1 Intellectual Property in Hong Kong Contents Introduction Intellectual Property Protection in Hong Kong Intellectual Property Law Trade Marks Patents Copyrights Registered Designs Layout-Design (Topography) of Integrated Circuits Plant Varieties Protection Intellectual Property Department
2 Introduction What is Intellectual Property? Intellectual property is the name commonly given to a group of separate intangible property rights. These include trade marks, patents, copyright, designs, plant varieties and the layout design of integrated circuits. Intellectual property is important to our daily lives: different kinds of intellectual property underlie consumer products, such as brand-names and logos on clothes, pharmaceutical inventions, articles in the newspapers, TV programmes, pop songs, cinema films and fashion design. The following example of a computer illustrates the nature of different kinds of intellectual property in the product. Why is Intellectual Property Protection Important? Protection of intellectual property helps creators to protect their creativity. Writers, artists, designers, software programmers, inventors and other talents can, if they wish, protect their creativity so that their hard work can be rewarded. Hong Kong is a creative place. Our film production, television programme production, sound recording production, publications, fashion and jewellery design, graphical design and production skills are known world-wide and enjoy a ready market overseas. Hong Kong is an international trading centre, we need to provide the necessary intellectual property rights protection to our investors to assure them of a free and fair environment in which to do business. What is protected? Not all ideas, inventions or creations are protected. For example, the incorporation of a famous cartoon character protected by copyright into a commercial product without permission is illegal. On the other hand, to balance the interest of intellectual property rights owners and the society as a whole, while a pharmaceutical invention may be protected by grant of patent, a special medical treatment of a disease is not protected.
3 The shaded parts of the picture briefly illustrate what is protected and what is not. Intellectual Property Protection in Hong Kong Our Commitment The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) attaches great weight to the contribution that the creation of intellectual property makes to the economy. We have been involved in an on-going effort to ensure that Hong Kong people and overseas investors in Hong Kong can be assured of intellectual property protection on par with or better than in other economies of the world. Basic Law and Intellectual Property Rights Recognising the importance of intellectual property protection in the Hong Kong SAR, Hong Kong's mini-constitution - the Basic Law - specifically provides in Articles 139 and 140 that the Hong Kong SAR should on its own develop appropriate policies and afford legal protection for intellectual property rights. Intellectual property rights registered in Hong Kong are not automatically protected in the Mainland, and vice-versa. To obtain protection in Hong Kong and the Mainland, proprietors must register in each place separately.
4 Intellectual Property Department To underline the commitment of intellectual property protection, the government established the Intellectual Property Department on 2 July The Intellectual Property Department is responsible for advising the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development on policies and legislation to protect intellectual property in the Hong Kong SAR; for operating the Hong Kong SAR's Trade Marks, Patents, Registered Designs and Copyright Licensing Bodies Registries, and for promoting intellectual property protection through public education. Customs & Excise Department The Customs and Excise Department is responsible for enforcing the criminal aspects of infringement of intellectual property rights. It investigates complaints alleging infringement of trademarks and copyright and complaints alleging false trade descriptions. The department has extensive powers of search and seizure, and cooperates with overseas enforcement authorities and owners of trademarks and copyright in a concerted effort to combat infringement of intellectual property rights. The department has received many commendations for its work from both public and private institutions. In accordance with Hong Kong's obligations under the World Trade Organization - Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (WTO - TRIPS Agreement), the Customs and Excise Department will help rights-owners to enforce their rights in relation to copyright and trademark goods through border enforcement measures. Intellectual Property Law What is Intellectual Property Law? The law affords legal protection of rights