There's an old saying, 'give a man the right tools and he will complete the job'. This is just what the government's Intellectual Property Department aims to do for its legal professionals.
'We have a strong, ongoing commitment in place to ensure career support and training,' said Peter Cheung, acting director of the government's Intellectual Property Department. The department's support for solicitors and paralegals includes in-house meetings and financial assistance to study recognised degree courses and professional development programmes.
Cheung said it was important for solicitors and paralegals to have the necessary skills to interpret and advise on those international intellectual property laws that affect Hong Kong's business community. Senior solicitors may find themselves acting as expert witnesses in dispute cases or taking the role of arbitrator in trademark or copyright dispute cases.
'The people our staff are dealing with are fellow legal professionals,' he said. 'So it is important they have the necessary skills and knowledge to carry out their duties effectively.'
Legal professionals also receive training to help them play a strategic role in intellectual property issues involving the Asia-Pacific Economic Corporation and the World Trade Organisation, and to work in partnership with Macau and the mainland's intellectual property agencies.
Cheung said support and training could also allow solicitors to contribute to other international intellectual property issues. For example, although Hong Kong has no vested interest in those places where wines and spirits are produced, its Intellectual Property Department has produced an alternative to the United States and Europe's Geographical Indication of Wines and Spirits Register, which both parties were unable to agree on. In addition, the Intellectual Property Department trains its professionals to develop education and awareness programmes for schools and businesses.
To provide support and open channels of communication for legal professionals, the department offers monthly 'Inspire, Liberate and Achieve' meetings. 'Each hour-long meeting has a timely and coherent job-related theme. It includes pre-meeting study materials, which are up-to-date and include thought-provoking questions to be discussed,' Cheung said. 'We provide on-the-job and specific training to help our staff decide what kind of things people have a right to call their property. What constitutes a trademark or qualifies as a patent?'