Piracy claims mar start of toys fair
Asia's biggest toys fair kicked off in Hong Kong yesterday and immediately attracted a string of complaints of infringements of intellectual property rights.
Ten complaints were lodged against exhibitors on the first day of the Trade Development Council's (TDC) Hong Kong Toys and Games Fair, five within the first 90 minutes.
The allegations are a dent to the image of Hong Kong, which has been trying hard to shake off its reputation as a haven for pirated products in areas such as compact discs and computer software.
The firms - six from Hong Kong and four from the mainland - were accused of copying the designs of fellow exhibitors' toys.
The TDC would not divulge their identities but said the allegations were supported by documentary evidence, according to a TDC spokesman.
All toys that were the subject of alleged infringements had been taken off display shelves immediately, he said.
The show, in its 26th year, has 1,562 exhibitors from 29 countries, including Germany, Canada, the United Arab Emirates and Israel.
TDC exhibition director Lee Chi-sang said the organiser had provided sufficient education and warnings to exhibitors ahead of the show.
Offenders faced expulsion from the show next year, he said.
'We're totally committed in fighting against intellectual property rights infringements,' he said.
The TDC had hired four legal experts as middlemen to handle disputes, he said.
'It's normal to see more complaints in the first one or two days,' Mr Lee said.
Disputes over intellectual property rights are handled at the civil level due to a lack of regulations governing the subject.
Mr Lee said 99 complaints had been lodged at last year's show but none had been proven in court so far.
Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, member of the TDC's toys advisory committee, defended the alleged copycats.
'Toys look alike very much and it's hard to judge who copies whose products,' he said.
'Besides this, very often complaints are not supported by any convincing evidence.' Edmund Young Kak-sun, chairman of the toys committee, said the number of exhibitors in the show had increased 7 per cent this year.
He was optimistic over the prospects for the SAR's toy industry despite a 2 per cent drop in exports last year.
Hong Kong is the world's largest toy exporter, selling US$9.5 billion worth in the first 10 months of last year.