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Monday, March 12, 2018

Myanmar's Patent, Designs, Copyright and Trademark laws

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The Amyothar Hluttaw (Upper House of Myanmar's Parliament) passed the Trademark Law, Industrial Design Law, Patent Law and Copyright Law on February 15th, 2018. They will now be submitted to Pyithu Hluttaw (Lower House) and Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (Assembly of the Union of Myanmar), after which the Assembly then submits them to the President's Office for signature. The laws should all be enacted by around June 2018.

One of the most important features introduced by the new laws is that Myanmar will now apply the first-to-file rule for all IPRs, instead of the first-to-use rule, as in the past. Therefore, it is critical to apply for your IPRs as early as practical in order to secure protection in that country.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Indonesia's criminal code amendments

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Indonesia’s criminal code is being amended at present. There are a number of controversial provisions in the draft being debated by Parliament. The IP provisions however ought not have been controversial.  At present all IPR crimes and their criminal penalties are set out in the separate individual IPR laws (Trademark, Copyright etc). However the draft new criminal code proposes to add a new set of offences.

S574 1a sets our a new offence of counterfeiting intellectual property, which applies to trademarks, copyrights, patents or designs. Penalties are increased and infringing articles can be confiscated and destroyed.   Secondly commercial activities are specifically mentioned, including offer for sale as separate crimes.  In addition there are expanded specific trademark offences such as “Attaching counterfeited trademarks to goods” and “Using authentic trademarks on goods or packaging, even though such trademarks have not been designated for use with such goods”.

This creates an odd situation. The IP laws introduced specific IP crimes which overrode the existing criminal provisions, as part of WTO TRIPS compliance in 2001.  Now additional crimes are added in the new Criminal Code. This is likely to cause confusion as to which applies. In theory the Criminal Code adds its own offences, but mostly they replicate situations covered by the crimes set out in the IPR laws. Also there are few definitions and interpretations in the Criminal Code for IPR matters, such as there are in the specific IPR laws. One can assume those relying on the Criminal Code may look to the IPR laws, but then why create overlapping duplicated offences?

Possibly the Criminal Code offences will have slightly wider application, when the IPR law criminal provisions are narrower.  The major difference however is that the criminal provisions in the IPR laws must be based on a complaint from the rights holder. This was controversial at the time and has probably led to a reduction in IPR enforcement as the authorities could no longer act alone. These new Criminal Code offences allow authorities to undertake their own investigations and prosecutions, without the IPR owner’s involvement.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Online protection in Indonesia

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News about Indonesia’s cyberblocking system may interest IP holders.
The government launched a web crawling system developed by telecoms company Telkom (which is part state owned and part public) to identify illegal digital content. It started operations in January, with 44 servers crawling the web for undesirable content on the web and other internet platforms. Alerts are created and inappropriate material is blocked. So far the main focus has been pornography. The Ministry of Communication and Information oversees the project and they blocked 72,407 pornographic sites in January.  Other areas they look at are illegal gambling and incitement to crimes (especially terrorism related).
The same ministry is also able to  remove content based on complaints from the public (e.g. social media problems), or rights holders for infringing products.
Fake news and online hoaxing is also a problem. This week the Police Directorate of Cyber Crimes arrested a teacher for using Facebook to spread fake news story that the Indonesian Communist Party (a banned old bogeyman of Indonesia’s political past) was coming to slaughter Muslims.
There may be ongoing concerns about censorship and too much control by the government, but rights holders will  be encouraged that the country’s online activities are improving and in some ways better than offline enforcement.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Myanmar IP law saga slowly heads to conclusion

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With Myanmar's IP laws promised for many years, but still not enacted, the slow pace of government in contrast to business is being exposed. The IP law drafts are still with the Parliament. The Law Drafting Committee passed the Draft IP Laws to the Parliament on January 17, 2018 for a final debate.  The hope is now that the laws will be enacted in the coming few months. They will still need a period before coming into force, then there is the preparation of the relevant subordinate rules and regulations. But at least 2018 now appears to be the year they will be enacted. 

