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SCED's speech at opening ceremony of International IP Commercialisation Conference (English only)

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at the opening ceremony of the International IP (Intellectual Property) Commercialisation Conference in Hong Kong this morning (February 23):

Mr Johnny Chong, Mrs Regina Ip, Dr Jacqueline Lui, Dr Sheldon Wu, Dr Dongmin Chen, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good morning. It gives me great pleasure to join you all today at this conference.

     IP commercialisation is very important to the further development of Hong Kong's knowledge-based economy. More and more people recognise the importance of a proper IP strategy as a tool that helps fortify the continued well-being of our enterprises.

     As we move forward to further develop Hong Kong as a regional IP trading hub, we are naturally mindful of the new opportunities as well as the challenges presented by the rapidly growing market of Mainland China.

     I look forward to picking the minds of the experts and veteran practitioners who are present today. Before doing so, I would give you a brief overview of the steps that we have been taking to position Hong Kong for the challenges ahead.

     The Government is committed to facilitating the development of innovation and technology in Hong Kong. It is one of the six industries in which Hong Kong enjoys clear advantages. Over the years, we have made sustained efforts on both the hardware and software fronts to support its growth. On hardware, we will continue to work closely with the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation on the development plan of Science Park Phase 3, which has commenced in September 2011. We will also seek to revitalise industrial estates as a means to cope with development needs. Apart from extending technology infrastructure, we also provide a comprehensive package of software support. We established the Innovation and Technology Fund in 1999 to help finance applied research projects of our universities, R&D (Research and Development) centres and companies. So far, the Fund has supported over 2,500 projects with total funding of over $6 billion. Last year, we further improved the operation of the Fund to enhance support for R&D projects with commercialisation potential. The measures include the launching of a scheme that promotes trial use of innovation and technology in the public sector.

     In line with our policy to promote innovation and technology, the Government is also committed to providing a comprehensive IP protection regime to effectively protect the fruits of innovation and creativity. Our legal framework fully complies with the requirements of the World Trade Organisation's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of IP Rights. We also keep our legislation under regular review to ensure that it remains relevant and appropriate in present-day circumstances.

     The Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2011, currently being scrutinised by the legislature, is one such example. The Bill provides an exclusive right for copyright owners to disseminate their works to the public through any mode of electronic transmission. This technology-neutral approach would enable copyright owners to utilise fully the opportunities offered by the digital environment, including the development of new business models riding on advances in technology. In addition, the Bill introduces a "safe harbour" that limits the liability of online service providers in relation to copyright infringements occurring on their service platforms. By providing a level-playing field, the safe harbour gives online service providers an incentive to help copyright owners combat online piracy.

     A patent is another important IP right that protects the fruits of innovation and creativity. To ensure that our patent registration system continues to complement our efforts to develop Hong Kong into a regional innovation and technology hub, we have embarked on a root-and-branch review. We started a public consultation exercise in October last year and by the end of December received a large number of written submissions. We are now examining the views received and intend to announce the proposed way forward in the first half of 2012. Looking ahead, we are committed to maintaining an effective patent regime in Hong Kong so as to create an environment that is conducive to pooling talent, encouraging local innovation and attracting overseas investors to take Hong Kong as a landing pad in Asia for setting up their R&D operations.

     The legal framework is further backed by rigorous law enforcement by the Hong Kong Customs. Through intelligence-led investigations and repeated raids conducted at different levels, Hong Kong Customs takes proactive actions to tackle IP crimes in Hong Kong. The Department also maintains close co-operation with the industries and overseas law enforcement agencies in combating infringing activities. One recent example is the case of Megaupload last month. The Hong Kong Customs, in collaboration with the US Department of Justice and the FBI, smashed a large-scale transnational cyberlocker syndicate, resulting in over $300 million worth of suspected crime proceeds being restrained.

     Hong Kong has long been recognised by the international community and the IP industry for our efforts and achievements on the protection of IP rights. For instance, the Business Software Alliance presented our Government with the "Government Best Practices: Asia Pacific" award in September 2008, making us the first economy in the region to receive this award. According to the "Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012" published by the World Economic Forum, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region ranked 14th out of 142 economies in IP protection.

     In the National 12th Five-Year Plan promulgated in March 2011, there is an individual chapter dedicated to the Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions. The Plan highlights the Central People's Government's support to Hong Kong in various aspects with particular emphasis, among others, on nurturing Hong Kong's emerging industries, including innovation and technology. To grasp the opportunities brought by the National 12th Five-Year Plan, we will continue to facilitate technology co-operation with the Mainland at various levels. With the implementation of the Overall Development Plan on Hong Kong/Shenzhen Co-operation on Modern Service Industries in Qianhai Area, we will make the best use of the existing mechanisms and channels to help Hong Kong companies capitalise on the business opportunities presented by the development of Qianhai to tap into the Mainland market.  

     Hong Kong has a long history of engaging in different kinds of IP transactions. With overseas IP owners eagerly eyeing the Asian market, Hong Kong is well placed to develop into a regional marketplace providing professional services in licensing, franchising and IP registration. In particular, there is strong interest among Mainland enterprises in acquiring overseas IP, especially technology-related ones. By bringing Mainland investors and overseas owners together, Hong Kong intermediaries can help manage and add value in the trading process.

     The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC) is also stepping up promotion to grow Hong Kong as a regional IP trading and management hub. We support their moves including the TDC's efforts to strengthen the IP element in its flagship events and fairs. By grouping IP-related market intelligence under one domain, the online portal that has been developed by the TDC offers an excellent platform that connects IP sellers, buyers and intermediaries. The Intellectual Property Department takes on the responsibility of helping Hong Kong enterprises better understand the value of IP trading.

     In fact, a lot of IP trading has been taking place in Hong Kong. As a regional platform for technology trading, Hong Kong exported $8.6 billion in technology to Mainland China in 2010. That puts Hong Kong sixth in the world in taking technology to the Mainland. Hong Kong is also a forerunner in the trading of IP rights embedded in designs. The TDC produces such global fairs as Fashion Week, Inno Design Tech Expo, FILMART and the International Licensing Show. All of these have proven to be effective platforms for facilitating IP trading.

     Ladies and gentlemen, we value any ideas that you may have on further measures that the Government may take to support Hong Kong's development as an IP trading hub. I must congratulate the organisers for having put together such a meaty programme for participants of this conference. I wish the conference a great success.

     Thank you.

Ends/Thursday, February 23, 2012
Issued at HKT 15:38


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