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LCQ13: Measures to combat sale of imitation gold ornaments

     Following is a question by the Hon Christopher Cheung and a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, in the Legislative Council today (December 17):


     It has been reported that recently some lawbreakers have engaged in the sale of dragon and phoenix bangles which are electroplated with genuine gold and of a design copying that of the gold ornaments sold at famous goldsmith shops.  Quite a number of Mainlanders visiting Hong Kong as well as Hong Kong people planning to get married have purchased such imitation gold ornaments.  Some members in the goldsmith industry have pointed out that since such imitation gold ornaments look almost the same as the authentic ones, such ornaments may be sold as genuine goods. Furthermore, such imitation gold ornaments may have allegedly infringed upon intellectual property rights and contravened the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (Cap. 362). In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of cases involving imitation of gold ornaments that were cracked down on by the Customs and Excise Department in the past three years and the total value of the goods involved; whether any person was arrested or convicted for selling imitation gold ornaments; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(2) as it has been reported that the sale of imitation gold ornaments via channels such as social networking web sites, auction web sites, online shops and matrimonial web sites is very rampant, whether the authorities have strengthened cyber patrols to curb such activities; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(3) whether it will step up its publicity efforts to alert members of the public and tourists, so that they will not unknowingly purchase imitation gold ornaments and suffer losses as a result?



     The trade practices as mentioned in the question may involve committing the offences under the Copyright Ordinance (Cap. 528) or the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (Cap. 362).  Section 118 of the Copyright Ordinance prohibits making or dealing with infringing articles.  Section 7 of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance prohibits applying a false trade description to any goods, or supplying any goods to which a false trade description is applied; while section 9 prohibits forging any trade mark, or falsely applying to any goods any trade mark or any mark so nearly resembling a trade mark as to be calculated to deceive.

     The Customs and Excise Department (C&ED) is the enforcement agency of the aforementioned ordinances. Copyright and trade mark owners also have the right to make a claim against infringers through initiating civil proceedings.

     Our reply to the three parts of the question is set out below.

(1) With regard to section 7 of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance, C&ED had from January 2012 to November 2014 investigated a total of 15 cases involving goods suspected to be falsely claimed to contain gold, or featuring false claims as to the fineness of gold. C&ED successfully prosecuted one case and seized goods with a value of $9,200. For the other 14 cases, C&ED had after investigation found insufficient evidence for prosecution.

     Over the same period, with regard to section 118 of the Copyright Ordinance and section 9 of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance, the counterfeit cases processed by C&ED did not involve gold ornaments.  For the recent media reports on imitation gold ornaments, C&ED has proactively contacted local brand owners of gold ornaments concerned to gather more information.  C&ED has also asked them to report to C&ED if they discover that their copyrights have been infringed or their trade marks have been forged.

(2) C&ED has set up Anti-Internet Piracy Teams and an Electronic Crime Investigation Centre to combat infringement activities on the Internet.  An online monitoring system has been developed to strengthen the efforts in combating the sale of infringing articles on online auction sites.  As to gold ornaments, C&ED on discovery of suspected infringement cases will seek assistance from the relevant brand owners to verify whether copyright subsists in the counterfeit gold ornaments concerned or whether relevant trade marks have been registered in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.  When there is sufficient evidence, C&ED will take enforcement actions, including arresting the infringers and seizing the counterfeit gold ornaments.

(3) C&ED has been making extensive publicity efforts, including promoting compliance among traders, explaining relevant statutory provisions to consumers, promoting the concept of "smart shopping" and reminding consumers to consider carefully before making consumption decisions.

     The Hong Kong Tourism Board provides visitors with useful tips and information on shopping for gold items and jewellery, including suggesting tourists to purchase from reputable shops accredited under the Quality Tourism Services Scheme and to ask for official receipts.  It also provides the telephone number of the Hong Kong Jewellers' & Goldsmiths' Association for visitors to make enquiries. The Consumer Council has set up the "Shop Smart Website" to provide visitors with consumer information.

Ends/Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Issued at HKT 11:32


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