Following is a speech (English only) by the Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology, Mr John Tsang, at the opening ceremony of the Regional Symposium on Intellectual Property Rights "Creating Wealth through Brand Building" today (January 27):
Minister Li, Mr Battistelli, Stuart, your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to take part in this symposium on "Creating Wealth through Brand Building".
Given the countless well-known French brands in the world, France's experience on brand building is most valuable and insightful. It is, therefore, a great honour for us to organise this event with the Consulate General of France, the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Comite Colbert and the Union des Fabricants.
An essential element of brand building is brand protection. For this, Hong Kong provides an effective legislative framework for businesses to gain protection of their brands through trade mark registration. In 2003, we updated our legislation to make more categories of signs registrable as trade marks, to give greater infringement protection to trade mark proprietors, and to introduce specific provision for the protection of well-known trade marks.
In 2004, the Intellectual Property Department launched the electronic filing of trade mark applications. This makes the application procedure even more convenient and user friendly. By the end of last month, I understand that we have already succeeded in migrating 12% of applicants to e-filing for trademarks. We will continue to promote e-filing by businesses. The department also offers a website for online search of trade-mark applications, issuance and registration.
Our legal framework of protection is backed by vigorous enforcement against infringement offences at all levels, including import and export, manufacture, distribution and retail. With sustained enforcement effort, trademark counterfeiting is now firmly under control. There is now no more sign of any sizeable manufacture of counterfeit goods locally, or any counterfeiting operation of a significant scale. The number of counterfeit hawkers has also reduced dramatically from about one hundred stalls in 1999 to fewer than 15 today. But we know that counterfeiting will easily become rampant again if we do not continue with our efforts.
To establish better enforcement strategies and achieve greater enforcement effects, the Hong Kong Customs has cooperated with intellectual property right holders to form the Intellectual Property Rights Protection Alliance. A website for this Alliance has been established to provide a platform for the enforcement agency to access the latest information provided by right owners and take prompt action against counterfeit activities.
On a long term basis, cultivation and promotion of the public's awareness of and respect for intellectual property rights is of paramount importance. To this end, we have been undertaking a series of public education and publicity initiatives. One particular example is the "No Fakes" pledge that the Intellectual Property Department relaunched last year. Under this scheme, retailers pledge that all their products offer for selling are genuine. As of October 1, 2004, there were some 480 retail merchants with over 3,300 retail outlets participating in the scheme.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have just outlined for you a brief description of our work in protecting brands. Hong Kong can offer tremendous business opportunities for brand name goods and services because we have a sophisticated and trendy population and because of our strategic location and close social and economic ties with the world's largest emerging market. CEPA has further strengthened those opportunities, making Hong Kong an ideal partner for foreign enterprises hoping to enter the Mainland market. Indeed, the fact that numerous top international labels have established their Asian headquarters and Asian flagship stores in Hong Kong testifies to our strategic position.
Today's symposium pulls together government administrators, experts and innovative entrepreneurs to exchange views on the art as well as the science of brand building and protection. I hope all of you would find the discussions useful and constructive. For those of you coming from abroad, I wish you a most enjoyable stay in Hong Kong.
Ends/Thursday, January 27, 2005