Burma – Protection of Property Rights
This information is derived from the State Department’s Office of Investment Affairs’ Investment Climate Statement. Any questions on the ICS can be directed to EB-ICS-DL@state.gov
The MIL provides that any foreign investor may enter into long-term leases with private landlords, or—in case of state owned land—the relevant government departments or government organizations, if the investor has obtained a Permit or Endorsement issued by the MIC. Upon issuance of a Permit or an Endorsement, a foreign investor may enter into leases with an initial term of up to 50 years (with the possibility to extend for two additional terms of ten years each). Longer periods of land utilization or land leases may be allowed by the MIC to promote the development of difficult-to-access regions with lower development.
However, a continuing area of concern for foreigners involves investment in large-scale land projects. Property rights of large plots of land for investment commonly are disputed because ownership is not well-established, particularly following a half-century of military expropriations; it is not uncommon for foreign firms to face complaints from communities about inadequate consultation and compensation regarding land that they are seeking to lease from the government or private parties.
In January 2016, the government published the approved National Land Use Policy. The policy includes provisions on ensuring the use of effective environmental and social safeguard mechanisms; improving public participation in decision-making processes related to land use planning; improving public access to accurate information related to land use management; and developing independent dispute resolution mechanisms. The policy is to be updated every five years as necessary and stipulates that a new national land law will be drafted and enacted using this policy. This policy will also be used as a guide for the harmonization of all existing laws relating to land in the country.
Burma’s parliament passed the Condominium Law on January 22, 2016. The law states that up to 40 percent of condominium units can be sold to foreign buyers on a building’s sixth floor and above. As per the new law, condominium owners shall have the shared ownership of both the land and apartment. However, new residential condominiums built in Rangoon will not meet the criteria stipulated in the law as most of the projects were built by foreign investors on government land under build-operate-transfer (BOT). Such private-public partnership investments cannot be considered condominiums under the new law. The Ministry of Construction is drafting rules to clarify the new law.
In accordance with the Transfer of Immovable Property Restriction Law of 1987, mortgages of immovable property are prohibited if the mortgage is a foreigner, foreign company or foreign bank.
Intellectual Property Rights
Burma is in the process of improving intellectual property rights protection. Patent, trademark, industrial design, and copyright laws and regulations are antiquated and deficient, and there is minimal regulation and enforcement of existing statutes. Consequently, there is no legal protection in Burma for foreign copyrights. In addition, Burma has no trademark law, although trademark registration is possible.
Burma does not have in place a judicial court specifically dealing with intellectual property rights. Disputes related to the infringement of intellectual property rights are governed by common rules of civil and criminal procedure. Similarly, there is no institution in charge of supervising the administration, registration and enforcement of intellectual property.
Burma is attempting to address these legal deficiencies and the high level of piracy within Burma. After Burma joined ASEAN in 1997, it agreed to modernize its intellectual property laws in accordance with the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Intellectual Property Cooperation. The Ministry of Education, with advice from external stakeholders and experts, drafted four new intellectual property bills – on trademarks, copyrights, patents, and industrial design – with the aim of creating a modern, comprehensive legal framework for intellectual property rights and improving Burma’s business climate. In anticipation of the trademark bill passing, Burma has established a single national Intellectual Property Office with USAID assistance that will monitor compliance with intellectual property laws and be responsible for further developing intellectual policy and regulations. In addition, the WTO has delayed required implementation of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPs) Agreement for Least Developed Nations – including Burma – until 2021.
For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles