HK to become IP hub

December 6, 2018

Chief Executive Carrie Lam

Innovation is the key to unlocking the boundless value and the bountiful benefits of intellectual property. That reality lies at the heart of my Government's high-priority agenda for innovation.


In June, I had the pleasure of meeting the Hong Kong award winners from the annual International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva, the most important gathering of its kind in the world. I took pride in the remarkable achievements made by our home-grown inventors. At the April Exhibition, Hong Kong showcased nearly 100 inventions, from microbial technology that turns food waste into biodegradable plastic bags to lip-based passwords for access control.


Hong Kong Polytechnic University also took part, presenting its invention of a spectacle lens designed to slow the progression of myopia, or short-sightedness, in children. That innovation, I am proud to say, was awarded the Grand Prize - the event's top honour, besting 800 entries from all over the world.


Since then, the spectacle lens has gained a patent for its Defocus Incorporated Multiple Segments, or DIMS, technology from the Mainland, while filing patent applications in Hong Kong, Macau and the United States. Even better, it's been on sale in Hong Kong and the Mainland since July this year. A global launch is slated to begin in the coming year.


Then there's the partnership between our Airport Authority and a local technology start-up called D2V Limited. They have jointly developed the world's first automated system for conducting integrity checking of airfield ground lighting. The new system, I am told, can reduce physical inspection time by up to 83%. That would enable our airport, which is already one of the world's busiest and handling more than 1,100 flights every day, to accommodate a good many more flights. The system won the 2017 International Airport Review inaugural Airside Operations Award. The Airport Authority will promote the system and explore licensing opportunities with other airports.


These two home-grown examples are fine illustrations of the theme of this year's Forum: "IP and Innovation in the New Socio-technological Landscape". In the highly competitive global marketplace nowadays, innovation requires much more than having some great ideas. True innovation occurs when inventors can harness the power of intellectual property and commercial insights, and successfully transform new inventions into products and services which can benefit the users in need.


The essential pairing of intellectual property and innovation is driving business growth and improving quality of life all over the world. That certainly includes Mainland China, a rising intellectual property powerhouse. According to the statistics released by the World Intellectual Property Organization, China is the driving force for the growth in patent filings, as well as trademark and industrial design applications. In 2016, the amount of patent filings worldwide reached 3.1 million, up 8.3% over the previous year, and the Mainland accounted for 98% of that growth.


Intellectual property creation and its trading are growing rapidly in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. In 2017, the number of patent applications from the Greater Bay Area outnumbered the total of the world's three other renowned bay areas, namely Tokyo, New York and San Francisco. The Bay Area's growth potential, in short, is enormous.


The Belt & Road Initiative also offers unprecedented opportunity for many businesses, intellectual property trading very much included. The crucial role played by intellectual property to the Initiative was highlighted by President Xi Jinping in his message to an intellectual property conference for Belt & Road countries held in Beijing this August, in which the President pointed out that the effective use and protection of intellectual property rights is vital to the Belt & Road Initiative.


Those two far-reaching national strategies of Mainland China - the Belt & Road Initiative and the Greater Bay Area development - will give rise to immense opportunities for Hong Kong. They certainly include serving as an intellectual property trading hub for the Asia-Pacific region. To realise that promise, my Government will double funding for three schemes under our Innovation & Technology Fund, both to fully unleash our scientific research capabilities and to realise their research and development findings.


We will, as well, continue to augment our intellectual property regime, taking rigorous action to protect the legitimate rights and interests of intellectual property rights' holders. I should add that we are doing a pretty good job of that now. In the latest Global Competitiveness Report released in October by the World Economic Forum, Hong Kong ranked ninth out of 140 economies in intellectual property protection.


To encourage intellectual property trading, we amended our tax law in June. It expands profits-tax deductions for capital expenditure incurred for the purchase of intellectual property rights from five to eight types. That means the deduction regime covers rights in the layout design of integrated circuits, plant variety and performance. We also plan to establish an original grant patent system in the coming year. I am confident that it will complement our efforts to develop Hong Kong into a regional intellectual property and innovation and technology hub.


Chief Executive Carrie Lam gave these remarks at the Business of IP Asia Forum on December 6.

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