BIP Asia: Hong Kong will rise as a regional IP trading hub, officials say

31 January 2023

BIP Asia: Hong Kong will rise as a regional IP trading hub, officials say

Hong Kong is back in business, Hong Kong’s chief executive declared at the opening of the city’s Business of IP Asia Forum. Ivy Choi reports on why local officials, CNIPA and WIPO all think Hong Kong is primed for a run as a regional IP hub.  

“Hong Kong is back, back in business, back bringing the world of innovative business and opportunities together,” said John Lee, the chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, at the opening session of the Business of IP Asia Forum (BIP Asia) on December 1, 2022. For the first time in three years, the forum resumed physical sessions at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, gathering IP authorities and business leaders worldwide to discuss trends, paradigm shifts and opportunities in the IP market. Most of the in-person sessions were live-streamed, with a few online sessions, attracting more than 14,000 online and physical participants from over 40 jurisdictions. 

During his opening remarks, Lee confirmed that IP would be a significant focus of Hong Kong’s future development, as stated in China’s national plan. “Our country’s National 14th Five-Year Plan firmly supports Hong Kong’s rise as a regional IP trading centre. It’s one of the eight important sectors to drive our future development and to lead the way in – for China and for the Asian region as a whole.”  

He said a series of initiatives, outlined in his inaugural policy address presented in October 2022, would be introduced to achieve this goal. “To strengthen IP rights’ protection, the Hong Kong SAR government will work to implement the international trademark registration system. We will also update our copyright regime to boost digital copyright protection. With the support of the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA), we will enhance the capability of our patent examiners. By 2030, they will have institutional autonomy to conduct substantive patent examinations, another step forward in the realization of cross-boundary IP protection. We will also provide IP training for some 5,000 practitioners across a variety of industries over the next five years.” 

Citing that Hong Kong was ranked 14th in the Global Innovation Index of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) this year, Lee said that Hong Kong’s R&D infrastructure and capabilities continue to expand and innovate. “Take the InnoHK research clusters at Hong Kong Science Park as an example. The clusters have attracted more than 30 world-class universities and research institutes. In collaboration with Hong Kong scientists and researchers, 28 laboratories are up and running, focused on healthcare technology, artificial intelligence, and robotics.” 

“Innovation and IP go hand in hand. Bringing innovation and the business world together through IP is critical to powering a knowledge-based economy. Hong Kong is well on its way,” he concluded. Daren Tang 

Shen Changyu, commissioner of CNIPA, also gave his opening remarks. He said: “Right now, we are facing a once-in-a-century pandemic accompanied by critical changes. The landscape of the global innovation industry is experiencing drastic evolution. By offering fundamental protection for innovations and cultivating a good business environment, IP plays an important role in combatting the pandemic and driving the recovery of the global economy.” 

“The central government has placed great emphasis on IP development, having launched the Guidelines for Building a Powerful Intellectual Property Nation (2021-2035), and the National Intellectual Property Protection and Use Plan for the 14th Five-Year Plan Period, to devise the future development of IP.”  

Shen also quoted the plans outlined during the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, which was held in October 2022. “It was emphasized that innovation should insistently play a core role in the modernization of our nation. It also called for the reinforcement of the legal protection of IP rights, the establishment of a fundamental system which supports total innovation, and the safeguarding of the investment rights of foreign enterprises by law, so that a top-tier business environment can be created with marketization, legalization, and internationalization. These are some of the strategies and requirements for preparing us for the IP development of the new era.” 

Shen highlighted China’s effort to develop innovative industries in Hong Kong and its nearby region. “The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area (GBA) is one of the world's most open and economically dynamic regions. The latest World Innovation Index 2022 announced by the WIPO showed that the Shenzhen-Hong Kong-Guangzhou region had been ranked second for the world’s best science and technology clusters for three consecutive years. It epitomizes the vibrant, innovative dynamics of the GBA.” 

Shen shared how CNIPA supports Hong Kong in its IP development. “In areas such as patent examination, nurturing talent, development of information systems etc., we offer help to the SAR in establishing and implementing its new patent system. We set up examination venues in Hong Kong for the China Patent Attorney Examination, and support the organization of the GBA Intellectual Property Trade Expo and other important events, pushing forward the synergized development of the IP industry in mainland and Hong Kong.” 

Shen revealed that convenient new measures would soon be introduced to Hong Kong citizens using IP services in mainland China. “To enable more effective protection of IP rights of Hong Kong citizens in mainland China, the CNIPA is planning prioritized arrangement for Hong Kong applicants applying for patents in mainland China, thanks to the support of the Intellectual Property Department of Hong Kong SAR, the Guangdong Intellectual Property Administration, the Shenzhen Intellectual Property Administration etc., which is expected to be implemented in January next year.”  

“We look forward to Hong Kong’s further development into the regional IP trading centre, optimization of its business environment, and proactive integration into the grand national development plan, joining in building our powerful intellectual property nation,” he said. 

Daren Tang, director general of WIPO, also attended the opening session. In his opening remarks, he referred to the 2022 World IP Indicators Report, published by WIPO in November this year, which shows that global patent, trademark and design filings have surged to new heights, despite the challenges of the pandemic. “Hong Kong’s geography puts it right at the centre of these trends,” Tang said, suggesting that IP offices within a six-hour flying radius of Hong Kong received last year more than 66 percent of all patent applications in the world, as well as over 60 percent of all filing activity related to trademarks and designs. “This growth is also strong in Hong Kong itself,” he said. “Trademark activity grew by close to 10 percent last year, doubling the global average. We also saw a 50 percent increase in the number of patents filed by Hong Kong residents around the world, with applications concentrated in fast-moving fields, like digital communications and computer technology, demonstrating that Hong Kong technology is indeed going to the world.” 

Tang said these numbers are more than eye-catching statistics, but highlight that Hong Kong is well-positioned to become a regional IP trading centre. “They also underline the increasingly important role that intangible assets will play in the next chapter of Hong Kong’s economic growth.” He observed three trends that stand out. “First, a growing number of Hong Kong-listed firms will come to derive the majority of their value from intangible assets. Tencent, for example, is one of the most valuable companies listed in Hong Kong and the most intangible asset-rich firm in China. Tencent’s intangible assets are estimated to be worth almost 180 billion US dollars. Indeed, nine of the top 15 Chinese firms ranked by intangible asset intensity now trade shares in Hong Kong, including Alibaba, Meituan, JD and China Tourism Group.” 

“Second, intangible asset finance is moving up policy agendas, as governments and companies look towards using IP as a financial asset to help enterprises secure debt and equity financing. Last year, patent and trademark pledge financing in China passed the 300 billion yuan mark, up 40 percent year on year.” 

The third trend is that trade in intangible assets continues to surge worldwide. “Between 2010 and 2019, trade flow linked to knowledge and digitalization grew twice as fast as trade flow related to goods, with IP, data and digital services leading the way.”  

“Innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship and technology are increasingly driving growth all over the world. Global intangible asset value has crossed the US$70 trillion dollar mark. This will only continue to grow as IP moves from the periphery to the centre of domestic and global economies. Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area are well-placed to be one of the key centres of an increasingly intangible asset-driven global economy,” he concluded. 

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