safety advocates recently called on the Government to pass mandatory comprehensive helmet laws.

Kim Pagna, Country Director of Asia Injury Prevention Foundation Country Director says:

“Motorcycle helmets are proven to reduce the risk of serious injury by 69 percent and of death by 42 percent in a crash, but while motorcycle driver helmet wearing rates are more than 60 percent, fewer than 10 percent passengers wear helmets.”

Economic development means more vehicles on the roads, which means more accidents. Part of the solution is legislative, as the advocates are urging. Unless serious measures are taken to improve the physical infrastructure as well as driving habits, this problem is only going to get worse.

imagesWe had the honor of serving yesterday as a judge for the National Moot Court Competition of Cambodia, organized by East-West Management Institute. A moot court is essentially a play trial, where law students prepare a case and argue it in front of a play-judge. This year’s trial involved criminal charges against a man involved in a drunken fight in a Phnom Penh beer hall. A sadly not uncommon fact pattern.

EWMI has been supporting this competition for a number of years now, and the passion and seriousness of the law students is second to none. This is a BIG DEAL for the teams, and a championship brings a lot of pride to the school.

Law students get to experience what it is like to argue a case in front of judges and a live audience. It also trains them in cross-examination techniques and how to think on their toes.

Congratulations goes to this year’s winner, the Royal University of Law and Economics, runners-up National University of Management, and all the contestants!

What do pirated software and t-shirt have in common? More than you might think.

The Information and Communications Technology Business Association of Cambodia is drawing attention to an important issue for garment exporters to consider: their shipments to the USA might be blocked and they could be fined if they are using pirated software.

A number of American states have passed what are known as Unfair Competition Acts that can be used to block the importation of manufactured goods that have made in factories using pirated software. The rationale behind the law is that by not paying licensing fees for the software, these factories can undercut factories in the US that have to pay for their software. The laws are thus meant to protect US industry from this type of unfair competition.

The ICT Business Association recently sent a letter informing the over 300 garment factories in Cambodia of the issue. Pily Wong, President of the association said in a statement:

Garment is one of the largest industry in Cambodia and software piracy rate is very high in the country. Thus, we see a potential risk that the US garment customers stop ordering from the Kingdom in order to avoid short supply because US customs are confiscating and destroying all the products coming from Cambodia. Cambodia is maybe not enforcing IPR in the country, but US Authorities are definitely very active and one day or another, some factories from Cambodia will get hit. Cambodia is exporting billions worth of products to USA every year and over a million jobs in the Kingdom are at stake, we need the garment factories to be compliant in order to protect their business and their workers. Hopefully GMAC will follow up and play a more active role in informing their members about official regulations which may affect their operations and in providing them good advices about compliance.

A factory in China, and another one in India, have already been hit with a lawsuit in California. More suits are likely to follow, and it is possible that a Cambodian exporter is next in line. By conducting an audit of their IT systems and seeking legal advice, factories can ensure they’re in compliance with these laws and ensure access to the US market.


The work of a handful of attorneys at BNG Legal, this blog's mission is to keep the world up-to-date on legal issues in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

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