Toy manufacturers last night demanded changes to 'crazy' copyright laws they said protected the peddlers of hundreds of fakes at the toy fair in Wan Chai.
It was ridiculous Customs needed so much evidence of design ownership - one manufacturer had been asked for 10-year-old pencil drawings - before they could act.
Simon Shi Kai-biu, president of the Hong Kong Small and Medium Business Association representing aggrieved manufacturers, emerged furious from marathon talks with Customs and Excise officers.
He said unwieldy laws unique to Hong Kong were protecting 'thieves', crippling businesses and deterring foreign investors.
The association has received more than 100 complaints from members about copied designs on show at the Hong Kong Toy and Games Fair at the Convention and Exhibition Centre. Toy soldiers, cars, swords and beauty sets are among the designs they say have been stolen.
The four-day expo ended at 5pm yesterday, just minutes after Customs officers conducted a fruitless search for alleged fakes.
'It's too late,' Mr Shi said. 'We met with them for six hours. It's crazy.
'It's a very stupid law. Many people are very angry.
'They need to simplify the law so it compares with other countries.' One manufacturer said she was angry with the sellers of copied products, not with Customs officers, who she said were obliged to go through a complex process.
A Customs spokesman said officers had been unable to find the alleged copies at the fair. They would follow up the allegations.
Mr Shi said infringement of intellectual property rights was giving Hong Kong and Chinese-made products a bad name abroad, and was bringing the industry to its knees.
'Every toy manufacturer is losing 35 to 40 per cent of their business,' he said.
The organiser of the toy fair, the Trade Development Council, said the dispute over designs was unfortunate but the event had otherwise gone well.
The council said more than 20,000 buyers had attended, compared with about 14,000 last year.