Two international intellectual property (IP) law firms – UK-based Rouse and Thailand-based Tilleke & Gibbins – joined the flood of law firms into the recently-opened Southeast Asian country.
IP law firm Rouse opened its new office in Yangon on November 22. The office will offer filing and prosecution services for trademarks, patents, designs and geographical indications. IP commercialisation and technology transfer services will also be available.
The firm says that the office – Rouse’s 16th – is the first to be opened in Myanmar by an international IP law firm.
Rouse partner Fabrice Mattei and Moe Mynn Thu, a qualified attorney from Myanmar who joins from beer maker Myanmar Brewery, are in charge of the office.
Rouse has worked “actively” in the country’s market for several years and believes “the time is now right” to establish a base in the country, said chief executive Luke Minford.
“We already manage the IP of over 50 clients in Myanmar, and this step will ensure we can continue to deliver the level of service we pride ourselves on at Rouse.
“Rouse is uniquely positioned to operate in Myanmar, as Fabrice Mattei and Moe Mynn Thu have been instrumental in working with the government to develop the trademark law currently before parliament,” he said.
Myanmar has no specific IP legislation, but is drafting separate laws for patents, trademarks, designs and copyright. The country’s trademark law is expected to be the first of the IP legislation to be ready, probably by the end of this year. An IP office will also be set up.
Mattei, who is Thailand country manager and also head of patents at Rouse, said the firm will have a bright future in Myanmar.
“Myanmar is a thriving, nascent economy, with a strategic position between India, China and Thailand. Working in the country brings many opportunities, as well as challenges, to IP owners.
“The country’s IP regime is currently undergoing huge, and positive change – now is the right time for companies to begin to understand and protect their IP in Myanmar. I am looking forward to working with the rest of Rouse’s global network at this incredibly exciting time.”
Myanmar joined the World Trade Organization in 1994 and must be fully TRIPs compliant by 2021.
Meanwhile Bangkok-headquartered regional firm Tilleke & Gibbins has also opened its office in Yangon and has a particular focus on IP related services.
Apart from Myanmar, Tilleke has also launched new offices in Indonesia and Laos as part of the firm’s regional expansion. Initially, each of these offices will focus primarily on IP work, an area of strength of the firm.
“We’ve been serving clients in IP matters in these jurisdictions for many years, having managed thousands of registration matters in each country. As our clients have continued to entrust us with more and more matters across Southeast Asia, we felt the time was right to launch a physical presence in Indonesia, Laos, and Myanmar, so that we can further improve the services we deliver to our clients,” said Darani Vachanavuttivong, co-managing partner of Tilleke & Gibbins. Based in Bangkok, Vachanavuttivong will oversee the three new offices.
In Indonesia, the firm expects to focus exclusively on patent and trademark registration and related activities. In Laos and Myanmar, its initial push will be driven by IP, but it already has significant interest from clients to offer more broadly into other areas.
“We are constantly reviewing our strategic initiatives in order to determine where we should direct our investments. Many of our clients are interested in having a single point of contact for their legal needs across Southeast Asia, so we are certainly eyeing further expansion possibilities,” said Vachanavuttivong.
Since the beginning of this year, a raft of foreign firms has entered into the market, either by setting up an office or through a tie-up with a local firm. Singapore-based Selvam & Partners opened its office in September, while US-based Herzfeld Rubin Meyer & Rose, and Stephenson Harwood opened their offices in October and May respectively.
Meanwhile, a string of other international firms which continue to eye Myanmar but are yet to set up an office include Berwin Leighton Paisner, Norton Rose Fulbright and Baker & McKenzie.