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HONG KONG


attractive place to live, and an attractive place for international business. Add to this a government that sees its mission as ensuring private companies in Hong Kong become as successful as possible, along with a legal system based on its British counterpart, and it’s easy to see the appeal.


For IP practitioners, there are other potential advantages alongside the legal system and proximity to major markets. Te Hong Kong government has invested significantly in the Science Park and CyberPort—both designed to be hubs of innovation, and in the case of the Science Park, with an impressive track record of achievement. With innovation comes work for IP lawyers.


IP laws


Hong Kong has robust IP laws which have been tried and tested to a degree that’s relatively unusual in the region. More important, it has a legal system with a track record of predictability and effectiveness.


But there are a couple of shadows looming over Hong Kong’s IP story. First, its proximity to China means that counterfeiting is going to be an ever-present threat. And while Sunny Ho, executive director of the Hong Kong Shippers


“DESPITE HONG KONG’S PROUD RECORD OF ANTI- COUNTERFEITING ACTIVITY, A VISIT TO KOWLOON’S STANLEY MARKET QUICKLY DISABUSES YOU OF THE NOTION THAT HONG KONG IS SOMEHOW COUNTERFEIT-FREE.”


Council, is at pains to highlight the robust inspection policies in place at Hong Kong ports, the city is also proud of having the swiſtest customs turnover of any comparable freight destination. It’s challenging to reconcile that speed with the diligence required to prevent the transit of counterfeit goods.


Despite Hong Kong’s proud record of anti- counterfeiting activity, a visit to Kowloon’s Stanley Market quickly disabuses you of the notion that Hong Kong is somehow counterfeit-free. Fake designer handbags sit brazenly alongside the latest in Dr Dre-branded headphones, while Apple- labelled phone paraphernalia jostles for position with the latest in fashionable, branded watches. Every stall is selling goods of this nature, at prices that rule out the possibility of their being genuine, and the police are nowhere to be seen.


Strangely though, the prevalence of counterfeit goods might actually provide an incentive for companies to do business in Hong Kong. After all, it’s far easier to try to stop damaging activity if you have a presence in the country where it happens.


And with China continuing its march towards becoming the world’s biggest consumer market, sooner or later everyone is going to need a platform in the region from which to access it. For now, at least, Shanghai, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur do not have all the advantages that Hong Kong can offer: free market enterprise, old world ways of doing business and old world legal systems, alongside the vibrancy and upward trajectory of the new Asia. It’s a potent mix. n


World Intellectual Property Review January/February 2012


47


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