Press Release



DIP's speech on intellectual property public education


Following is the full text of the speech (English only) by the Director of Intellectual Property, Mr Stephen Selby, at the Mainland-Hong Kong Special Administration Region Intellectual Property Symposium 2000 in Beijing this (April 14) afternoon :

"Intellectual Property Public Education"




Hong Kong started its public education efforts in earnest in 1997. Prior to that time we had been drafting new laws to protect copyright, patents and designs. Previously, we had not considered it appropriate to invest time and money in educating the public about an out-dated intellectual property system that was just about to be changed.

Today, Hong Kong's Intellectual Property Department has a team of four full-time staff working on promotion of intellectual property protection. The approved project for our public education programme for the period 1999-2002 is US$2.2 million (HK$17 million).

Situation in Hong Kong


Hong Kong has a population of about six million. Intellectual property has been protected in Hong Kong for a very long time. Our Trade Mark Registry started operating in 1874, and copyright has been protected since 1912. Hong Kong uses the English Common Law system, and our intellectual property system previously reflected the British intellectual property protection regime.

In 1997, upon its return to Chinese sovereignty, Hong Kong had to develop its localized system of intellectual property law. While adopting many features of the legal system for IP protection now operating in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong's new laws have been thoroughly modernized and include some unique features suited to Hong Kong's specific situation. Hong Kong protects (inter alia) trade marks, industrial designs, patents for inventions, copyright, plant varieties, mask works and confidential information. Hong Kong's IP laws comply with the TRIPS standards.

Although the general public in Hong Kong has a low level of awareness of intellectual property protection, surveys show that they generally appreciate that there is 'something wrong' with using pirated or counterfeit goods. The business community generally has a good understanding of the principles of trade mark protection. However, their appreciation of the system of protection of designs and patents is more limited.

Strategy and tactics


Drawing upon our experience in public education work in intellectual property, we have come to a number of initial conclusions.



We regard the areas of IP protection requiring the main investment in planning and promotion to be -

* Patents

* Copyright

* Designs, and

* Trade Marks

The other forms of protection available involve a narrower sub-set of the public. In general, those whose work involves, for example, mask works or plant varieties are aware of the types of protection available.



We found that the public's general awareness of intellectual property is often expressed in terms of what they are not allowed to do. That is to say, they understand the subject in negative terms, with undue weight on obligations rather than rights.



The public has a poor grasp of why piracy and counterfeiting are wrong, and why protection of copyright, trademarks, designs and patents represent a social and economic benefit.

We also appeal to the public at the emotional level. We try to find entertainment celebrities to voice their good and bad experiences, to provide case-studies and to use advertising to create peer-pressure against undesirable behaviour and in favour of desirable behaviour.



Our audiences are sophisticated consumers. They do not respond well to simplistic slogans. Some dubious arguments (for example that pirated copies of software are usually of unacceptable quality and may spread computer bugs) have been shown empirically to be untrue in most cases.

Two very important points emerge:

* The Government, as main promoter of the campaign, must not itself be exposed as an infringer of intellectual property; and

* The business community and foreign investors cannot appreciate the benefits of IP protection unless there is credible enforcement at both the civil and the criminal levels.



The targets of our campaigns must be carefully selected. Different social groups and age groups have different needs and concerns. The community must be targeted using Hong Kong's own local language and idiom (the Cantonese dialect).

That does not invalidate generalized advertising. Some media, for example television, are particularly pervasive and powerful and so need to be exploited through generalized campaigns. But generalized campaigns are more like 'background music': they cannot convey the whole of the message.

The campaign


Our first efforts in public education were directed at secondary schools. Hong Kong is small and the number of secondary schools is small enough to make it practical to visit them all. We therefore started off with a programme in which our intellectual property examiners went in pairs on arranged visits to secondary schools. This plan has a number of advantages:

* It costs nothing.

* Schools appreciate the individual presentation and the chance to have questions answered. (Teachers have as many questions as pupils do.)

* Trade mark examiners in the Department could broaden their knowledge of IP by having to prepare to speak to school students at an elementary level. They also develop superior public presentation skills.

* Trade mark examiners can have some variety in what is otherwise quite monotonous work.

After a while, it became clear that without back-up, schoolteachers did not have the confidence to speak to pupils about IP on their own. In addition, we did not have sufficient resources to visit the primary schools.

To overcome these deficiencies, we invested about US$77,000 (HK$0.6 million) in a teaching kit for upper primary and lower secondary students. The kit contains a teacher's handbook, some role-playing games and quiz materials and a video tape. The video is based around a drama set in a school, but includes inserts by local film and music stars as well as international figures such as Jackie Chan.

It became apparent that this approach, although effective, was hand-to-mouth and did not accommodate proper marketing research and planning. We therefore obtained funding for a rolled-forward programme of public education costing US$2.2 million (HK$17 million) over a three-year period. This programme has the following main features:

* Proper market research

* Effective benchmarking

* General background campaigns

* Focus-group campaigns

* Private sector participation

Proper market research


Respect for intellectual property protection is a 'product' and the task is to market the product. As explained above, we had to analyse carefully what our product was.

