A fixed penalty would be imposed on consumers caught with pirated or counterfeit goods, under a government proposal released yesterday. The suggestion is among recommendations of a consultation paper on possible additional legal measures to protect intellectual property rights. The paper, which will go to a four-month consultation, said the continuing sale of infringing products damaged Hong Kong's reputation and was a matter of great concern. Secretary for Trade and Industry Chau Tak-hay said the Government was open to suggestions to further improve the legislative framework. Imposing a fixed penalty is one of the three options suggested on consumer liability targeting those caught 'red-handed' for possessing pirated or counterfeit goods at premises raided. But although those fined would not receive a criminal record, the paper admitted end-users did not have reliable methods of distinguishing pirated or counterfeit goods from genuine items. The second option suggested is to create a smuggling offence at the border in respect of the export and import of infringing articles. A third option is to leave the genuine private domestic end-user but catch everyone else. Laws at present target only possession for the purpose of trade or business. Democrat legislator Albert Ho Chun-yan objected to imposing consumer liability as he said the Government had not exhausted other means such as strengthening enforcement action. Colleague James To Kun-sun said: 'The suggestion to impose a fixed penalty on consumers caught red-handed in raids is illogical. Does it mean possession in a shop is illegal but at home is legal?' The Asia regional director of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, Giouw Jui-chien, said the suggestion could create enforcement problems. The Software Publishers' Association's legal adviser, Grace Chu Hing-wah, said the Government should do more to increase public awareness of intellectual property rights. But Hong Kong Kowloon and New Territories Motion Picture Industry Association chief executive Woody Tsung Wan-chi said the body supported imposing criminal liability to strengthen the deterrent effect. 'We'll co-operate to see how to make enforcement easier,' he said.