in intellectual property by providing protection in different categories of monopolies. Broadly speaking, intellectual property law: defines rights by ring-fencing the monopolies granted defines permitted acts by creating certain legal exceptions to the monopolies in the public interest defines remedies which set out the way the right owner or the government can enforce rights by civil or criminal proceedings, and sets out ways that rights can be acquired, for example through registration and how rights can be assigned or licensed by one party to another. So for example: the owner of a registered trademark can attach his / her mark to his / her own goods or services, and he can stop anyone else from attaching the mark to their goods or services
5 the owner of a patent can manufacture products incorporating his / her patented invention, and can exclude anyone else from using that invention the owner of a copyright can copy, publish, perform or import his / her works, and can stop anyone else from doing so. This system allows creators and subsequent owners of rights to gain economic benefit from charging other people royalties or a lump-sum for using the marks, products or works over which they have obtained their legal monopoly. Just as the law defines offences against tangible property, for example stealing a car or breaking into a house, it also sets out offences (criminal infringement) against intellectual property. For example, selling goods with counterfeit trademarks, trading in pirated music, video or computer software are all acts which can constitute criminal infringement. Summary of Intellectual Property Categories Protected in the Hong Kong SAR The following table summarises the different categories of general characteristics of intellectual property protection available in the Hong Kong SAR. Further details of each category are described in separate sections below. Tradem arks Type of Trade or subject-matter service normally marks protected Patents Designs Plant Varieties Invention Industrial product designs, fabric designs New agricultural or horticultural plant varieties. Integrated Circuit Designs Lay-out designs of integrated circuits ('mask' works) Copyright Books, software, plays, music, paintings, sculpture, photographs, films, sound recordings, broadcasts, cable programmes, performances Whether registration is required for effective protection in HKSAR Enforcement available in HKSAR YES YES YES YES NO NO Civil, Criminal Civil Civil Civil Civil Civil, Criminal
6 Domestic Protection and International Protection Intellectual property laws are domestic. For example, a right given under Hong Kong SAR law only applies in the Hong Kong SAR. However, various international conventions require member countries or economies to recognise rights of persons from the other member countries or economies. The main international intellectual property conventions which have been applied to the Hong Kong SAR by the People's Republic of China are: the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works the Universal Copyright Convention the Geneva Convention for the Protection of Producers of Phonograms Against Unauthorised Duplication of Their Phonograms ( the Phonograms Convention ) the Patent Cooperation Treaty the Convention establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization ( WIPO ) the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty Hong Kong, China is a member of the World Trade Organization in its own right, and our intellectual property protection system meets the standards set out in the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. Trademarks What is a Trademark? A trademark is a sign that distinguishes the goods or services of one trader from those of others. Registered and Unregistered Trademark Trademarks may be registered or unregistered. Unregistered trademarks may be protected by the common law action of passing off. A trademark owner bringing an action for passing off must prove reputation in the mark and must prove that the other person's use of the mark will cause him / her damage. Passing off is usually a more difficult action to bring than an action for infringement of a registered trademark. Therefore, we strongly recommend traders to register their trademarks in the Hong Kong SAR. Trademarks Registered outside the Hong Kong SAR The Hong Kong SAR's trademark registration system is separate from the systems operating in the Mainland or elsewhere in the world. Trademarks registered with the Trademark Office under the State Administration for Industry and Commerce of the People s Republic of China or trademark registries of other countries or regions do not automatically receive protection in the Hong Kong SAR. In order to obtain protection as registered trade marks in the Hong Kong SAR, trademarks must be registered under the Trade Marks Ordinance (Cap 559).
