IP protection still poor, say firms

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 May, 2006, 12:00am

More must be done to safeguard intellectual property

While most Hong Kong firms believe intellectual property protection is an important part of having a successful business, the majority still consider there is not enough protection.

The head of the government's Intellectual Property Department, Stephen Selby, said yesterday most businesses were now aware of the law and considered trademarks to be valuable assets to a company.

His comments came at the launch of the third survey on business attitudes to intellectual property.

Of the 1,201 companies contacted in the department-commissioned survey, 30 per cent had a registered trademark, patent or design registered in Hong Kong - up from 22 per cent last year - and 94 per cent knew there was legislation protecting their property.

Most Hong Kong firms had also accepted that intellectual property was an important part of their business.

More companies had adopted guidelines for intellectual property, and the number banning staff from either uploading or downloading illegal files had risen by about 10 per cent compared to last year. A total of 70.8 per cent also barred staff from installing pirated software.

But the majority of firms still felt the level of protection offered was insufficient.

This year 42.2 per cent of firms said they believed intellectual property protection was adequate, up from 37.4 per cent the year before. However, this year, 51 per cent believed protection measures were not adequate.

Mr Selby said the department would need to do more to find out why businesses did not think protection was good, citing high rates for seizure of pirated goods at ports, and the relatively few court cases involving intellectual property violations.

'Hong Kong is the best in the region when it comes to IP protection but businesses are still not happy,' he said.

Mr Selby said the department's role had mainly been to educate companies about intellectual property protection and how to best use the legislation. But now the government would shift to helping businesses develop strategies to counter violations before they happened.

Two examples he suggested were that companies need to be aware of those in the firm with access to trade secrets and to ensure they are registered in the right place.

More than half the businesses surveyed believed the government was the most important channel of enforcing intellectual property rights.

The department also highlighted the work it would be doing on the mainland, including hosting seminars in cities including Guangdong.

While Hong Kong laws were not enforceable on the mainland, there was still scope to educate firms on proper intellectual property practices, the department said.