Friday, February 12, 2016
Trademark disputes in Myanmar
Danish beer brand Tuborg is owned by Carlsberg. They created a localised version of the brand for Myanmar, called tu po which is also written in local script. That is also a name for Thingyan, Myanmar's traditional water festival. Meanwhile Myanmar musician Sayar Myoma Nyein also wrote a song called the same name in the 1940s, which is often played at the festival.
The composer’s son threatened to sue Carlsberg because of the inappropriate use of the term for alcohol. The son probably has no copyright claim due to the age of the song (Myanmar has only limited copyright protection as its copyright law dates from 1911). He also has limited, if any, trademark rights (given is no real trademark law exists yet). The brewer nevertheless changed its packaging and brand to avoid a public and potentially ugly cultural battle.
Of course the irony is that there is still no formal trademark law in Myanmar. What this dispute shows is that trademark conflicts are already happening and the patchwork of poor and old laws in place must be navigated until the government enacts its promised suite of IPR laws.