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Speech by FS at opening ceremony of International Trademark Association 136th Annual Meeting (English only) (with photo/video)

     Following is the speech delivered by the Financial Secretary, Mr John C Tsang, at the opening ceremony of the International Trademark Association 136th Annual Meeting at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre this morning (May 12):

Ms (Mei-lan) Stark, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good morning.

     It's indeed my great pleasure to join you all today, and I would like first of all to thank the International Trademark Association (INTA) for according me this opportunity.

     I understand that this is INTA's first Annual Meeting to be held in Asia since the Association was formed in 1878.

     My first thought was - what took you so long?

     My second thought was - I hope it would not take another century before you hold your next annual meeting here.

     It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to Hong Kong and to thank you for bringing INTA's work and mission into the very heart of Asia. But I must first apologise for the weather, we tried to fix it but it was difficult.

     Your presence here is an indication that Asia is, rightly, becoming more of a focus in terms of intellectual property rights (IPR) and the business imperative to protect and nurture them. I believe Hong Kong has an important role to play here.

     Trademarks, of course, are an extremely important part of the IPR equation. In this regard, let me share with you an interesting factoid - this year marks the 140th anniversary of the first trademark registered in Hong Kong.

     On July 21, 1874, trademark number 18740001 was registered for Nestle's "Eagle Brand" of condensed milk. The trademark is still in force today - and you will find people here in Hong Kong enjoying the treat of condensed milk on toast every day. It's really good. You should try it. The brand, after all these years, is still going strong.

     The lesson here is that good brands can and do stand the test of time - but, of course, a huge amount of hard work and quality control is required to make that happen.

     Now, I would like you all to stop and think for just a moment about a two-word brand that you will see and hear a lot about over the next few days. The two words, of course, are: "Hong Kong". What does it conjure up in your mind?

     Skyscrapers? Crowded streets? Dragons? Money and finance? Shopping? Eating? East and West? Old and new? Trams and ferries?

     These are traits that people around the world would associate with Hong Kong. They are all relevant - but by no means definitive. There is a lot more to Hong Kong than meets the eye, and I hope that you will be able to discover for yourselves during your stay here with us.

     So today I would like to take this opportunity to talk little about our global marketing platform "Brand Hong Kong", what it means and what it stands for. Then I would like to touch on what we are doing in Hong Kong to cultivate the business of IP (intellectual property) in Asia.

     First, let's take a trip down memory lane - to the run-up to 1997, when the world focused intensely on Hong Kong's return to China after more than 155 years of British administration.

     The Handover ceremonies were held right here in this very venue. The question on everyone's mind back then was: "What will happen to Hong Kong after 1997?"

     Our mantra, our line-to-take at that time was: "No change, business as usual" - Hong Kong will continue to function the way it always has, enjoying the same rights and enjoy the same freedoms, and maintaining our own laws, legal system, currency, customs regime as well as immigration and policing services - all safeguarded in our constitution, the Basic Law.

     All of that was, and has remained, true. The foundation of our success - our unique heritage and global connections, our rights and freedoms - are as important today as they were back in 1997, perhaps 1987 or even 1907! And I have every confidence that they will continue to be important in 2017, 2027 and beyond.

     But that mantra of "no change" was steeped in paradox and irony. That is because Hong Kong is the epitome of change, the paradox of evolution, adaptation and innovation. The Handover itself was the biggest and most profound change in our entire history.

     What has happened since 1997 is a prime example of an expression you will hear often in Asia, and that is: "Same, same but different!"

     And that's what really lies at the heart of our Brand Hong Kong programme - how to position a tried and trusted brand such as Hong Kong, both globally and within our nation, in our new incarnation as a Special Administrative Region of China; as well as to let people know that Hong Kong is alive and kicking and thriving in its new role. That everything remains the same but is always different.

     That is how we came to launch Brand Hong Kong back in 2001. Our brandline - "Asia's world city" - was aimed squarely at the global audience. We wanted the world to know that Hong Kong was still very much open for business.

     Our flying dragon logo, over there, was well received globally. The logo combined the Chinese characters for Hong Kong with the letters "H" and "K" to symbolise the seamless blend of East and West, as you can see the "H" and "K".

     Over the years, we felt that as Hong Kong was evolving, so too should our Brand. We revitalised Brand Hong Kong to a global audience at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, after extensive research both in and out of Hong Kong.

     The Brand's new visual identity retained the same elements of the flying dragon, but took on a more dynamic and contemporary look. The blue and green ribbons symbolise blue sky and sustainable development; while the red ribbon marks the contour of the Lion Rock, the mountain across the harbour in Kowloon, which through popular culture symbolises our city's "can do" spirit. Again - another example of "same, same but different".

