What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property is important to our daily lives. Intellectual property is the name commonly given to a group of separate intangible property rights. These include trade marks, patents, copyright, designs, plant varieties and the layout design of integrated circuits. Intellectual property is important to our daily lives: The brand-names logos on clothes like T-shirts, articles in the newspaper, TV programmes, pop songs, cinema films movies and fashion design all have a strong connection with intellectual property.

Why is Intellectual Property Protection Important?

Protection of intellectual property rights protects creativity. The efforts of writers, artists, designers, software programmers, inventors and other talents need to be protected so as in order to create an environment where creativity can flourish and hard work can be rewarded.

Hong Kong is a creative place. Our film production, television production, sound recordings production, publications, fashion and jewellery design and graphical design and production skills are known world-wide and enjoy a ready market overseas. Hong Kong is an international trading centre, we need to provide the necessary intellectual property rights protection to our investors to assure them of a free and fair environment in which to do business. Thus it is in our very interest to protect intellectual property rights.

What is protected?

Not all ideas, inventions or creations are protected. For example, to balance the interest of intellectual property rights owners and the society as a whole, while a pharmaceutical invention may be protected by patent registration, a special medical treatment of a disease is not protected. Also, the incorporation of a famous cartoon character into a commercial product without permission is illegal.

Intellectual Property Protection in the Hong Kong SAR

Our Commitment

The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (the Hong Kong SAR) attaches great weight to the contribution that the creation of intellectual property makes to the economy. We have been involved in an on-going effort to ensure that Hong Kong people and overseas investors in the Hong Kong SAR can be assured of intellectual property protection as good as and even better than in any other economy in the world.

Basic Law and Intellectual Property Rights

Recognising the importance of intellectual property protection, the Hong Kong SAR's mini-constitution - the Basic Law - specifically provides in Articles 139 and 140 that the Hong Kong SAR should on its own develop appropriate policies and afford legal protection for intellectual property rights.

Against this background, we have developed a new body of intellectual property law which aims to reach the highest international standards, and put the Hong Kong SAR at the leading edge of intellectual property development and protection.

Intellectual Property Department

To underline the commitment of intellectual property protection, the Government established the Intellectual Property Department on 2 July 1990. The Intellectual Property Department is responsible for advising the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development on policies and legislation to protect intellectual property in the Hong Kong SAR; for operating the Hong Kong SAR's Trade Marks, Patents, Registered Designs and Copyright Licensing Bodies Registries, and for promoting intellectual property protection through public education.

Customs & Excise Department

The Customs and Excise Department is responsible for enforcing the criminal aspects of infringement of intellectual property rights. It investigates complaints alleging infringement of trade marks and copyright and complaints alleging false trade descriptions. The department has extensive powers of search and seizure, and cooperates with overseas enforcement authorities and owners of trade marks and copyright in a concerted effort to combat infringement of intellectual property rights. The department has received many commendations for its work from both public and private institutions.

In accordance with Hong Kong, China's obligations under the World Trade Organisation - Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (WTO - TRIPS Agreement), the Customs and Excise Department will help rights-owners to enforce their rights in relation to copyright and trade mark goods through border enforcement measures.

Any copyright and trade mark right owners who find their rights being infringed, please contact Customs and Excise Department.