HK seeks role as region's IP trade centre
Hong Kong is hoping to compete with Singapore to become the region's trading hub for intellectual property assets, as increasing demand for patents, copyrights, licences and trademarks on the mainland opens opportunities for local traders and professionals.
The mainland may be a haven for counterfeit goods, but the number of registrations for patents, trademarks and copyrights has risen sharply over the past two years. From 2008 to 2010, the number of patent applications on the mainland surged to more than 750,000 as the country has surpassed the United States as the world's largest patent-filing nation.
Alice Ngan, chairman of the Licensing Executives Society's China-Hong Kong sub-chapter, said: 'Instead of protecting the owner of the invention, patents and copyrights are also tradeable assets - some of which are worth millions of dollars, and one can sell the same technology to many buyers.'
Beijing has declared that technology and clean energy are key areas for development in its 12th five-year plan. And China's imports of technology patents have also grown dramatically, costing mainland buyers US$25.6 billion last year - a jump of 19 per cent from 2009. But there is still ample room for growth. In 2010 China spent on average only US$2.30 per person on licensed goods, compared with US$30 per person in Hong Kong and US$100 in the US.
The best known intellectual property (IP) trading involves selling the copyright for movies and songs to overseas distributors or television and radio stations. Thousands of transactions take place daily, with corporations and universities acquiring technology for modifications or application in other areas.
However, such trading has been done largely through special agencies, such as merchant bank Ocean Tomo in the US, as there is no widely used system for buying IP products.
'We wish to facilitate the set-up of an electronic platform where IP buyers and sellers from Asia can match themselves in not just one-to-one, but on a many-to-many basis,' Trade Development Council official Raymond Yip Chak-yan said. 'Our strong legal system could also make Hong Kong an arbitration centre for patent and copyright disputes.'
Singapore is another city aspiring to establish a regional IP trading platform, but Yip said Hong Kong's proximity to the mainland and its strength as a financial and trading hub gave it an edge over Singapore.
The council will host the city's first conference on intellectual property on December 2.
The number of intellectual property lawsuits heard by mainland courts in 2010