     People started to use the brandline of "Asia's world city" as a quality control benchmark. To our business partners, our clients, customers and tourists from Mainland, Southeast Asia and other parts of the world, services provided and products made by Hong Kong are of international standard, are trustworthy, perhaps a bit more expensive, but always good value for money.

     But what happened came as a bit of a happy surprise. "Asia's world city" became more of an aspirational statement locally - we started to read in newspapers and Internet chat rooms, and hear commentators on radio and TV speaking about areas where Hong Kong did not measure up as "Asia's world city". We still do today - regularly - and I am glad for it.

     We didn't just create a new logo or tagline - we created a permanent feedback loop. It's become part of the Hong Kong lexicon and a constant reminder to those of us in government that "Brand Hong Kong" does not just represent our core values of freedom, enterprise, commitment to excellence, innovation and quality living - it sets the bar for what we need to keep doing in order to remain relevant and to remain competitive and to progress in an increasingly globalised and interconnected world.

     Brand Hong Kong is also a good example of how our post-1997 progress under "One Country, Two Systems" works in practice.

     Under the Basic Law, our constitution, we enjoy a high degree of autonomy to pursue our own economic, trade, communication, cultural and sporting links globally. For example, we remain members in our own right to the World Customs Organization, the World Trade Organization (WTO), to APEC and to the IOC.

     The Basic Law also specifically protects IP. Articles 139 and 140 state that Hong Kong shall protect by law achievements in scientific and technological research, patents, discoveries and inventions as well as the lawful rights of authors in literary and artistic creation.

     It is on this strong constitutional and legal basis that more than 330,000 trademarks are registered with our Intellectual Property Department. Our laws fully comply with the WTO's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of IP Rights, and we have been ranked 10th globally for IP protection by the World Economic Forum in its latest Global Competitiveness Report (2013-2014).

     This constitutional and legal protection provides a solid foundation for Hong Kong to develop as an IP trading hub - and, in particular, as the leading IP trading centre in China.

     In 2012, the Mainland recorded the highest number of filings in major types of IP rights such as patents, trademarks and industrial designs in the world, surpassing that of the United States.

     This represents a huge opportunity for Hong Kong and everyone involved in the business of IP. So, what are we doing about it?

     Our current patent system was implemented in 1997. We are updating the system to strengthen Hong Kong's competitiveness as a platform for IP trading, for innovation and technology. We are also pressing ahead with an "original grant" patent (OGP) system within the next few years.

     Last year, we set up a Working Group on IP Trading to devise policies and strategies to promote Hong Kong as an IP trading hub.

     Just last month, the Working Group confirmed that they were pressing ahead in four areas.

     One: Enhance the IP protection regime. This includes the OGP system that I just mentioned. We shall encourage quality filings from Hong Kong, from China and overseas, and continue to review our IP regime to ensure it follows international norms and best practices.

     Two: Support IP creation and exploitation. This includes supporting the industrial and R&D sectors, creative industries and IP users to encourage the creation, use and commercialisation of IP.

     Three: Foster IP intermediary services and enhance manpower capacity. This involves promoting high-quality services in IP valuation, financing, insurance, arbitration and mediation as well as due diligence and IP matching services. We also aim to attract and nurture talent in IP-related professions to create the desired clusters.

     Four: Enhance promotion, education and external collaboration on IP. We shall highlight Hong Kong's strengths as an IP trading hub to overseas stakeholders under the "One Country, Two Systems" formula. At the same time, we shall raise awareness among companies, especially SMEs, of the value of IP to their business portfolios.

     In terms of promoting IP, the annual Business of IP Asia Forum, or BIP Asia, was launched in 2011 and has become a major highlight for the industry in the region.

     BIP Asia 2013 attracted more than 1,700 participants from 24 countries and regions. More than 60 speakers took part. It was a great success. And I hope that some of you here today can come back in the first week of December for BIP Asia 2014.

     A highlight of last year's BIP Asia was the launch of Hong Kong Trade Development Council's free online IP portal, the Asia IP Exchange. The portal has 20 strategic partners from Hong Kong, the Mainland and overseas, including the US and Denmark. More than 20,000 IPs are now available for trade on the portal.

     Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to speak today about Brand Hong Kong, and the work we are doing on the IP front. The INTA Annual Meeting is an excellent platform for us to explain what we are doing, and learn what others are doing elsewhere in the world.

     I wish you all the best and a fruitful, memorable stay here in Asia's world city. And like I said at the beginning, I hope we don't have to wait another 136 years before we see you again in Hong Kong!

     Thank you very much. And remember one thing: do shop a lot. Thank you.

Ends/Monday, May 12, 2014
Issued at HKT 12:14


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