Myanmar. Family of Late Burmese Composer Considers Lawsuit Against Carlsberg

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The family of the late Burmese composer Myoma Nyein is preparing a lawsuit against Denmark-based Carlsberg Brewery Company for their use of his Burmese song title on their product, Tuborg beer.

The Burmese script on the bottles, cans and marketing materials for Tuborg beer reads “Tupo,” a transliteration of the product’s name as well as the title of a famous song written by Myoma Nyein, who came from Mandalay.

His relatives claim that the musical reference has been used without their permission and are disappointed that the company has failed to officially apologize and to engage in negotiations after an ultimatum to do so was issued in mid-January this year.

Soon after the ultimatum, Carlsberg issued a statement announcing that they would not continue distributing their products using the Burmese phrase, “Tupo,” and would instead use the Danish brand name of Tuborg in Burma in the future.

Myoma Nyein’s family said that Carlsberg representatives met with them twice after the January ultimatum. During these meetings, the company asked for patience from the family regarding the sale of products that had already made it to market.

“They said they needed to sell out all the stock that had already been distributed in the market. First, they requested that we extend [the timeframe of] our ultimatum and we agreed. However, they never promised professionally, regarding the exact date and time that they would stop distribution,” said Shwun Myaing, Myoma Nyein’s son.

The family said that the company has continued using the marketing and advertising materials with the disputed phrase throughout Burma.

“If Carlsberg truly respected others’ dignity they would have announced officially and publicly in the newspapers the exact time when they would stop production of their products using ‘Tupo.’ Now, they are issuing statements only on their Facebook page, which is very unprofessional,” said Shwun Myaing.

The family said the company had requested another meeting with them on January 31, but no one from Carlsberg showed up.

“Although we accepted their requests for an extension of ultimatum with respect and understanding, they failed to apologize,” said Zaw Myo Oo, a grandson of the late composer. “We can’t stand it anymore…we are now preparing a lawsuit and will send a legal notice as soon as all documentation is ready.”

The family said that the Carlsberg had asked to use their Burmese-scripted Tuborg beer products until the country’s famous April water festival, known as Thingyan—the event celebrated in Myoma Nyein’s ‘Tupo’ song. The family denied the request.

“The legal action is not to receive compensation,” Zaw Myo Oo pointed out. “We just want the world to know that Carlsberg, a global company, is taking advantage of the weak rule of law in our country, disrespecting our copyrights and acting very unprofessionally,” he added.

After the family announced their decision to sue, Carlsberg’s office in Rangoon issued a statement on Thursday which was distributed nationwide to media outlets.

“We are disappointed that the family of the late Sayar Myoma Nyein still feels it is necessary to pursue legal action,” the letter read. “The word ‘Tu-Poh’ was used in good faith by Carlsberg, whose creative intent was to convey a message of fun and music, which is what TUBORG stands for globally.”

The statement also said it is working to discontinue the use of ‘Tupo’ in the marketing of Tuborg beer, and shortly—before Thingyan—the beer will feature only the Danish brand name of Tuborg.

The company also extended the apology to the public and to the fans of the late composer.

Carlsberg said that they hoped that the relatives of the late composer would refrain from taking legal action.

“We hope that [Myoma Nyein’s family] will reconsider and choose to continue the dialogue with us to find a satisfactory resolution to this situation,” said the statement.