The product has to be identifiable to the target audience in terms they can understand. 'Intellectual property' is not an easy concept to put across. 'Copyright', 'patent', 'design' and 'trade mark' are much easier. Breaking the problem down further to concepts like 'stealing the fruits of others' labour' or 'protecting my investment in R & D' are easier still.

We commissioned professional researchers to undertake a market survey on public attitudes to piracy, counterfeiting and IP protection. We also studied carefully the results of research done by others. This provided us with objective data on which to plan our priorities.



As a programme develops, it is important to know what point you have reached, whether you have made progress, and whether it is necessary to change direction in the light of adverse findings. The public opinion survey mentioned above also served as a benchmark. The same questions will be asked at the end of each year of the programme so that we can gain objective feedback on the progress we are making, and change tactics if we are not achieving the desired results.

General background campaigns


Certain media, such as radio, television and the popular press are too important to ignore; but at the same time, they do not present the opportunity to deliver a message to a focussed audience.

On the basis of our market research, we placed the highest priority on influencing the public away from providing a market for purveyors of pirated and counterfeit goods. This meant focussing on copyright and trademark protection. In our first television advertisement, we conveyed the double message that selling pirated works hurts pop and film idols, as well as landing the seller of such goods in jail. The 30-second advertisement was shown on television and copies were made and distributed free of charge to 50 cinemas. (Cinema operators agreed to run the film before performances at no charge.) We also developed a printed poster to display at public places.

Our second TV advertisement aimed to create peer-pressure by ridiculing people who wear counterfeit clothing and accessories. A number of owners of famous brand names co-operated by allowing us to display obviously fake versions of their names and logos. Brand name owners cannot be counted upon to agree to such use of their intellectual property, and it is vital that their full co-operation is obtained in advance. Any public row between a government and a brand name owner, however trivial, can ruin the effect of a good campaign.

Again, we backed up the television advertisement with radio advertising and printed advertisements in the press and on posters in public places and public transport. Copies of the printed advertisements are included in this text.

At the same time, competitions and roving displays in district shopping malls were used to promote an understanding of patents for inventions and designs.

At the retail level, we launched a 'No Fakes' campaign among local retailers. They display eye-catching stickers pledging that they only sell genuine goods. They police the campaign themselves through their own trade organizations. The Government periodically recognizes their efforts by publishing a prominent advertisement in the popular press, listing retailers who are supporting the campaign.

We have also mounted an 'I Pledge' campaign led by a local music star, in which the public are encouraged to sign a pledge only to buy and use genuine goods. Those who 'sign the pledge' are given a credit-card sized membership card which may gain them discounts at participating retail outlets.

Focus-group campaigns


These campaigns target particular groups within the community and focus on their specific concerns and needs. The main medium is tailor-made handbooks explaining the issues in easily understandable terms, giving clear and specific examples and offering practical advice. The target groups so far identified and targeted are (in order) -

* The civil service, because it needs to display the correct leadership, and because any infringements of IP (even inadvertent ones) would tarnish the image of the main sponsor of the campaign and make the audience cynical.

* The press and media, because they form the main bridge for delivering the Government's message. They need to be influenced away from treating the Government's message cynically by showing reporters that IP is their own 'rice bowl'. The press will support the fight against IP infringements if they can identify themselves with the victims.

* The teaching profession, because they provide a strong positive influence, but also a negative role-model if they themselves habitually infringe IP rights and, due to ignorance, encourage their students to do the same.

* Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) because they are the main source of potential for growth in the economy, and because they need to be strategically placed to benefit from an increasingly knowledge-based economy.

Private sector participation


At each step of the campaign, the private sector is mobilized to offer support (moral and material). This often involves appealing to their self-interest. Here are some examples:

* The Business Software Alliance is contributing to training of 'compliance officers' in each Government department to ensure proper compliance with IP laws, including computer software.

* Trade mark owners and famous brand names give permission to use their brand names (including obviously fake versions) in our advertising campaigns and roving exhibitions.

* Non-government organizations such as the Hong Kong Intellectual Property Society and the Hong Kong Inventor's Association participate in the planning and staging of events.

* Local community organizations and councils are offered grants to meet the expenses of their own, district-level events in support of the main campaign.

* Retailers support a 'No Fakes' campaign, in which they show their pride in keeping a 'clean' inventory of stock.

Work remaining to be done


All education efforts are long-term investments. They cannot bring about overnight results. In many cases, we are attacking entrenched public attitudes. The challenge in marketing the message against piracy and counterfeiting amounts to trying to persuade the public to spend ten dollars on something they feel they can buy for one.

A major area that remains to be explored is the challenge of gearing up tertiary institutions to teach intellectual property issues in a systematic way in all their courses. This would involve marshalling resources in the Government and the legal profession, as most university staff is poorly equipped to teach such courses.

Another important area is to develop an educational package aimed at persuading businesses to treat their portfolios of IP rights as genuine business assets. This means developing with the accounting profession a consistent way of valuing such portfolios, and persuading the banking community to recognize the value of such portfolios in assessing their clients.

End/Friday, April 14, 2000