7 Trade Marks Ordinance The Trade Marks Ordinance (Cap 559) came into force on 4 April The Ordinance provides the framework for the Hong Kong SAR's system of registration of trademarks. It sets out the basis and criteria for registration and the rights attached to a registered trade mark. The Ordinance has simplified application and examination procedures and the fee for registration of a trade mark has been substantially reduced. Under the new law, the range of marks which can be registered as trademarks is broadened, for example by allowing distinctive sound and smell marks to be registered. Assignment and licensing procedures have also been simplified, and multi-class applications are allowed. Owners' Rights The owner of a registered trademark has the exclusive right to use the mark on the goods or the services for which the mark was registered. The owner can take legal action to prevent anyone from using his / her registered mark in relation to those goods or services without his / her consent. Infringement Anyone fraudulently using a trademark, including selling and importing goods bearing a forged trademark, or possessing or using equipment for that purpose also commits a criminal offence under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (Cap 362). Hong Kong Trade Marks Registry The Hong Kong Trade Marks Registry started operating in 1874, and is one of the world's oldest trademark registries. Hong Kong has been registering marks for services as well as for goods since The number of applications has been rising steadily over the years. Trademark Registration Normally an applicant for a new trademark will be notified within two to three months that his / her mark will be published in the Hong Kong Intellectual Property Journal, provided the criteria laid out in the Trade Marks Ordinance are met. The public then have a period of three months to oppose if they have lawful grounds for doing so. Where no opposition is received, the mark can normally be registered in a further one month. The whole registration process may take as short as six months if there is no objection or opposition to the mark. The registration is effective from the filing date of the application to register. Company Names Company name registration under Hong Kong s Companies Ordinance does not provide protection against infringing trademark use. Business or Company Names that have been registered in Hong Kong should also be registered separately as trademarks if proprietors wish to prevent them from being registered or used by others as trademarks. Applied International Conventions As the People s Republic of China has applied the Paris Convention to the Hong Kong SAR, and Hong Kong, China is a member of the WTO, applicants for trademarks in the Hong Kong SAR can enjoy a right of priority in respect of their applications.
8 Patents What is a Patent? Patents protect technical innovations. An invention which is new, involves an inventive step and is capable of being industrially applied can be patented in the Hong Kong SAR if it does not belong to the excluded classes of inventions. The patent system encourages new technology by granting the inventor a patent which gives him / her the exclusive right to exploit the invention for a set term. In exchange, the inventor is required to make the invention public. Territorial Protection As with trade marks, Hong Kong SAR patent law is territorial. Patents granted in the Hong Kong SAR will only get protection in the Hong Kong SAR. The Hong Kong SAR patent system is separate from the system which operates in the Mainland or elsewhere in the world. Patents granted by the State Intellectual Property Office of the People s Republic of China are not automatically protected in Hong Kong. However, patent applications published by the State Intellectual Property Office on or after 27 June 1997 can form the basis for an application for a standard patent to the Hong Kong SAR Patents Registry. Patents Ordinance The Patents Ordinance (Cap 514) came into effect on 27 June It replaced the previous Registration of Patents Ordinance and provided the Hong Kong SAR with its own independent patent law. The new law provides registration of patents granted by the State Intellectual Property Office and, at the same time, provides continuity with the previous patent system by allowing continued registration of United Kingdom patents and European patents designating the United Kingdom. The registered patent when granted in the Hong Kong SAR is a Hong Kong SAR patent independent of the Chinese, European or United Kingdom patent. The patent will be enforced by the Hong Kong SAR courts. Standard Patent Standard patents in the Hong Kong SAR have a term of protection of up to 20 years. Applicants seeking protection of a standard patent must make an application to the Hong Kong SAR Patents Registry within 6 months after the date of publication of their patent application at the State Intellectual Property Office, European Patent Office or United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office.
