Hong Kong 2003
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Protection of Intellectual Property Rights

The Government's commitment to protecting intellectual property rights is evidenced by its dynamic legislative programme, vigorous law enforcement and continuous public education. Hong Kong has in place an intellectual property regime which is in full compliance with international standards.


Registration activities have taken on a new focus to deliver Internet online search for trade marks (available since January 2003), patents and designs (to be launched in the first quarter of 2004). By November 2003, 10 months into online search of trade marks, the United States emerged as the top user of this search service. Registration in a 90 per cent paperless environment and online filing for trade marks, patents and designs is scheduled to be in place by the first quarter of 2004.

Another focus for registration activities is customer relationship management. Forty-five briefings, workshops, 'walk-throughs' and visits were conducted for filers and stakeholders.

Trade Marks

The Trade Marks Registry is responsible for the registration of trade marks in respect of goods and services. On April 4, 2003, the new Trade Marks Ordinance came into effect. The new ordinance increases the range of signs that can serve as trade marks and simplifies the registration procedures. More user-friendly features such as multi-class applications, reduction of the number of forms from 42 to 15 have also been introduced. In addition, there has been a substantial reduction in registration fees.

In 2003, 20 382 applications were received, comprising 16 017 single-class applications and 4 365 multiple-class applications. During the period, 20 359 marks were registered, an increase of 25.4 per cent compared with 16 240 in 2002. Out of the total of 80 countries filing applications, the principal places from which applications originated were:

HK, China

7 374


3 489


2 116








United Kingdom




British Virgin Islands




The register had a total of 171 140marks as at December 31, 2003.


The Patents Ordinance provides for the grant of standard patents based on patents granted in the State Intellectual Property Office of China, the United Kingdom Patent Office or the European Patent Office (in respect of patents designating the United Kingdom). It also provides for the grant of short-term patents. In 2003, the Patents Registry received 9 102 standard patent applications and 3 075 were granted. During the period, there were also 398 applications for grant of short-term patents, and 335 were granted.

Registered Designs

The Registered Designs Ordinance enables designs to be registered independently in the HKSAR. In 2003, the Designs Registry received 2 339 applications for registration of 3 327 designs, comprising 1 933 single-design applications and 406 multiple-design applications. During the period, 3 310 designs were registered.


The Copyright Ordinance provides protection for literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, typographical arrangements of published editions, sound recordings, films, broadcasts, cable programmes, and performers' performances irrespective of the domicile of the copyright owners. In line with international standards, there is no requirement to register copyright.

The Copyright (Amendment) Ordinance 2003, which took effect on November 28, removed civil and criminal liabilities pertaining to parallel importation of and subsequent dealing in articles commonly known as computer software products. However, if the principal attraction of a computer software product is musical or visual recordings, movies, television dramas, e-books, or a combination of them, then restrictions continue to apply.


The Customs and Excise Department is responsible for enforcing the criminal sanctions for the protection of copyright and trade marks. It investigates reports of copyright infringement and trade mark counterfeiting, and takes action against the manufacture, distribution, sale, import and export of pirated and counterfeit goods. The department also takes action against the possession of infringing copies of computer programmes, movies, television dramas and music recordings in business as well as unauthorised possession of video recording equipment in a place of public entertainment used primarily as a cinema, theatre or concert hall.

The department maintains stringent control on all optical disc and stamper factories to prevent them from engaging in copyright piracy activities. Optical disc and stamper manufacturers are required to apply for a licence from the Commissioner of Customs and Excise. At year-end, 113 licensed stamper and optical disc factories, 738 optical disc production lines and 21 stamper production units were registered with the department.

During the year, the department processed 10 341 cases and arrested 1 288 persons in connection with copyright piracy activities. The total quantity of items seized amounted to 7.08 million, with a value of $229.46 million. The department also processed 760 cases relating to counterfeit goods and goods bearing false trade descriptions. A total of 743 persons were arrested and 39.46 million pieces of counterfeit goods, valued at $258.4 million, were seized.

During the year, the department detected 23 corporate software end-user piracy cases, resulting in the arrest of 38 persons and the seizure of infringing copies of computer software with a market value of $2 million, as estimated by the copyright owners. It also received one report of unauthorised possession of video recording equipment in a cinema and conducted a criminal investigation into the reported criminal activity.

As an initiative to help young people to keep away from copyright pirates, the Customs and Excise Department and the Social Welfare Department jointly established in April 2002 a referral system under which juvenile offenders apprehended in piracy cases can be given assistance and counselling as circumstances warrant. Since the implementation of the system, a total of eight juvenile offenders have been referred to the Social Welfare Department for such services.

The Special Task Force of 147 Customs officers continued to take vigorous enforcement action against illicit manufacturing and retailing of optical discs. Its main enforcement objective is to carry out repeated and focused operations at 'black spot' retail outlets and their storage facilities to suppress the sale of pirated optical discs.

As a result of the department's vigorous enforcement action, large-scale illicit optical disc manufacturing activities, for which expensive replicating machines were used, had been successfully stamped out, and no such large-scale activity was detected in 2003. Copyright pirates have turned to smaller scale operations by setting up copying workshops equipped with CD-writers to manufacture pirated discs. During the year, the department neutralised 28 such illegal workshops, with the seizure of 481 CD-writers and the arrest of 57 persons.

The department also takes action against copyright piracy activities on the Internet. Since its establishment in early 2000, the department's Anti-Internet Piracy Team has detected 31 Internet piracy cases, resulting in the seizure of pirated goods and equipment valued at $2.04 million, and the arrest of 53 persons.

Public Education

During the year, the Intellectual Property Department continued to keep up the momentum of public education. Consumers and retailers were encouraged to join the ongoing campaigns, 'I Pledge' and 'No Fakes', to show their commitment to buy, use and sell genuine goods.

In 2003, the department continued its programme of visiting secondary schools. Visits to 23 schools with a total of 6 830 students were made. Several teaching aids were produced including a comic book and a three-dimensional computer game.

The department has produced several Announcements in the Public Interest to promote respect for intellectual property rights and a TV programme on Making Intellectual Property Your Business — A Wealth Creation Series. This eight-episode programme conveyed to the public the message that intellectual property is a prime driver of economic growth. In cooperation with trade and professional organisations, the department also organised several seminars for SMEs to help them understand the importance of intellectual property and explain to them the systems for protecting such assets in Hong Kong.

Following the Sixth Guangdong/Hong Kong Joint Conference held on August 5, the Guangdong/Hong Kong Expert Group on the Protection of Intellectual Property Rights was set up to enhance the cooperation between the two places in the area of protection of intellectual property rights. The first meeting was held in Hong Kong on December 3. In December, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Intellectual Property Database was launched to help enterprises operating in the three places, particularly SMEs, to understand their respective intellectual property laws and systems. The database can be accessed at http://www.ip-prd.net/. The department partnered with the Trade Development Council and its counterparts in Guangdong in organising seminars and briefing sessions to promote understanding of the respective systems.

Participation in International Organisations

The Intellectual Property Department continued to participate in the activities of the WTO Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in 2003. Representatives of the department also attended conferences at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), including the meeting of the Assemblies of the Member States, and the conferences held by various committees, such as the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights. The department also represented Hong Kong, China at other international and regional intellectual property symposia and conferences, including the 16th meeting of the APEC Intellectual Property Experts Group held in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March and the 17th meeting held in Vancouver, Canada, in July.

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