Hong Kong Must Strengthen Its IP Protections

11 February 2022

Hong Kong Must Strengthen Its IP Protections

A senior researcher has suggested that if Hong Kong wants to become the region's innovation and technology centre, it has to enhance intellectual property (IP) protections for new breakthroughs, stressing that scientific infrastructure alone will not enough.

Dennis Lo Yuk-ming, a professor of chemical pathology at Chinese University who is recognized for his non-invasive prenatal testing and cancer screening technologies said the city needs more IP-savvy lawyers.

This was echoed by Jeffrey McLean, a partner, at Deacons in Hong Kong, who said that although Hong Kong has some eminent scientists and researchers in various sectors (and an ever-increasing number of specialised clusters); there is a dearth of specialised expertise; in patent prosecution and also in patent enforcement and litigation.

"The establishment of a specialised IP list is a great start; but as with specialised patent courts in other jurisdictions, this initiative is in danger of becoming a victim of its own success," he says. "Delayed timelines and lack of familiarity with technical subject matter present challenges to applicants seeking to enforce patents. Developing local talent with some exposure to patents and patent litigation overseas, decreasing costs of litigation and increasing timeliness of hearings are key ways in which improvements can be facilitated. In addition, ensuring correct titles are used by practitioners will avoid confusion by members of the public."

He adds that IP is a fascinating field; which requires specialised technical knowledge and legal expertise. "However, many people (especially graduates) are not aware of the challenging and rewarding career that IP can offer," he says. "Many other
jurisdictions have requirements to first file patent protection in their jurisdiction; as well as restrictions on the titles that practitioners can use. The Hong Kong statutory framework has neither. The development of the local IP profession could also be stimulated by including provisions in tenders limiting outsourcing and requiring appropriately qualified local
practitioners are instructed, especially by government or semi-government institutions. It would also improve IP if enforcement options available are made more accessible, with more resources and increased timeliness."

Jeffrey offers some ways in strengthening IP protection in Hong Kong. He says, "Increasing the skills, expertise and numbers of appropriately qualified practitioners and judges is essential for Hong Kong to progress in the digital age we are in. Strengthening the way in which IP is protected, and making enforcement more accessible and timely will incentivise the development of further intellectual property and return on investment it provides."

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