How to protect your IP rights in Hong Kong

Many people are aware of the important role that Hong Kong plays for trade in Asia, not least as a gateway to the Chinese market, yet few know much about how to go about protecting their intellectual property rights there.

Since 1997 Hong Kong has had its own patent law under which a British or Chinese patent does not automatically guarantee protection. The region’s links to China and the United Kingdom have not been totally severed, however. Hong Kong patent law does make provisions for what are called “standard patents” registered on a quid pro quo basis when a corresponding application has been filed for one of these other areas. In practice, this means that an application must first be filed with the Chinese Patent Office, the UK Patent Office, or the European Patent Office (provided that the application to the EPO designates the UK).

There are two further provisos to granting a Hong Kong standard patent: the request to record must be filed in Hong Kong within 6 months from the publication of the initial patent application, and the request for registration and grant must be filed within six months from the date of grant of the initial patent. There are no problems as regards the language requirements, as it is not necessary to translate the full text of the application. The only requirement is that the title and abstract are available in both English and Chinese at the time the application is filed. It is not necessary to file a translation of a European patent application that has been published in French or German.

A standard patent that provides protection for 20 years may only be granted after the patentee has first applied for patent protection in China or the UK as described above. There is, however, another option; namely what is called a “short-term patent” that can be obtained by filing directly with the Hong Kong Intellectual Property Department. A short-term patent provides protection for just eight years but, on the other hand, it may be granted without the formality of a substantive examination. In this sense, it corresponds more or less to the unexamined utility models known from many European countries.

As a rule, a Hong Kong patent is granted relatively quickly as soon as the formal criteria have been met.

Vibeke Warberg Rohde. European Patent Attorney

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