9 Short-term Patent The Patents Ordinance also provides for 'the short-term patent' for inventions with a short commercial viability. The term of protection is up to eight years. Applications are made directly to the Hong Kong SAR Patents Registry, and are granted subject to a formality examination. As the People s Republic of China has applied the Paris Convention to the Hong Kong SAR, and Hong Kong, China is a member of the WTO, applicants for short-term patents in the Hong Kong SAR can enjoy a right of priority in respect of their applications. Owners rights A patent gives the patent owner the exclusive right to make, use, import or put his / her invention on the market. The patent owner can take legal action to prevent anyone not having his / her consent from doing the above acts in Hong Kong SAR. Infringement Under the Patents Ordinance, a patent owner can take civil action to prevent any person who infringes his / her patent, (i.e. standard patent or short-term patent), and to apply for an injunction, delivery-up, damages or an account of the profits and a declaration that the patent is valid and has been infringed. Patent Cooperation Treaty The People's Republic of China has applied the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) to the Hong Kong SAR. An applicant who has designated the People s Republic of China in his / her PCT patent application can elect to have his / her application considered in the Hong Kong SAR, in accordance with the Hong Kong SAR's Patents Ordinance, when that international application enters its national phase in the People s Republic of China. Copyrights What is Copyright? Copyright law primarily protects expression of human creativity. Such expression is known as works in which copyright subsists. Common types of copyright works include books, software, musical compositions, plays, photographs, drawings, paintings, sculptures, sound recordings, films, broadcasts and cable programmes. Materials available to the public on the Internet also involve copyright works. Copyright Ordinance The Copyright Ordinance (Cap 528) provides comprehensive protection for recognised categories of original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, as well as for sound recordings, films, television broadcasts and cable diffusion, and works which are made available to the public on the Internet. Hong Kong SAR's copyright law protects not only underlying works but also the typographical arrangements of the published editions of copyright and/or non-copyright literary, dramatic and musical works. Performers rights in their performances are also protected by the law. There are no formalities required to obtain copyright protection for works in the Hong Kong
10 SAR. Works of authors from any place in the world, or works first published anywhere in the world, qualify for copyright protection in the Hong Kong SAR. International Conventions The People s Republic of China has applied the Berne Convention, Universal Copyright Convention, the Phonograms Convention, the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty to the Hong Kong SAR. Furthermore, as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Hong Kong, China complies with the requirements under the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. Owners' Rights Copyright law gives copyright owners certain exclusive rights known as restricted acts. These include copying the work; issuing copies of the work to the public; renting copies of the work to the public; making copies of the work available to the public by wire or wireless means, e.g. on the Internet; performing, showing and playing the work in public; broadcasting the work by wireless or cable; and adapting the work Depending on the type of copyright work, copyright protection can last for the remainder of the life of the creator of the work plus 50 years after the creator dies, or 25 years or 50 years after the work is made, released or published. In addition, the author of a copyright literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, and the director of a copyright film, subject to certain conditions and exceptions, enjoys moral rights. These are the right to be identified as the author or director, and the right to object to derogatory treatment of the work or film that amounts to a distortion or mutilation or is otherwise prejudicial to the honour or reputation of the author or director. A performer of a live aural performance or a performer whose performance is fixed in a sound recording also enjoys similar moral rights. Further, any person has the right in specified circumstances not to have a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work falsely attributed to him as author; and not to have a film falsely attributed to him as director. Infringement Copyright in a work is infringed by a person who without the permission of the copyright owner does, or authorizes another to do, any of the above restricted acts. A copyright owner can take civil action against an infringer in order to seek necessary relief against the infringer, such as an injunction to prevent further infringement, damages, additional damages or account of profits which the infringer made. A right holder of moral rights can commence civil action against any infringer of his/her rights. The law imposes criminal sanction for infringing activities conducted for commercial purposes, such as making infringing copies for sale or hire, or commercial dealings with such copies. End-user piracy in business by possessing pirated software, movies, television dramas or musical (sound/visual) recordings, or by making/distributing significant quantities of pirated printed publication on a frequent or regular basis, also attracts criminal sanction. The maximum penalty is imprisonment for four years and a fine of HK$50,000 (US$6,410)
