Hong Kong lags behind Singapore in race to become hub for IP trading

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 January, 2014, 4:58am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 January, 2014, 4:58am

Hong Kong is lagging behind Singapore in the race to become a regional hub of intellectual property (IP) trading.

In April, Singapore released an 80-page master plan for developing the industry there, while in Hong Kong plans remain at the discussion stage.

Andrew Liao Cheung-sing, vice-chairman of the working group on IP trading and an Executive Council member, says the group is working "fast" to draw up its advice for the government.

IP rights take the form of patents, copyright, designs or trademarks. The government set up the working group last year to explore the city's potential to develop into a regional IP trading hub as the global industry grows.

Sectors such as valuation, brokering and legal services are expected to benefit most from the industry's development.

Despite the disparity in progress, Liao says he is confident that Hong Kong is better positioned to capitalise on the trade than its Southeast Asian rival.

"Hong Kong has the China factor. More and more mainland firms are developing and require overseas IP if they have no research and development team," Liao said.

"On the other hand, mainland firms also wish to sell their IP inventions overseas," he added.

Liao also says that Hong Kong boasts a more attractive talent pool than the city state.

But local authorities need to develop a mechanism for certifying patent agents, a career that is not subject to professional regulation at present, he said.

Wu Chi-po, of the University of Science and Technology's engineering school and also a member of the working group, said the city was not yet ready for IP-related activities.

"There are experienced practitioners [here] … patent agents, lawyers, accountants, valuation specialists. But they interact infrequently, and their experience with hi-tech patent issues is less than [their experience] with traditional industries," he said.