In another twist the primary Ministry will be changed from Ministry of Education (formerly known as the Ministry of Science and Technology) to the Ministry of Commence and as a result, right now, Ministry of Commerce is preparing the new IP infrastructure including transferring staff from the MOE.

The launch of the Fashion Designers Entrepreneur Association in February was a reason for that industry to criticise the lack of IP progress. Mogok Pauk Pauk, vice-chair of the association complained to the media "people are copying our designs and ....destroying our trade because they have money and we don’t have copyright,” she said.

This will be an important year for Myanmar and IP development.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Cambodian trademark fees and timeframes

Image result for phnom penh A new set of regulations relating to trademark office matters in Cambodia took effect in early 2018.
Trademark office fees for 2018 are rising. Most are inflation level rises in the single digits. However there are several more significant changes.  One is that fees for international Madrid registrations have been set for the first time. Cambodia which joined in 2015 has now completed implementation and so can operate as an as office of origin for a Madrid international application.  The first Madrid application filed has been filed by a Cambodian national, but has not yet been published. 
Filing fees have been set for the first time for collective marks, certification marks and GIs. Cambodia has just registered its first certification mark MALYS ANGKOR for premium rice.  Of the regular trademark office fees the opposition fees see the largest increases. 

There are also rules relating to timeframes - applications are due to complete within 6-9 months, an improvement on the current 1 year.



Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Singapore explores plain packaging

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Singapore becomes the latest country to examine the issue of plain cigarette packaging. Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MH) has launched a public consultation on whether to adopt standardized packaging of tobacco products with larger and more graphic public health warnings. This follows a previous study and sets out 3 concrete proposals -
(a) regulating the promotional aspects of tobacco packaging;
(b) standardizing tobacco packaging elements; and
(c) increasing the size of graphic health warnings on packs from 50% to 75%.

Like many Health Ministries elsewhere in the world they approach this from a pure public health perspective, with a clear bias against tobacco companies and aiming for a tobacco free society. The consultation asserts that product packaging is a form of misleading advertising so must be restricted and that there is a clear global move to standardized packaging.  Much of the proposal reviews the international developments and their applicability to Singapore. They consider opposing arguments such as that plain packaging increases counterfeiting and that it diminishes IP protection but reject them all.

It seems overall a determined effort to move quickly, perhaps to become the first in the SE Asia region to make this law.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Blockchain and IP in SE Asia

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Everyone is getting excited by the Blockchain’s application to IP. Copytrack is a Singapore based business that hopes to revolutionise image based copyright licensing, by creating a secure blockchain based log of rights based information for a photograph. Even more, your camera’s metadata can be automatically integrated into the system. Then licensing and royalties can be claimed through an online enforcement mechanism.  They hope to expand into other content like music and text.
Vietnam is a hotspot of blockchain development. The Vietstock Blockchain Summit was held last week. Bitcoin is part of the story, but Vietnamese companies are also working on copyright verification systems on the blockchain, such as Copyrobo which has operated a web- and app-based service which can provide timestamped evidence of documents, video and music for over a year with its CopyrightKey technology. 
The general consensus is that the next wave of tech giants could come from a coffee shop in South East Asia as much as Silicon Valley. Last week. Google announced an investment in Indonesia’s Go-Jek, alongside Tencent, JD, Sequoia and other VC giants.  What is interesting for the IP industry is the rush of SE Asian companies looking to develop blockchain based IP tools.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

VIetnam's IP law amendments

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The fourth amendment to the IP laws of Vietnam came into force on 15th January this week. To do this Circular No. 16/2016 was issued in June 2016 by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) amending Circular No. 01/2007. This is the typical way that laws are amended in Vietnam by amendments to amendments.
Most of the changes relate to IP registration procedures at the National Office of Intellectual Property (NOIP). They inclide in relation to office actions, appeals, refusals, deadline compliance, PCT national phase entry, trademark disclaimers, Madrid based trademark procedures, definition of and specification for industrial designs.  
The new definition for designs is "A product being understood as an object, device, equipment, means, or part thereof for assembly or integration into a product, manufactured by any industrial or handicraft method, having a clear structure and function, circulated independently."