11 per infringing copy. Piracy activities conducted outside the Hong Kong SAR may in some circumstances also constitute an offence under the Hong Kong copyright law if the purpose is to enable infringing copies to be imported into the Hong Kong SAR. Furthermore, any person, who for commercial purpose, makes, imports, exports or deals in products for defeating technological copyright protection systems, or provides commercial services for enabling customers to defeat such protection systems is liable to a term of imprisonment of up to four years and a maximum fine of HK$500,000 (US$64,100). Parallel Importation Parallel importation of a copyright work usually means the importation into Hong Kong SAR without the permission of the copyright owner, of a genuine copy of that work which was originally made with authorization of the copyright owner and destined for a market outside Hong Kong SAR. The law does not impose any restriction on parallel importation of computer software products, including for commercial dealings in such parallel imports, unless the principal attraction of the product involves musical sound or visual recordings, movies, television dramas, e-books, or a combination of them. For other types of copyright works, there is generally no restriction for end users to import or possess parallel imported copies, whether for personal or business use. However, parallel import or use of parallel imported copies for the following purposes is prohibited - dealing in the copies (i.e. selling, hiring or distributing for profit) playing or showing the works in public, if the copies concerned are movies, television dramas or musical (sound/visual) recordings. Commission of any of the above prohibited acts is subject to both civil and criminal sanctions during the 15 months starting from the work's first publication anywhere in the world. Where the work has been published for more than 15 months, civil liability will continue to apply. Registered Designs What is a Registered Design? The new visible shape, configuration, pattern or ornament applied to an article by an industrial process are features capable of protection by design registration. Examples of registrable designs include fabric patterns, and the outward appearance of watches, jewellery, toys or mobile phones. Registered Designs Ordinance With effect from 27 June 1997, the Hong Kong SAR has its own, independent designs law, Registered Designs Ordinance (Cap 522) and designs registry. Applicants can apply for registration of designs directly with the Hong Kong SAR Designs Registry. Designs are registered subject to a formality examination. As the People s Republic of China has applied the Paris Convention to the Hong Kong SAR, and Hong Kong, China is a member of the WTO, applicants for registered design applications in the Hong Kong SAR can enjoy a right of priority in respect of their applications.
12 Owners rights A registered design owner has the right to prevent others from making, importing, using, selling or hiring the registered design product. Infringement Under the Registered Designs Ordinance, the right in a registered design is infringed by a person who, without the consent of the registered owner, does anything which is the exclusive right of the registered owner. Claims for infringement by the registered design owner may be brought in court by civil legal action. The registered design owner may apply for an injunction, delivery up, damages or an account of profits. Designs Registered outside the Hong Kong SAR The Hong Kong SAR's designs registration system is separate from the systems which operate in the Mainland or elsewhere in the world. Designs registered with the State Intellectual Property Office of the People s Republic of China or designs registries of other countries or regions, must be registered in the Hong Kong SAR before they can be protected in the Hong Kong SAR. Designs protected in Hong Kong under the law previously in force, enjoy continued protection beyond their current periods of registration, on application to renew in the Hong Kong SAR, provided the total period of registration does not exceed that stipulated under the Registered Designs Ordinance. Layout-design (Topography) of Integrated Circuits The Hong Kong SAR has special legislation to protect the original layout-design for incorporation into an integrated circuit. Subject to certain exceptions, the owner is able to take civil action to prohibit others from reproducing or distributing his / her layout-design without his / her consent or without payment of royalties. There is no need to register the layout-design right and protection will be automatic. Plant Varieties Protection Plant varieties protection is also known as 'plant breeders' rights.' A plant breeder, like other intellectual property owners, has the exclusive right to authorise reproduction of his / her new plant variety. The Plant Varieties Protection Ordinance (Cap 490) confers intellectual property rights on breeders of plant varieties. The Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation is the Registrar of Plant Variety Rights and considers applications for plant variety rights. A plant variety must be new, distinct, homogeneous and stable in order to be considered for protection under the law.
13 Intellectual Property Department Address: 24 Floor, Wu Chung House, 213 Queen's Road East, Hong Kong Enquiry Hotline: (852) Fax: (852) Website: Full texts of the intellectual property laws are available through the Bilingual Laws Information System (BLIS) offered by the Department of Justice at the following website: Customs Piracy Report Line: (852) Intellectual Property Department Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region [January 2011] Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government 2011 All rights reserved This publication may be copied, distributed or exhibited in any form for non-commercial use without the prior permission of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region provided that the following notice appears in the work: This material is taken from Intellectual Property in Hong Kong 2011 and is used with the permission of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
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