Patent system in need of update

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 October, 2011, 12:00am


Hong Kong faces a steep learning curve when it comes to nurturing creativity and innovation. We have the talent, but have lagged behind in developing it. Former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa recognised this shortly after the 1997 handover, seeing a need to broaden our city's economic strength beyond the finance, services and tourism sectors. More recently, the creative industry was identified as one of the six areas that should be given more support.

Most important of all, though, is the need to create an environment in which innovation and creativity can flourish. This means ensuring inventors and artists have the freedom they need in which to express themselves, while also protecting their intellectual property against unauthorised copying. Those who have devoted their time and effort to their inventions are entitled to reap the rewards. For this, an effective and up-to-date patent system is essential. The government consultation on reviewing the decade-old patent regime is a positive, though belated step to create a better business environment for developing creative industries. At present, applicants for Hong Kong patents have to first seek protection either from the authorities in Europe or mainland China. The system that grants patents based on recognition given by overseas authorities has its merits. It means less verification is needed and therefore the cost is lower and the application procedure is relatively simple.

But concerns have been raised that the lack of an independent patent system has prevented inventors from applying for protection in Hong Kong. It makes no sense for inventors to have to first pay out for securing recognition overseas before being able to protect their intellectual property at home. The consultation is an important step towards modernising Hong Kong's system. We have the talent, but much more needs to be done if we are to achieve the goal of turning our city into a launch pad for research and innovation.